Lack of maintenance could land business operators in jail
A VAN not working is a van not making money. But keeping vans going while turning a blind eye to maintenance issues is a dangerous strategy.
Brake pads dangerously worn – or tyres bald to the cord – are increasingly common sites says the Fleet Support Group (FSG), the UK’s largest independent vehicle management company with 50,000 vehicles on its books.
The issues are often the result of extended service intervals says FSG, which has uncovered numerous examples of maintenance failures through Masterview – a unique remote video inspection system that enables business van managers to view the condition of vans and components anywhere around the country.
According to FSG boss Geoffrey Bray, the Masterview system has “uncovered a chamber of horrors”.
Bray said: “We have evidence filmed by our garage network of employees who have ignored clear signs that maintenance is required on the vehicle they are driving.
“With long vehicle service intervals – often up to 20,000 miles – it is more important than ever for drivers to ensure their vans are mechanically sound; but drivers are not doing this because our garages are discovering bald tyres, worn out brakes and other mechanical problems on an almost daily basis,” continued Bray, who added:
“Companies may think they have a vehicle maintenance policy in place. But it is not being followed by drivers in many cases. The images we see regularly on Masterview highlight that this is a major problem.”
Bray warned that driver behaviour such as this could land business owners in jail. Recently, said Bray, a driver and his business partner were jailed for the manslaughter of a couple who died in a road crash – crucial vehicle maintenance had been ignored.
In November 2009 at Leeds Crown Court, coach driver Robert Oughton was sentenced to five years and three months in prison after admitting charges of causing death by dangerous driving and gross negligence manslaughter. His business partner in travel firm 1.4.You Coaches, John Lote, who pleaded guilty to gross negligence manslaughter, was jailed for three years.
The coach, with children and parents on board, was involved in a crash with a car on the A64 near Scarborough in September 2008. The couple in the car died instantly from their injuries and passengers on the coach suffered minor injuries.
An investigation by North Yorkshire Police, working with the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency, concluded that the cause of the crash was acute brake failure due to poor maintenance.
The coach’s maintenance history showed that the two men had repeatedly failed to act on warnings to fix faults with the braking system. Officers also discovered that Oughton had ignored passenger complaints about the smell of burning during the journey.
If you would like to know more about maintenance, read our Advice Centre article What is a maintenance contract?