Last reviewed 21 May 2013

On 13 July 2012, the European Commission launched proposals known collectively as the "roadworthiness package". These proposals aimed to revise legislation governing vehicle roadworthiness in an effort to improve road safety and to promote a target reduction of annual road fatalities of 50% by 2020. Neil Baylis reports.

The roadworthiness package consists of the following parts.

  1. A proposed regulation dealing with periodic roadworthiness tests for vehicles and their trailers.

  2. A proposed regulation on technical roadside inspections of commercial vehicles.

  3. A proposed amending directive dealing with vehicle registration.

Periodic roadworthiness tests

These tests are the regular vehicle inspections required by law, such as the Ministry of Transport (MOT) test in the UK, and are currently governed by Directive 2009/40/EC. These tests are designed to ensure that vehicles continue to satisfy established safety and environmental standards following their entry into the market and throughout their lifetime.

Directive 2009/40/EC currently applies to passenger cars, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles and their trailers, but the proposed regulation aims to extend the scope of vehicles that are required to undergo periodic roadworthiness tests to include light trailers under 3.5 tonnes, and also powered two- or three-wheelers (motorcycles and mopeds), which are regarded as the highest-risk group of road users.

The proposed regulation:

  • identifies the need for inspection centres to have access to the technical specifications of each vehicle. It therefore requires vehicle manufacturers to provide a complete set of data covered by the relevant vehicle's certificate of conformity, as well as any other data that is required for the purposes of verifying the functionality of vehicle safety and environmental components

  • includes changes to the frequency of testing of motor vehicles. It aims to increase the frequency of testing for older vehicles and for vehicles with a high mileage. For example, the minimum requirement under the proposed regulation for vehicles used for the carriage of goods with a maximum permissible mass not exceeding 3.5 tonnes is that such vehicles would be subject to a roadworthiness test at a date four years following the date of first registration, then two years, and thereafter annually. However, where such vehicles reach a mileage of 160,000km on the first roadworthiness test following registration, these vehicles will then be subject to annual roadworthiness tests thereafter

  • seeks to ensure that the equipment used for roadworthiness testing satisfies certain minimum requirements and is conducive to the efficient testing of vehicles. To this end, the proposed regulation includes a list of the minimum equipment required for the periodic roadworthiness test and the technical specifications of such equipment. There are also provisions regarding the knowledge, skills and training of roadworthiness test inspectors

  • requires that detected deficiencies in vehicles are assessed according to common rules and standards across the EU, and therefore introduces rules on the assessment of defects in vehicles that had been earlier adopted by the Commission in 2010

  • recognises that odometer (mileage) fraud is a serious issue within the EU and, accordingly, requires that mileage readings are recorded on roadworthiness certificates at each vehicle test. The previous test certificate should be presented at the time of subsequent testing in order to promote the efficient discovery of mileage manipulation activities.

Technical roadside inspections of commercial vehicles

Directive 2000/30/EC provides for additional technical roadside inspections in relation to vehicles used for the transport of goods with a laden mass in excess of 3.5 tonnes and for the transport of more than eight passengers. These on-the-spot tests are intended to monitor vehicle compliance with environmental and technical requirements throughout the EU, and are an additional layer of safety checks over and above the mandatory periodic roadworthiness tests.

The proposed regulation:

  • requires that a percentage of registered commercial vehicles in each Member State should be subject to roadside inspections annually, but that this relevant percentage should not exceed the number of roadworthiness tests already carried out in the EU. The number of technical roadside inspections per year and per Member State is to be linked to the number of registered commercial vehicles in order to provide a more equal distribution of the roadside checks among the Member States

  • significantly provides that the selection of vehicles for technical roadside inspections should be based on the risk profile of the relevant operators, who will be assigned either a high-, medium- or low-risk rating on the basis of the results of previous roadworthiness tests and roadside inspections. The proposal states that high-risk undertakings should be actively targeted in order to reduce the burden on compliant operators who adequately maintain their vehicles

  • further extends the obligation to undergo roadside inspections to light commercial vehicles (under 3.5 tonnes) and their trailers, due to the fact that these vehicles are now more frequently used, but are not subject to certain safety requirements, such as the requirement to have a speed limitation device installed

  • requires that technical roadside inspections involve an initial check of the overall condition of the vehicle and its documentation, such as roadworthiness certificates or previous roadside inspection reports. Where such documents indicate problems previously identified with the vehicle, the inspector will be required to ensure that they have been rectified. Depending on the outcome of this initial inspection, a more detailed roadside inspection may be performed. These more detailed inspections would be carried out using a mobile inspection unit or nearby test centre

  • requires that each deficiency that is detected is classified as either a minor, major or dangerous deficiency when carrying out roadside inspections. Roadside checks will also include additional checks on the securing of cargo.

Vehicle registration

Directive 1999/37/EC governs the requirements for the issuing of registration certificates when vehicles are initially registered within the EU. The current proposal provides for the temporary withdrawal of vehicle registrations to ensure that vehicles that constitute an immediate risk to road safety, due to dangerous defects discovered in roadworthiness tests, are prevented from being driven on public roads until a subsequent roadworthiness test has been successful.

The proposal:

  • additionally ensures that re-registration of the vehicle will not be required once the temporary withdrawal of registration is lifted

  • provides for the cancellation of registrations for vehicles that would need to be scrapped following a periodic roadworthiness test and/or where the national registration authority has received an end-of-life notification for the vehicle.

Conclusion

The roadworthiness package provides a clear indication of the European Commission's determination to improve road safety and save lives. These measures should bring enhanced vehicle safety benefits due to the increased frequency of roadworthiness testing, although this benefit is likely to be greater in Member States with a poor road safety record and relatively infrequent vehicle roadworthiness testing intervals.

In the UK, where annual testing is required for all motor vehicles with a gross weight of more than 3.5 tonnes, and for all public service vehicles with more than eight passenger seats (excluding the driver’s seat), as well as for all two- and three-wheeled motorised vehicles, the increased benefits provided by these proposals may be more limited.

There may also be significant additional costs due to the requirement to establish and maintain electronic information registers with a harmonised data exchange system, allowing EU-wide access to data held in national databases.

What happens next?

The proposed measures will need to be approved by both the European Parliament and Member States before becoming law. The European Parliament Committee vote at first or single reading is scheduled for 30 May 2013 and a European Parliament first or single reading plenary session is scheduled for 2 July 2013.

The proposed regulations will enter into force on the twentieth day following their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, and shall apply in all Member States from 12 months after their entry into force. The proposed directive will also enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the aforementioned journal, and Member States will be required to enact the necessary implementing national legislation within 36 months of this date.