Last reviewed 2 July 2018

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published a new version of the Heavy Goods Vehicle Inspection Manual as a companion to the new Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness (see Richard Pelly’s article. Both publications came into force on 20 May 2018 to coincide with the coming into force of new regulations concerning the plating and testing of all vehicles under the EU Roadworthiness Directive (2014/47/EU). In this feature article, Richard Smith outlines what the Inspection Manual covers and suggests how it should be used. He also summarises another DVSA publication, the Categorisation of Vehicle Defects which also came into force on 20 May.

Who is it intended for?

While the Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness is specifically intended for operators, the Inspection Manual is really for DVSA examiners and others who carry out the annual roadworthiness inspection at a test station. It will also be relevant, though, to the operator’s drivers and technicians who carry out daily walk-round checks and periodic safety inspections.

While the guide tells operators which items they should include on their daily walk-round check and periodic safety inspection schedules, the manual tells those who carry out the checks what they should be looking out for. In particular, it will tell drivers carrying out walk-round checks which deficiencies must be rectified before the vehicle takes to the road and which can be scheduled for rectification later.

Even when maintenance is contracted-out, the operator should ensure that the contractor observes the standards contained in the manual as it is the operator who is always ultimately responsible for the vehicle’s condition.

What does it cover?

The manual provides a detailed description of the inspections carried out at the annual goods vehicle roadworthiness test and the criteria for the various degrees of failure. These tests can only be carried out at DVSA-operated testing stations, Authorised Testing Facilities (ATF) and Designated Premises (DP).


DVSA uses the term heavy goods vehicle (HGV) in a general sense to mean all vehicles subject to the Plating and Testing Regulations (ie over 3500kg gross design weight). In law, “heavy goods vehicle” has been replaced by “large goods vehicle” (LGV) and both terms in any case refer only to goods vehicles over 7500kg.

Goods vehicles not exceeding 3500kg are tested under the Motor Vehicles (Tests) Regulations 1981 and are covered by a separate MoT Inspection Manual. These vehicles are split between class 5 (not more than 3000kg) and class 7 (3001–3500kg). Class 4 vehicles are tested at ordinary private vehicle repairers authorised to carry out tests. Class 7 vehicles may be tested at either a class 4 MoT test facility or an HGV testing station, so the HGV Inspection Manual does contain some specific references to these.

The manual explains the:

  • specific requirements for roadworthiness inspections

  • procedures and standards to be used

  • deficiencies

  • deficiency categorisation.

Deficiency categorisation

The manual defines the deficiency categorisation, as contained in the new legislation, and the consequences for roadworthiness and the issue of a test certificate.

  • Minor — deficiencies having no significant effect on the safety of the vehicle/trailer or impact on the environment and other minor non-compliances. If only defects of a minor nature are present, a test certificate will still be issued.

  • Major — deficiencies that may prejudice the safety of the vehicle/ trailer, have an impact on the environment, put other road users at risk or other more significant non-compliances.

  • Dangerous — deficiencies constituting a direct and immediate risk to road safety or having an impact on the environment.

In addition to these deficiency categories, the manual also provides details of the standards for issue of immediate prohibition notices and this will certainly be of great interest to all operators as it applies not only to the annual inspection but also to on the road spot checks.

The standards are specific to each of the various component groups and systems but generally a prohibition will be applied when there is imminent danger or failure of detachment of a component, loss of control, stability or safe carriage of the load is significantly affected, or there is immediate danger to road safety and/or injury to any person.

Using the manual

The manual is in PDF format and can be viewed online or downloaded and stored off-line on any computer or tablet. Once downloaded, the manual or pages from it may be printed out. It should be remembered, though, that downloaded or printed copies may become out of date and periodic reference should be made to the online version to check for any revisions.

For drivers who carry out walk-round checks, the relevant pages can be printed (or separated out as a new PDF document on a tablet if the operator has access to the full Adobe Acrobat Pro application). The drivers can then familiarise themselves with the procedures and standards to be applied during the check. After an initial familiarisation, it should not be necessary to refer continually to the manual during the check, but it should be available in case of any doubt. The manual also provides details of legal requirements that drivers may not be fully aware of. As an example, the first item in the manual, registration plate, is reproduced below:

Procedure and Standards

A registration plate should be easily legible to a person standing approximately 20m from the front/rear of the vehicle.

The registration plate must be checked for presence and security at the front and rear of the vehicle. The registration mark must be checked for presence and legibility.

A registration mark with characters which are obviously incorrectly spaced or misformed, or which uses misplaced fixing bolts to alter the registration mark appearance, will be deemed to be not in accordance with the requirements.


Deficiency Category

1.  A registration plate:

  a.  missing


  b.  insecure


2.  A registration mark:

  a.  missing


  b.  illegible


  c.  Not in accordance with the requirements


This is the simplest item in the manual: all the others are much more detailed and extensive but it serves to illustrate how the manual shows what the standard is, what deficiencies should be looked for and the importance of any deficiency found.

Those carrying out periodic safety checks should already be technically trained, qualified and experienced so should already know what constitutes “safe” or “unsafe”. Nevertheless, the manual will help them to apply consistent judgments based on DVSA standards. Where applicable, the manual also details specific test procedures (for example, emissions testing) and carries a wealth of information regarding the appropriate rating and suitability of vehicle components, as in the case of wheels and tyres.

Categorisation of vehicle defects

There is a third publication from DVSA that is relevant to vehicle inspections and that is Categorisation of Vehicle Defects. This is intended primarily for use by DVSA examiners and authorised constables but is made generally available so that operators can be more aware of DVSA’s inspection standards and possible defects. A new version of this was also published on 20 May to incorporate changes required by Directive 2014/47/EU.

The publication gives guidance on what action to take when specific roadworthiness defects are found (eg delayed prohibition, immediate prohibition or a warning).


The Inspection Manual provides vital information to those carrying out vehicle inspection and maintenance operations.

In particular, operators should:

  • be familiar with all three of the publications mentioned here and their contents

  • provide access to relevant portions of the Inspection Manual to drivers and maintenance personnel

  • ensure that drivers conducting walk-round checks are aware of what to look for by way of deficiencies in relevant items and the urgency for rectification in accordance with the information in the manual

  • ensure that periodic safety inspections are carried out in the manner and to the standard described in the manual — even when they are contracted-out.