Why is Government still failing to regulate some of the largest construction HGVs on the road?
Volumetric concrete mixers, weighing upwards of 40 tonnes, are currently exempt from strict HGV regulation due to a legal loophole, says the Mineral Products Association.
How many people appreciate the amazing fact that some 40 tonne plus construction HGVs are operating with very limited regulation?
Volumetric concrete mixers are HGVs fitted with equipment to carry the raw materials for making concrete and to mix concrete or other materials. Due to a legal loophole they are formally defined as “engineering plant” and not HGVs. Engineering plant are typically machines used in road construction but which do not operate commercially on the road delivering construction materials and as such are not subject to HGV rules.
There are up to 1,000 Volumetric concrete mixers operating on pubic roads and delivering 6 million tonnes of concrete annually to construction sites throughout the UK. In contrast HGVs delivering concrete (the familiar truckmixers with rotating drums) and other construction materials are fully regulated as HGVs.
As a result of the legal loophole volumetric concrete mixers typically operate to weights of over 40 tonnes (compared with 32 tonne limits for equivalent HGVs) and drivers are subject to none of the stringent drivers hours and working time rules required for HGV drivers. Drivers of Volumetric concrete mixers do not have to keep any records of time worked and there is some doubt if they even require HGV licences. If an HGV operator flouts HGV regulations or drivers hours rules they can have their Operator Licence suspended or removed by the Traffic Commissioners, potentially putting them out of business, but Volumetric concrete mixer operators are not subject to such regulation. There is also a significant risk that rules being introduced which will limit harmful emissions by HGVs, including the forthcoming Ultra Low Emission Zone in London, will not be applied to Volumetric Concrete Mixers as they are “legally” not HGVs.
In a some cases reputable operators who run volumetrics operate them in accordance with HGV and drivers hours rules but the rapid growth in the number of these vehicles in recent years has been due to their use by operators who do not want to be restricted by HGV weight limits, drivers hours or working time limits or regulation by the Traffic Commissioners and have been involved in a series of legal cases to preserve the regulatory loopholes.
The House of Commons Transport Committee highlighted its concerns in its July 2014 report on Cycling Safety (“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to closing the loophole around volumetric mixers....”) but no action was taken by Government. The Department for Transport has now acknowledged that some regulation is required but has so far refused to extend HGV drivers or working time limits to the drivers of Volumetric concrete mixers and has proposed that Volumetic Concrete Mixers should be allowed to operate at weights 20% higher than HGV limits for a “temporary” period until 2032.
Everyone in the business knows that volumetric concrete mixers are HGVs using a legal loophole to avoid reasonable regulation. At a time when MPA members, others in the construction industry and responsible HGV operators are taking concerted action to improve road safety, notably for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, Government is refusing to apply safety critical HGV rules to a growing number of poorly regulated Volumetric concrete mixers.
We cannot think of any rational reason why Government plans to continue to allow this regulatory failure which is providing a clear and present danger to all other road users. Can you?