Familiar to operators, transport managers and mechanics alike, DVSA’s Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness is stated as guidance rather than a legal requirement but is expected to form the backbone of any proper maintenance regime.

Croner-i here looks at the latest update to the guide, highlighting the significant changes on tyre management.

The guide’s importance

Operators are expected to be familiar with the most recent version of the guide at all times. Traffic Commissioners contribute to it, endorse it and refer to it frequently at Public Inquiries, while DVSA vehicle examiners often point to it during maintenance assessments.

The guide’s primary purpose, however, is to offer guidance to operators on the steps they should take to make sure their vehicles are safe.

The major change: Tyre management

With effect from 1 February, subject to one exemption relating to non-commercial vehicles aged 40 years and over, it will no longer be lawful to use tyres over the age of 10 years on the front steered axles of coaches, buses of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), or on any single wheel fitted to a minibus (i.e. a passenger carrying vehicle with 9-16 passenger seats).

It will also be a requirement for the age of a tyre — specifically, by reference to the manufacturer’s date code — to be clearly legible on all tyres fitted to coaches, buses, minibuses, HGVs and trailers with a maximum authorised mass of over 3.5 tonnes.

Where a tyre is found by a DVSA enforcement officer to be illegally fitted, then an S-marked immediate prohibition notice will be issued, no matter what actual condition the tyre is in. Tyres which do not legibly display the manufacturer’s date stamp fitted where the 10-year maximum age applies will be considered automatic annual test failure items and will attract a delayed prohibition at an enforcement check.

The amendments to Section 5.2 of the guide directly reflect these changes in the law and include guidance on the steps operators and maintenance contractors should now be carrying out, including ensuring that the legibility of date codes should form part of standard tyre checks undertaken at safety inspections. It is also advised that the presence of tyres over 10 years old where they cannot lawfully be used should be reported as defects (both at safety inspections and — although this is not specified in the guide — one must also assume by drivers carrying out walk-round checks).

It is also suggested that when a tyre reaches nine years of age this should be reported as an advisory item.

Finally, operators are advised that where tyres older than 10 years are legally used (i.e. on rear or non-steering front axles), they must be very carefully monitored and subject to specific risk assessment.

In the end what is most important as an overarching principle is that tyre condition is properly managed.

What do you need to do?

First and foremost, read the guide. Even where a new version is relatively unchanged compared to its predecessor, there will always be a rationale for the decision to publish a new version, so take notice and, even if the changes are minor, a new publication should serve as a timely reminder to refresh your understanding of the guide’s content and check whether everything you are doing follows the guidance.

Regarding specific advice arising from the revisions to the guide, you should:

  • review your existing tyre management systems and update them as necessary
  • check the ages of the tyres on all vehicles — and replace any which are now illegal
  • ensure that all tyres display a legible manufacturer’s date code, replace any which do not and ensure that drivers are trained to check for legible date codes as part of a walk-round check
  • ensure that maintenance staff and contractors are trained on the new requirements, in particular identifying tyre age-related problems as defects at regular safety inspections and advising when tyres are approaching 10 years old
  • always ensure that tyre condition is properly assessed and monitored — (no matter what age the tyre is).

In-depth guidance on vehicle maintenance and fleet management is available as part of a subscription to Transport-inform, available at a discount to routeone members.