A series of freedom of information requests by Unite has revealed huge cuts in independent roadside inspections of lorries, potentially putting all road users in danger.
Unite has discovered that the number of roadside inspections/checks involving heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), being undertaken by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has fallen by 37 per cent from 234,296 in 2010/11 to 147,533 in 2017/18.
During this time there has been no decrease in lorry journeys. In fact, in 2016 the Department for Transport (DfT) recorded that in 2016 HGVs undertook a record 19.2bn kilometres of journeys.
The DfT has revealed that there were approximately 534m HGV journeys in the UK, which means that there is just a 0.03 per cent chance of a lorry being stopped for an on-the-spot inspection, on each journey.
The decrease in inspections corresponds with an increase in fatalities of HGV drivers — up by 50 per cent in 12 months, from 14 in 2016 to 21 in 2017. The total number of all road deaths involving HGVs in the UK in 2017 was 263.
The huge reduction in inspections across Whitehall including at the DfT and its agencies is thought to be linked to the government’s austerity policies.
“These figures are truly shocking and the stark result of the government’s obsession with austerity,” said Unite national officer Adrian Jones.
“By cutting inspectors and inspections the government is risking the safety of all road users.
“While the majority of HGVs are well maintained, those that do not meet the necessary standards could potentially cause accidents, with tragic results,” he added. “It also means that drivers who are prepared to break driving hours rules are also unlikely to be identified.
“If unscrupulous employers realise that there is little possibility of their vehicles and drivers being inspected, they are more likely to be tempted to cut corners on safety.
“It is clear that as the number of lorry journeys increase, not only do these cuts in inspections need to be reversed but they need to increase from the 2010 levels as a result of increased lorry journeys.”