Following extensive consultation with the industry, including meetings with BVSF and other trade bodies, VOSA has published a Guide for Recovery Operations as a digital document. The 28-page publication is seen as a helpful guide to inform both operators and enforcement personnel within VOSA about key parts of the law related to breakdown and recovery operations. It also aims to clarify the position on whether specific jobs can be regarded as recovery work, or transport work under an O-licence, which has relevance for vehicle collections in the salvage and dismantling sector.
VOSA stresses however that it is not a legal document in itself, and operators should still refer to specific legislation and take independent legal advice if they are unclear on any topic.
VOSA acknowledges that recovery operations have been an area where there has been a great deal of uncertainty regarding the legal requirements. The guide states: “One of the reasons for this uncertainty and confusion is the various classifications of vehicles used by the recovery industry; several definitions of vehicle currently included in legislation include breakdown vehicles, recovery vehicles, specialised recovery vehicles and road recovery vehicles.
“The variations in definition are further complicated insofar as one might refer to the construction of a vehicle, whilst another might dwell only on how a vehicle is being used.
“As a result of that uncertainty, some non-compliance has been identified within the industry, but inconsistency in enforcement has also become apparent. For these reasons, this guide attempts to introduce much more clarity on rules which, at times, can be fairly complex.”
Pointing to the value of working with trade bodies such as the BVSF, Gordon MacDonald, head of VOSA enforcement policy says: “The guide is an example of trade representatives involved in recovery operations approaching us with concerns and VOSA working with them to come up with a workable solution.”
VOSA has also used the opportunity to provide what it describes as a “more pragmatic interpretation, in some areas to produce practical solutions to persistent interpretation problems”.
The guide states: “For the purposes of clarifying ... a disabled vehicle is one which cannot reasonably be driven due to mechanical failure or dangerous components, or even incapable of use in the reasoned opinion of the recovery operator. It is not sufficient to deliberately disable a vehicle (eg disconnect the battery) to call it disabled for the purposes of defining a recovery vehicle.”
Evidence of a more pragmatic approach to interpretation comes in the statement that acknowledges that sometimes a disabled vehicle may have a stop- over “... before being moved to
a place of repair where, because of the time or geographical location, it is impossible or impractical to immediately take a disabled vehicle to a place
of repair or scrappage. In such circumstances, it would be sufficient to take a disabled vehicle to a holding premises on the basis that onward transportation to a place for repair or scrappage was imminent.”
The role of O-licensing is fully explained and the guide aims to clarify the difference between breakdown and recovery work and ‘transport’ work which would require a licence.
“It isn’t enough for a vehicle to have all the physical attributes of a recovery vehicle; it must be used for the specific purposes detailed in the definition.
“For example, a ‘breakdown’ or ‘recovery’ vehicle transporting a non- disabled car from one garage forecourt to another, would be classed as a haulage operation, despite what the towing vehicle might look like.
“Such a journey would fall within the scope of ‘carriage of goods for hire or reward’.”
The publication also recommends good practice in terms of ensuring vehicles are roadworthy, including walk-round checks by each driver taking over a vehicle, and refers to further guidance which is available in VOSA’s ‘Guide to Maintaining Roadworthiness’ and ‘Categorisation of Defects’.
VOSA has confirmed that the guide will be kept under review and updated when necessary and it encourages operators to make contact if they believe that an individual inspector has made an incorrect interpretation with regard to recovery operations so that the matter can be fully investigated by VOSA managers.
Copies of the guide can be downloaded from the link below