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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety
News article13 July 20129 min read

Road worthiness package

Tougher vehicle testing rules to save lives

Vehicle checks are fundamental to road safety. More than 5 people die on Europe's roads every day in accidents linked to technical failure. So on 3 April 2014 the European Union has adopted new rules to toughen up the testing regime and widen its scope.

The new rules aim to avoid more than 36,000 accidents a year linked to technical failure.

The new directives replace existing EU rules setting minimum standards for vehicle checks which date back to 1977, with only minor updates. Cars, driver behavior and technology have developed a lot since then.

Existing EU rules setting minimum standards for vehicle checks date back to 1977, with only minor updates. Cars, driver behaviour and technology have developed a lot since then.

Moreover, many technical defects with serious implications for safety (such as ABS and Electronic Stability Control) are not even checked under current rules.

The three directives that constitute the roadworthiness package concern

The new directives

Key elements of the new directives include

  • Improving the quality of vehicle tests by setting common minimum standards for equipment, training of inspectors and assessment of deficiencies.
  • Control of cargo securing during roadside inspections of goods vehicles above 3,5 t.
  • Rendering electronic safety components (such as ABS, ESC and air-bag) subject to mandatory testing.
  • Clamping down on mileage fraud, with registered mileage readings.
  • Compulsory EU wide testing for heavy motorbikes unless a Member State reaches equivalent road safety enhancement by other measures. Motorbike riders are the highest risk group of road users.

In all cases, the directives set common EU wide minimum standards for vehicle checks with Member States free to go further if appropriate.

What is in the new Roadworthiness Package?

There are three parts to the roadworthiness package: periodic roadworthiness tests; technical roadside inspections of commercial vehicles; and vehicle registration.

Each part is dealt with in turn below.

Periodic Roadworthiness Tests - the main improvements

The current rules: Directive 2009/40/EC fixes minimum standards for the periodic roadworthiness tests of motor vehicles - these are the regular vehicle checks required by law. The Directive applies to passenger cars, buses and coaches and heavy goods vehicles and their trailers, but not to scooters and motorbikes.

Under the new Directive 2014/45/EU:

  1. The scope of vehicles to be tested will be extended to the highest risk group of road users, the heavier motorcycles (powered two or three wheelers) and high speed tractors (above 40 Km/h). These two categories of vehicles are currently excluded from the testing obligation under EU law.
    The directive further defines the limits of the scope of the exemptions from testing that Member States may grant to certain vehicles e.g. agricultural vehicles and certain vehicles that are not used in intercommunity traffic or solely operated on small islands or in sparsely populated areas.
    Member States may also opt out from testing of motorcycles in cases where they can achieve, based on road safety statistics, similar road safety enhancements for this vehicle category by other measures.
    These exemptions also include vehicles of historic interest, which have now been more precisely defined.
  2. As regards the frequency of testing, vehicles with high mileage may be subject to more frequent testing, as is already the case for taxis and ambulances. Passenger cars, light vans up to 3.5 tonnes and high speed tractors will be tested first time after four years and thereafter every second year while taxis, ambulances and commercial vehicles above 3.5 tonnes are tested annually. The frequency of testing motorcycles will be set at national level by the Member States.
  3. Roadworthiness certificates have to be mutually recognised in cases of re-registering a vehicle already registered in another Member State.
    Citizen moving from one Member State to another will benefit from this new requirement which supports the principle of free movement within the Union. However, test frequencies established in the receiving Member State will have to be followed; they may not be overruled by the validity of the existing roadworthiness certificate.
  4. The equipment to be used for testing has to fulfil certain minimum requirements to ensure that it can efficiently perform the necessary tests.
    The availability and characteristics of the testing equipment determine the quality of the roadworthiness tests. Currently, EU law does not contain provisions concerning test equipment. Therefore, the new directive includes a list of the minimum equipment required for the Periodic Technical Inspection (PTI) and its technical specification.
    A transitional period is defined to allow for a smooth replacement of existing testing equipment that does not meet the required standards.
  5. Inspectors performing roadworthiness tests have to have a certain level of knowledge and skills and they have to be properly trained.
    A high standard of roadworthiness testing requires a high level of skills and competences of the testing personnel. The directive introduces areas of knowledge an applicant for a inspectors post should have, a training system including initial training and periodic refresher trainings and the areas these trainings have to cover.
    A transitional period is defined to allow for a smooth transition of existing testing personnel into the periodic training regime.
  6. Detected deficiencies will be assessed according to common rules related to their risk.
    The judgement about the technical condition of a vehicle should be harmonised across the EU. For that to be possible, the failures detected should be assessed according to a common standard. To that end the Commission adopted in 2010 recommendations for the assessment of defects. The recommendations defined 3 categories of defects (minor, major and dangerous) according to their consequences for vehicle safety and assigned one or more of these categories to the possible defects as listed in the directive.
    These rules on the assessment of defects and the definition of the categories are now introduced into the directive.
  7. Quality assurance of roadworthiness test activities performed by authorised private bodies will be performed through national supervision.
    The directive establishes the obligation for Member States to supervise the operation of inspection bodies and the quality of the inspections carried out by these bodies.
    To assure that the high quality of testing is kept over time, Member States are required to set up a quality assurance system that covers the processes of authorisation, supervision and withdrawal, suspension or cancellation of the authorisation to perform roadworthiness tests.
  8. Registering of mileage readings will provide official evidence to detect kilometre fraud
    The directive establishes clear rules on the legal quality of odometer (mileage) fraud by making it a punishable infringement. With the registration of the mileage readings at each vehicle test, the basis to detect manipulations of the mileage readings is provided. With the keeping of these data the basis for a more efficient checking of the mileage is given and the basis for further cross-border use of this information once the interconnection of the national registers is in place.

