The DVSA has defended its intelligence-led approach to roadside enforcement after statistics were released showing an average truck is inspected once every 88,000 miles.

The figures were obtained in a freedom of information request by the Unite union, which has used them as evidence that on-the-spot checks are now “vanishingly rare”.

The union said a lorry in the UK could travel the equivalent of three and a half times around the world without expecting to undergo a check.

Unite said there were 114,653 on-the-spot inspections in 2020/21 to check the road worthiness of HGVs and also if professional drivers were abiding by driving regulations.

But it said this had declined by 39% since 2016/17, when 186,460 checks were undertaken.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “These figures are alarming and demonstrate that on-the-spot inspections of lorries and HGV drivers are vanishingly rare on the UK’s roads.

“This has serious safety implications and the government needs to be explaining how it ensures that all lorries and HGV drivers on the UK’s roads are doing so safely and abiding by the law.”

Adrian Jones, Unite national officer, added: “Our professional lorry driver members, who abide by the rules, will be shocked by these figures.

“All road users should be seeking urgent reassurances that the companies who are taking advantage of the relaxation on the cabotage rules are doing so safely and complying with the law.”

However, the DVSA said the reduction in inspections was “a deliberate and known consequence of our increasingly intelligence led approach” and that it used remote enforcement techniques for targeting drivers’ hours offences.

A DVSA spokesman said: “New technology and techniques available to DVSA mean we can target the serially and seriously non-compliant more effectively than in earlier years, and we focus on the most serious defects and offences with a view to keeping Britain’s roads among the safest in the world.”