Faulty used wheels could see hauliers imprisoned, warns solicitor23 July 2010

Failure to apply a full risk assessment in the purchase of a commercial vehicle wheel could ultimately lead to a corporate manslaughter charge, should the item fail and cause a catastrophic injury.

That's the warning from Mike Rainford, head of business crime at North West criminal practice, Burton Copeland, speaking following a meeting with John Ellis, managing director of Motor Wheel Service, where the issue of second hand contamination was raised.

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

In one serious case, Motor Wheel Service's field sales team was made aware of old, repainted wheels being sold as new.

Says Rainford: "There needs to be greater scrutiny and control in this market sector, because the implications are huge. 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.

"If the HSE then find evidence of cost cutting, gross negligence or incorrect arrangements in the purchase of the wheel, it will be referred to the police, when it officially becomes a criminal investigation.

"At this stage it becomes more likely the case will go to court, and the company can at least expect a fine or a suspension of their licence, and the worst case scenario is a lengthy prison sentence for manslaughter."

"At the outset, we stated that the serious repercussions of purchasing a faulty wheel are huge, with warranty, liability and safety just a few major factors, but this moves this very serious industry issue into the boardroom," comments Ellis.

"We are fully aware that wholesalers are diversifying into wheel supply from their core tyre business, and this threatens to bring to market an uncontrolled range of wheel products of varying standards, of which some may be dangerous," he adds.

Brian Tinham

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