Putting the brakes on!
Operators of large goods vehicles should be aware of the need for robust brake testing as part of their preventative maintenance regime. However, confusion abounds as to what exactly is expected by the DVSA and the Traffic Commissioners.
The Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness states clearly that each safety inspection (i.e. 6-weekly check/PMI) ‘must assess the braking performance of the vehicle or trailer’. It is ‘strongly advised’ that this be done by using a roller brake tester (RBT), meaning at least that this is the regulator’s preferred method and considered best practice.
Approved decelerometer machines (e.g. Tapley meter) are also acceptable but this is the extent of the leeway that is provided by Traffic Commissioners.
Operators are NOT at liberty to interpret the regulations as they see fit and provide a form of testing most convenient for them! Furthermore, the document describes best practice to include a laden trailer with the test where appropriate, as opposed to just at MOT.
Without regurgitating sections of various government documents, where does this leave us standing? The situation can be summarised as follows:
Roller Brake testing (RBT’s) are the preferred method of the Traffic Commissioner/DVSA, and at least one of these will be carried out annually at test.
At least four calibrated tests should be carried out throughout the year, including MoT test, basically meaning every other 6-weekly PMI (or whichever interval you work to as per your operator’s licence, at least 3 times a year) RBT's are preferred, but decelerometers are acceptable.
A brake test must be completed at EVERY PMI/safety inspection, and the results annotated on the inspection sheet. This can be a road test, however, this is the minimum standard of testing permitted. Safety inspections without a brake test will NOT be deemed acceptable.
Efforts to conduct calibrated tests with a laden trailer would be expected, although it is appreciated that this is not always practicable.
On a final note, if an operator has ever experienced MoT test failures, PRS at a testing station or been issued a prohibition notice for shortcomings in the braking systems, an even more robust brake testing regime would be expected by the Traffic Commissioner.
You put your O-Licence at risk if you do not observe these standards, and for the sake of around £50 incl. VAT per vehicle every 3 months or so, is it worth it?