Delayed trailers damage hauliers and manufacturers 05 November 2012

There are serious problems of semi-trailer supply brewing, with VOSA (the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) apparently struggling with the new 'Consent to Supply' regime that applies to all new trailers for sale.

Since Monday 29 October 2012, firms making complete trailers have needed a 'Consent to Supply' document from VOSA before they may legally deliver a vehicle.

This is the final part of the Whole Vehicle Type Approval process, giving definitive certification evidence for each trailer. The manufacturer won't get the requisite document until it convinces VOSA that the new trailer meets approval criteria.

This means the trailer maker must produce Certificate of Conformity, showing that systems such as brakes, lighting and anti-under-run gear have been tested and meet agreed standards. This usually involves the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).

However, currently, there are delays of two weeks or more at VOSA in processing the documentation.

"That's way too long even in normal times, but, in the run up to Christmas, when operators want every available trailer on the road, it is very unfortunate," complains Derek Skinner, UK technical director at Schmitz Cargobull.

"The Christmas peak in demand could mean that VOSA sees 30% of this work in just a few weeks," he adds.

For many trailer manufacturers, the delays will mean massive cash flow implications and practical problems, as yards fill with delayed trailers waiting for consent.

The trailer maker can't produce the Certificate of Conformity until it finishes the trailer. But VOSA says the rules won't allow it to sign off anything but a complete vehicle.

British law also means that VOSA must give consent before the trailer's delivery. Because of this VOSA "can't see how it can avoid a delay of at least a week", according to a VOSA spokesperson.

At the same time as the consent, VOSA has to create an MoT test record and produce a Ministry plate for the trailer. "This may extend the process, particularly in the initial stages."

And it is now a criminal offence to deliver a trailer without consent. The maximum fine for the trailer maker is £2,500 for each offence.

Sadly, few firms used the voluntary version of the scheme through the summer, so VOSA hadn't much chance to guide them before the scheme started in anger. It is still working with trailer makers to sort this out. Some that did try valued the opportunity, but others were unimpressed.

"The system is rubbish," states Rob Hallowes, sales engineer for Montracon. He says the firm wrote to VOSA six months ago, saying that it felt the system was not going to work.

"It's also incredibly difficult to get VOSA and the VCA to respond in a timely manner," he claims.

This is damaging, as trailer makers need papers from each in a strict sequence – so a delay from one can delay the other and slow the whole process even further.

And this time next year, we're in for a re-run, as multi-stage build trailers hit the same hoops. Watch this space.

Robin Dickerson

Related Companies
Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)

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