HGV wheel safety debated at Westminster again
In a Private Members’ Debate on Tuesday 29 November, Paul Goggins MP continued to raise the issue of commercial vehicle wheel safety with Parliamentary under-secretary of State for Transport Mike Penning, asserting “I am not going away on this issue.” The outcome of the debate was that the MPs will meet again soon, to discuss the outcome of Goggins’ meetings with industry representatives and trade associations. The MP, in conjunction with MWS, is setting up meetings with the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association; a process that the latest Westminster action will have eased, company representative Matthew Wells told tyrepress.com/Tyres & Accessories.
Since the previous debate between the MPs, Goggins, who is the Member of Parliament for Wythenshawe and Sale East, the constituency in which wheel distributor Motor Wheel Service is based, said that he continues to be briefed by MWS MD John Ellis, and Wells, both of whom he said “remain vigilant and active across the industry on issues of wheel safety.”
During the latest debate Goggins presented three pieces of evidence to Penning, suggesting that action should be taken: the first a picture taken at MWS of a crack in the wheel of an HGV in use; the second an October 2011 report by Truckstop News entitled ‘Killer Wheels’, in which wheel manufacturer Alcoa claimed it had been sent counterfeit wheels that had failed early; the third a recent ITV news report on the severity on wheels of the impact of potholes. Goggins invited the Minister to take “a rather more engaging approach” by meeting with representatives of the industry to consider the need for more rigorous checks.
Goggins continued: “There have recently been a number of presentations on the issue to important industry bodies. ATS Euromaster has had a presentation, as have the National Tyre Distributors Association, the Northwest Automotive Alliance and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. I can tell the Minister that further discussions are planned with those bodies about these concerns, which I can attest are growing concerns in the industry.
“Indeed, such is the level of anxiety in the industry that when the Minister wrote to me to say that he was not prepared to go beyond the very limited offer that he had made, the industry was prepared to put in place its own reporting mechanism, so that it could say to companies throughout the wheel supply industry that if they had evidence of any wheel failure, they could report it through a specially designed industry reporting system and it could be passed on to the Department for Transport.” Goggins concluded by requesting a meeting to discuss “how best to make the arrangements for that industry reporting structure to link to his Department.”
Penning responded by pointing out the importance of talking to representatives of logistics firms and hauliers, saying: “The Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association, whose representatives I meet very regularly and with whom I have a very good rapport, have not raised this issue with me once.”
Of the picture of the damaged wheel, Penning said “One of the facts I wanted to ascertain was when that vehicle was last tested, because the crack should and would have been brought up in the test. It is illegal to have that sort of damage on a vehicle, as he knows, and it is illegal to run the vehicle with it.” Penning reasserted the need for evidence if the Government was to legislate on the matter, also restating his desire to keep regulation within the industry. He said the growing weight of industry opinion behind the issue was evidence that “the trade associations have stepped up to the plate. Rather than Ministers telling people what to do, the right approach is often for the industry to realise that it has a responsibility as well and that reform is needed.”
Penning continued: “I hope that the trade associations will do what they said they will do—that they will get the submissions together and come as a united body to present their evidence. That will allow me to go away and ask why we have certain failure rates coming from all the different expert bodies mentioned in the speech that I have not used, and to compare that with what is happening on the front line.”
Finally the Transport Minister made the point that the second-hand market was providing a valuable service to the HGV wheel market, by offering a cheaper alternative to buying new wheels: I still want there to be a second-hand market… because that is important for people who cannot afford to buy brand-new wheels every time, but those wheels must be safe. The operators have a responsibility to make sure that that happens, and I do not want to take that responsibility away from them.”
MWS continues to campaign for more stringent safety checks to be carried out on second hand and take-off commercial wheels, arguing that over 10,000 such products entered the market in 2009. Of these, MWS says the large majority were sold by companies who do not possess the technical abilities or examination procedures to ascertain the history and fatigue of a wheel.
The full video from the debating hall can be found at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9514 starting at 11:00. The Hansard transcript of the debate can also be found at http://bit.ly/rElm0q.