DVSA: roadside enforcement policy

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The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published its October 2023 version of its ‘Enforcement Sanctions Policy’ that sets out how DVSA examiners deal with most offences they encounter at the roadside.

All enforcement agencies and prosecuting authorities are expected to operate in accordance with their own policies. There is a legitimate expectation that they will do so, and it may be an unlawful abuse if they act contrary to those policies.

DVSA may take enforcement action that can ultimately lead to prosecution and/or referral to the Traffic Commissioner (where HGV/PSV operators have an operator’s licence). There has been a trend over recent years to make Traffic Commissioner referrals but not prosecute, even where prosecution may be justifiable. Cost and significant delay (court backlogs now in record numbers) are a disincentive.

DVSA examiners may deal with offences in a variety of ways

Verbal warnings

These are deemed as ones appropriate only for minor infringements and where historical fixed penalty offences cannot be issued.

Prohibition Notices

These Notices are intended to remove road safety risk. They are not penalties or criminal convictions as such. They are often referred to as a ‘PG9’ (the form used) and are designated either immediate (I) or delayed (D). Either can be endorsed as ‘S’, which means a significant failure of roadworthy compliance. This is where DVSA believe there are “defects that the Operator and/or Driver should have been aware of” and will meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • long-standing defect that should have been detected and repaired at the last safety check
  • the defect or issue should have been detected at the first use/daily walk round check
  • performance, handling and/or warning systems would have made the defect obvious to the driver
  • poor workmanship should have been apparent to repairer
  • the nature of the defect(s) observed at annual test were such that they should have been found before the vehicle was presented for test
  • the number and nature of defects present on this notice indicates a significant failure in maintenance.

S-endorsed prohibitions are significant because of the follow-up action that may follow, including the requirement for operators to undergo desk-based assessments (where they have to supply maintenance, drivers’ hours, evidence and other material) or DVSA inspection visit by traffic or vehicle examiners, with referral to the Office of the Traffic Commissioner.

Fixed penalties

These are only issued by DVSA where any vehicle is being used for commercial purposes. They are only “offered” in respect of the roadside inspection process, not later. Of course, they can only be issued to drivers and not operators. Some fixed penalties fall under graduated schemes (e.g. drivers’ hours and excess weight) and are in the range of £50, £100, £200 and £300. Operator’s licence holders must report these to the Traffic Commissioner within 28 days.

Some drivers’ hours offences are “historical”, i.e. they have occurred in the 28-day period preceding the occasion of the roadside check. Fixed penalties for these are issued if the offences are deemed to be severe or, if not severe, are more than three in number. This will initiate follow-up action against the operator in order to assess the extent to which the operator is culpable. In turn, this may trigger prosecution and/or referral to the Traffic Commissioner. Matters may also be dealt with by way of advisory or warning letters.

Some DVSA encounters will reveal Most Serious Infringements (MSIs). These are defined in operator licencing regulations but will likely result in operators being visited by DVSA or other follow-up.

Enforcement Sanctions Policy

The policy sets out regulations and the sanction or other action to be adopted by DVSA for each category of offence. It is, therefore, possible to know specifically what approach will be taken by DVSA. It also confirms which offences are endorseable. These are essentially construction and use offences relating to brakes, steering, tyres and loads; many road transport offences are simply not endorseable e.g. driver hours offences or weight offences.

The following offences are covered in the Enforcement Sanctions Policy, which can be found here: Enforcement Sanctions Policy.

  • defects and dimensions
  • driver licensing, insurance and driver’s CPC
  • vehicle excise, registration number and trade plates
  • drivers hours and tachographs
  • GB domestic drivers’ hours and records
  • goods vehicles operator licensing and PSV operator licensing
  • plating and testing and certificate of initial fitness
  • overloading
  • goods vehicle and PSV miscellaneous offences
  • carriage of dangerous goods
  • MOT.

Contact our road transport solicitors today

If you require advice and assistance concerning any investigation carried out by DVSA and/or advice concerning operator licensing (including Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry and preliminary hearing matters), please contact us using our online enquiry form or by calling 0330 404 7949.


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