Seanad debates

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Adjournment Matters

Roadworthiness Testing

5:45 pm

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I have been contacted by a number of road hauliers who are struggling at the moment. Part of the problem is the fact that their vehicles are off the road because business is so poor. They are concerned that a road worthiness certificate will only be issued for six months. There are also delays in the issuing of commercial roadworthiness certificates. I raise this issue in an effort to bring clarity to the matter and determine if the Minister of State and his officials and aware of this anomaly. There are significant additional costs involved in having roadworthiness tests carried out every six months. I am not sure that the Department is aware of the fact that there is a delay in issuing a certificate when a vehicle has succeeded in meeting the criteria. I look forward to the Minister of State's response. I hope common sense will prevail and the issue can be resolved.

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary North, Labour)
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I thank Senator Conway for raising this very important matter. I am sure the Senator is aware that commercial vehicle owners have always been obliged to test their vehicles annually. This is a legal obligation throughout the European Union. The minimum testing frequency of commercial vehicles is specified in Directive 2009/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers. There have never been exemptions from the requirement to have commercial vehicles tested annually and this is not determined by the period during which the vehicle is or has been in use, nor its mileage. The law stipulates that it is an offence to use a commercial vehicle, including a trailer, in a public place unless, at the time, there is in force in respect of the vehicle, a certificate of roadworthiness. Roadworthiness testing standards are aimed at detecting any wear and tear, deterioration or modifications that could adversely affect the roadworthiness or safety of the vehicle and its compliance with road traffic construction and use regulations, where these items can be assessed by inspection. In cases of vehicles which were off the road, their condition can degrade and deteriorate so it is just as important that they are tested also before they re-enter service.

The new certificate of roadworthiness, CRW, issuing system is aligned to the long-standing obligation to have commercial vehicles tested annually. The period of validity of the CRW is calculated by reference to the last test due date and any delay in completing the test has the effect of reducing the validity period of the CRW. The longer the delay in completing the test, the shorter the validity period of a CRW. In cases where a vehicle is overdue its test by more than one year and is presented for testing, commercial vehicle roadworthiness testing regulations provide that the validity for the CRW shall be either for the six month period after the testing date or a period determined by reference to the anniversary of the test due date, whichever is earlier. This modification to the previous scheme has been introduced in order to ensure that an operator who does not test the vehicle by the due date does not gain any economic advantage over an operator who tested his or her vehicle in accordance with the legal requirements. This point answers the question posed by Senator Conway.

Regarding the printing, posting and issuing of a CRW to the vehicle's registered owner, I can confirm that when a vehicle passes a commercial vehicle roadworthiness test, this results in a request for the issue of a CRW being sent to the driver and vehicle licensing computer services division of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. In order to facilitate cases where vehicles may be undergoing a change of ownership, there is an in-built time lag of one hour after the completion of the test before the vehicle details on the National Vehicle Driver File, NVDF, are updated. Accordingly, one hour after the test has been completed, the person can renew his or her motor tax online or in the motor tax office. The driver and vehicle licensing computer services division arranges the printing, posting and issuing of the certificate to the vehicle's registered owner as a matter of course at the end of each working day. I am advised that certificates are usually received by their vehicle owners within one to three days of the commercial vehicle test having been passed. Thus, with the CRW details being available online within one hour after the test and the CRW being posted out immediately, operators who are having their vehicles tested on time need have no concerns about not having a CRW for a day or two.

Furthermore, RSA vehicle inspectors have access to the online record and will know that the vehicle possesses a valid roadworthiness certificate. Where a vehicle is travelling abroad, the operator can avail of the new facility to have the vehicle tested up to one month early and receive a certificate for up to 13 months, thus enabling operators to ensure that the vehicle has a valid CRW for any international operations. Under the new system, operators may also choose to change the date of the test for a time during the year that better suits their business needs.

The new centralised CRW issuing system has been in operation since 1 October 2013. I am advised that there were a few occasions in the initial week or two where there were some technical difficulties in communicating between the commercial vehicle information system, CoVIS, and the driver and vehicle licensing computer services division which may have resulted in delays in the issuing of CRWs. I am advised that in such instances, the CRWs were subsequently successfully issued to the vehicle owners and all issues were resolved..

Separately, the RSA is also aware of exceptional cases of delay in the issuing of CRWs in respect of imported vehicles where these vehicles had been registered by the Revenue Commissioners on the same day and the NVDF had not been updated. There are also exceptional cases relating to older trailers whose records are not on the NVDF. In these cases, the Department and the RSA have facilitated the vehicle owners by enabling the trailer record to be updated without the owner of the trailer having to go back to the motor tax office. These are transitional issues arising in individual cases and once the record has been updated on the NVDF there will be no complications with the vehicle record subsequently.

Under the new system, the vehicle test details are recorded centrally. This supports effective enforcement of the obligation to have the vehicle test annually and ensures that compliant operators can go about their daily business with minimum disruption at the roadside while non-compliance can be quickly and easily identified and addressed.

These changes are part of wider reforms which the RSA is implementing to improve the roadworthiness standard of commercial vehicles on our roads.

The Road Safety Authority's reform focuses on three key areas: making the roadworthiness test more effective; introducing premises checks for operators of commercial vehicles to review their maintenance system, records and procedures; and increasing the effectiveness of roadside inspections of vehicles by the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána. I am confident commercial vehicle roadworthiness reform will make our roads a safer place for everyone.

5:55 pm

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply. I will bring it to the attention of the Irish Road Hauliers Association which I am sure will come back with a response in due course.