Technical Roadside Inspections of Commercial Vehicles - the main improvements

The current rules: Directive 2009/40/EC is complemented by Directive 2000/30/EC, which provides the requirement to control the technical state of commercial vehicles in between periodic inspections (with technical roadside inspections). These are additional on-the-spot roadside checks for commercial vehicles.

Under the new Directive 2014/47/EU:

  1. The selection of vehicles will be based on the risk profile of the operators and target high risk undertakings to reduce the burden on operators that maintain their vehicles in a proper way. Risk profiling will be based on the results of previous roadworthiness tests and roadside inspections taking into account the number and severity of defects detected as well as a time-factor providing higher importance to recent performed checks.
  2. Currently technical roadside inspections apply to commercial vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes. The directive encourages Member States to include light commercial vehicles (under 3.5 tonnes) into their roadside inspections (RSI) as such vehicles are being used more frequently in road transport. These vehicles are not covered by certain requirements such as the requirement of training for professional drivers or the installation of speed limitation devices ending up in a relatively high number of road accidents involving such vehicles.
  3. The number of technical roadside inspections per year within the Union will be linked to the number of registered commercial vehicles. Member States shall endeavour to carry out an appropriate number of RSI proportionate to the total number of such vehicles registered in their territory to provide for a more equal distribution of the roadside checks among them.
  4. Technical roadside inspections will be performed in a stepwise approach. First an initial check of the overall condition of the vehicle and its documentation, such as roadworthiness certificates or previous roadside inspection reports. A more detailed roadside inspection may be performed on the basis of the outcome of the initial inspection. More detailed inspections are to be carried out using a mobile inspection unita designated roadside inspection facility or a test centre in the close vicinity.
  5. The securing of cargo will be included in the roadside checks. Inadequate cargo securing is considered as factor related to up to 25% of accidents involving trucks. The directive establishes the principles for cargo securing, provides for a list of applicable standards and for harmonised criteria for the assessment of deficiencies related to the securing of cargo.
  6. Harmonisation of standards for the assessment of deficiencies, level of knowledge and skills of inspectors performing roadside inspectors based on the requirements for periodic roadworthiness tests and regularly concerted inspection activities will contribute to avoid unfair treatment.

Vehicle Registration- the main improvements

The current rules: Directive 1999/37/EC on registration documents for vehicles sets out the requirements for the issuing of registration certificates, their mutual recognition and the harmonised minimum content of vehicle registration certificates.

Under the amending Directive 2014/46/EU:

  1. Data on registered vehicles will be kept in national electronic registers.
  2. Technical data arriving from vehicle approval, but not necessarily printed on registration documents, will be made available to the inspector for the purpose of the roadworthiness test.
  3. An effective enforcement of the roadworthiness will be provided via the vehicle registration regime by a suspension of the authorisation to use a vehicle in road traffic that poses an immediate risk to road safety until it has successfully passed a new roadworthiness test.

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Publication date
13 July 2012