Commercial motor vehicles and Covid-19
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in restrictions on movement and ‘social distancing’ measures which will cause businesses significant challenges in the coming months. There are several concerns and considerations for businesses with vehicles and drivers - whether company cars and vans, passenger transport, or trucks.
The virus can live on hard surfaces for hours or even days, depending on the type of surface, so where vehicles are being used by different drivers or for carrying passengers it is important to minimise the risk of infection.
A disinfecting agent, such as ones containing isopropyl alcohol, should be safe to use to wipe down the hard surfaces in most vehicles. It’s important to pay attention to ‘high touch’ areas, including steering wheel, gear lever, door handles, mirror, cupholders and all switches. Alcohol is usually also safe to use on imitation leather. If the vehicle has leather seats, a solution of soap and water can be used.
Once the vehicle interior is clean, make sure that every person sanitises their hands before getting in to stop the risk of further infection.
There have been warnings circulating around the web about COVID-19 being spread through petrol pumps. Health experts have stated that petrol pumps offer no greater risk than other surfaces, though people are recommended to use gloves and to clean their hands after using them.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced that vehicle owners will be granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing. All cars, vans and motorcycles will be exempt from needing a test from 30. March. Garages will remain open for essential work and owners are reminded that vehicles must be kept in a safe and roadworthy condition.
MOT tests for lorries, buses and trailers are currently suspended for three months from 21. March. In most cases, the vehicle or trailer will automatically be issued a three-month exemption and owners do not need to do anything further. It is important that vehicles are maintained and kept in a safe, roadworthy condition, and operate within the terms of operators’ licence conditions.
In Northern Ireland, the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) has suspended all MOT tests for three months from 24. March
Driving tests in England, Scotland and Wales have been suspended for up to three months from 21. March, except for people whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response. Workers in sectors such as health and social care, education and childcare, key public services, food and necessary goods, transport and other critical sectors will be able to book an emergency test.
In Northern Ireland, the DVA has suspended practical driving tests across all vehicle categories from 20. March until 22. June.
Drivers’ hours rules relaxed
The Department for Transport (DfT) has relaxed the drivers’ hours regulations to help with re-supply of essential items.
DfT had originally agreed to a temporary and limited relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales for the delivery of food, personal care items and over the counter pharmaceuticals. The relaxation has now been extended to apply to all haulage operations in all sectors from 23. March until 21. April.
The DfT has stressed that driver safety must not be compromised and that no driver should be expected to drive if tired. Employers remain responsible for the health and safety of employees and other road users.
Vehicles not being used on the road
The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. Scaled back or suspended operations may cause businesses to consider laying up vehicles for a while. If so, the following general guidance may be useful, which should be used in conjunction with vehicle manufacturer advice.
If you own a vehicle that you no longer want to drive on a public road, you can declare your vehicle ‘off road’ by making a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). A SORN informs the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that you are registering the vehicle as off the road. The vehicle cannot be driven or parked on a public road when it has been declared as SORN.
*Article first published on QBE Website