CV wheel safety campaigner calls on DfT to accept EU Roadworthiness Package to address inspection issues.
Motor Wheel Service Distribution (MWSD) has welcomed the Department for Transport’s report into wheel safety and the government’s classification of CV wheels as ‘safety critical’. However the company remains sceptical of the report’s findings and industry awareness of the issue. MWSD has long campaigned for legislation requiring operators to carry out more stringent checks on commercial vehicle wheels to be introduced.
The company’s campaign achieved success at European level when the EU’s new Roadworthiness Package was introduced in May 2014. Supported by Transport Committee chair and North West MEP Brian Simpson and the late Paul Goggins, former Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, MWSD managing director John Ellis’ campaigninfluenced the introduction of wording that made the compatibility of parts and components a “critical safety item”, with wheels and wheel hubs mentioned by name. The new UK government report is the latest chapter in the campaign’s story; while reservations remain, MWSD can feel some satisfaction at the new document’s existence.
The document, entitled Heavy Vehicle Wheel Fatigue Study, was compiled after a survey was sent to over 11,000 members of three principle UK haulage associations, however just 107 businesses (0.89 per cent) responded. The author states that these companies cover seven per cent of annual HGV mileage in the country per annum.
In the executive summary three key points are clarified: [the report aims to] establish whether there is a road safety risk; [there is] low awareness of hub design and in particular terms such as “spider” or “star”; [the report is] a snapshot of wheel fatigue rather than a specific evaluation of a particular hub design.
Leading findings from the report reaffirm that “[wheel defects] are not catastrophic in nature and are typically identified during routine maintenance procedures,” and that the survey results did not prove that fatigue life is shortened by the use of variable shaped hubs.
Yet MWSD believes the report is flawed in a number of areas. While stating “haulage companies do not consider wheel fatigue to be an issue” it continues to conclude that checks are predominantly ad-hoc rather than mandatory. Thus the checks generally come as a result of noticeable secondary problems, such as lost tyre pressure.
The company has also expressed its disappointment that MWSD managing director, and leading exponent of the CV wheel safety campaign, John Ellis was not interviewed despite several offers to speak to the report’s author to help clarify his position on the matter.
Ellis said: “We welcome the DfT report and at the outset thank them for their hard work and cooperation, but we genuinely feel this is a missed opportunity.
“Foremost the survey has been limited solely to haulage firms of the three main bodies – FTA, IRTE and RHA. One would expect their members to be following best practice, so a large majority of UK businesses, and important service providers such as fitters and roadside assistance service providers, have been overlooked. With these extra elements incorporated the results would have been very different.
“Additionally the number of the safety checks mentioned in section four (entitled Wheel Inspection and Maintenance) should be far tighter, as can be achieved through tighter guidelines from the DVLA or early adoption of the EU Roadworthiness Package.
“And critically the report accepted that very few of the respondents, who represent the leading players in the industry, knew of star or spider shaped hubs, so one must ask countrywide how many are aware of the issue of early fatigue caused by incorrect wheels on non-EUWA approved hubs.
“This ultimately means two changes are required in the marketplace: the UK must adopt the EU Roadworthiness Package as soon as possible to genuinely raise the standards of mandatory CV wheel testing; MWSD’s campaign must continue to focus on education of the CV market, many of whom are still not aware of the problems, EUWA guidelines, and key criteria.”
Having become law in May 2014, following adoption by both the European Parliament and European Council, the new law 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 MWSD’s proven 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.
“We see positive movements in the marketplace to address the issue,” concludes Ellis. “ATS Euromaster, Bus Eireann, Pirelli and TruckForce are just a few leading names that see the requirement to address the issue of wheel fatigue and safety, so one has to ask why others will not address the issue.
“Following May’s General Election we will be writing to the new Secretary of State for Transport for clarification on a number of issues, including the Report’s limited findings and the Roadworthiness Package. We will continue to fight hard for increased wheel safety, it is a vital topic.”