Commercial vehicle wheels classed as ‘safety critical item’ in EU law

Commercial vehicle wheels classed as ‘safety critical item’ in EU law

Motor Wheel Service Distribution’s (MWSD) role in EU Roadworthiness Package wording


The news back in May that commercial vehicle wheels have been named as a "safety critical item" in European law is something of a breakthrough for those that have been lobbying for the inclusion of wheels in this legislation, not to mention the wheel industry in general and the many automotive and haulage businesses that depend on wheels. Manchester-based Motor Wheel Service Distribution (MWSD), which played a key role in the wording used in the latest EU Roadworthiness Package and continues to be at the forefront the forefront of raising awareness of wheel safety issues, has a right to be particularly pleased with the latest news. However, if you will excuse the pun, the wheels of European legislation and implementation turn slowly. Therefore with 27 countries all at liberty to interpret and apply the rules over a period of years before compliance will begin to be checked – there is still a mountain to climb. With all this in mind, around the time of the news Tyres & Accessories met with managing director John Ellis at MWSD’s Sharston, Manchester headquarters to find out more about what the rules mean for the company and the industry at large.

First off it is worth clarifying exactly what’s happened. In short, Motor Wheel Service Distribution’s (MWSD) commercial vehicle wheel safety campaign has been successfully incorporated in the new European Union (EU) Roadworthiness Package, which will become law in May 2014. The new law, adopted by both the European Parliament and European Council, states: “compatibility between parts and components, such as between wheels and wheel hubs, should be treated as a critical safety item and should be checked during roadworthiness testing.”

Addition legislative text includes several visual wheel inspection prerequisites and also that “wheel size, technical design, compatibility or type not in accordance with the requirements [laid down by type-approval at first registration or first entry into service] and affecting road safety” will be classed as a major defect.Reasons for failure in the assessment of deficiencies are classed as major or dangerous, with the legislative text covering both roadside technical inspections and periodic vehicle testing.

In effect the new law legally addresses the company’s argument that non-circumferential hubs, which give only partial contact between axle and wheel, are causing untested load stresses which cause cracks and half the life expectancy of a wheel which in turn creates serious safety concerns. It also brings into context a number of minimum essential requirements that need to be stipulated when purchasing second-hand or potentially inferior wheels, and furthermore the key roles that will be played by CV fleet managers and product purchasers.

The new legislation will enter into force once it is published in May’s Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), with the official start date applying 20 days later.  Member States will have three years to adopt and publish the new rules and then another year to apply all the measures, but can do so earlier if they decide.

Only the next step in an ongoing campaign

The safety issue has been led by MWSD’s managing director, John Ellis, Transport Committee Chair and North West MEP, Brian Simpson and the late Paul Goggins, former Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East.

Commenting on the news Ellis said: “This is a major development in our campaign and the clearest indication possible from experts at the EU that they understand the safety critical nature of CV wheels, and that vehicle safety is being impaired when there is a failure to use fit-for-purpose wheels on non-circumferential hubs. It also addresses the second-hand and inferior product quality issues which we know can lead to several safety issues.”

Ellis is clear that MWSD would like to see the UK government lead the way in the implementation and compliance with the new legislation: “That said this is purely the next step in the campaign, we will be approaching the Department for Transport (DfT) to ascertain their timescale for implementation of the Roadworthiness Package, working on closer cooperation with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and the aftermarket, and keeping customers and the market informed on exactly what the changes will mean for their truck, bus and coach fleets.

“At this juncture our thanks must go to Brian Simpson MEP for his commitment to realising the importance of CV wheels as a European safety issue and gaining its inclusion, and also to Paul Goggins MP who believed in and pushed the subject with the UK Parliament.”

Compliance cost is often thrown up as an obstacle hindering swift introduction of legislation, but MWSD has always believed that there will not be any extra cost due to the fact that compliance helps businesses avoid safety mistakes that could potentially wipe out entire companies. With this in mind Brian Simpson added: “My position on the inclusion of CV wheels in the legislative text is clear, in that the laws are not designed to place extra financial burden on the CV sector, but create far safer practices for what is a safety critical item. The updated, more harmonised rules are aimed at improving road safety, cutting back emissions in road transport caused by poor maintenance of vehicles, and ensuring fair competition for commercial vehicles. Given the overall benefits I urge all 27 EU Member States to adopt the legislature before the three year compulsory deadline.”

Market impact

The safety argument has been thoroughly made, but what impact will the introduction of the new laws have on MWSD in particular and the market in general? Before answering that question further it is worth acknowledging that the market as whole has picked up from the post financial crises doldrums. Indeed John Ellis explains that MWSD are so busy at the moment that they are scarcely keeping products in stock, but rather the company is pretty much shipping wheels straight out to customers to order – such is the current demand for product. With the ink on the new wording scarcely dry, the increase in demand cannot be attributed to the law – and neither is MWSD or anyone else suggesting that the new rules will precipitate a volume effect in the market. Instead the focus is on achieving quality and safety benefits within the wheel parc by addressing standards amongst the wheel equivalents of part worn tyres – take-offs, second hand wheels and wheel welds. As long as an engineer signs them off fleets have traceability and accountability, but if not the new wording means such wheels are required to attain minimum safety standards.


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