DfT to review wheel faults on commercial vehicles in VOSA data 22 February 2011

The Department for Transport is to review a sample of prohibition, MOT and accident data to assess evidence that wheel faults on commercial vehicles might be causing problems.

Working with VOSA (the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency), the evaluation will look for a clear indication of issues or accidents related to wheel failures.

The news comes following a meeting between Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (pictured), and John Ellis, managing director of Motor Wheel Service, who explained how substandard second-hand wheels are entering the commercial vehicle supply chain.

Ellis estimates that more than 10,000 second hand and take-off wheels entered the market in 2009, of which the vast majority, he says, were sold by companies who do not possess the technical abilities or examination procedures to ascertain the history and fatigue of a wheel.

In an extremely serious case, the company's field sales team was even made aware of old, repainted wheels being sold as new.

"The meeting with Mike Penning was extremely proactive and I warmly welcome his commitment to research this major issue," comments Ellis.

"The problem is that people and businesses do not know if the wheel is defective or not, as there is no code of conduct in place for testing and selling second hand wheels for heavy goods vehicles.

"A microscopic crack can make the difference between a good and a bad wheel but, under current regulations, no testing has to take place. In a worse case scenario this can lead to catastrophic failure and loss of life."

Ellis recently met with Mike Rainford, head of business crime at the North West's leading criminal practice, Burton Copeland, to understand the legal implications, and reports that corporate manslaughter charges could be brought.

"There needs to be greater scrutiny and control in this market sector, because the implications are huge," says Ellis. "The process shows that if a wheel fails and causes death to either the driver or a third party, there will be a full HSE investigation.

Brian Tinham

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