Three out of every four HGVs checked at the roadside in Northern Ireland in the year to the end of March were found to be roadworthy and not committing any serious traffic offences, a new compliance report from the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) has shown.

Of 633 commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW stopped during the year at roadside checks, 77.3% were without any serious non-compliance issues while 64.6% were without even minor defects or traffic offences.

In terms of roadworthiness, 84% of vehicles had no serious defects. Of the remainder, the most common serious defects were to do with lights and signals (36%) and brakes (22%).

In terms of traffic offences, 90% of vehicles stopped were found to be committing no serious offence. Of the rest, the most common offences related to being overweight (51.4%), drivers' hours (30.8%) and vocational driving licence offences (4.7%)

The results reflect a continuing reduction in non-compliance in Northern Ireland in recent years. Overall serious non-compliance figures have fallen from almost 51% of vehicles stopped in 2007/8 to 22.7% in 2012/13. Serious truck roadworthiness defects have fallen from 33% of vehicles stopped in 2007/8 to 14.7%; those for trailers have fallen from 21% to 5.8%; and serious traffic offences have fallen from 40.3% to just 9.8%.

A spokesman for the DVA said the improvement in compliance rates was down to a combination of better use of technology, increased staff and vehicle resources, and the introduction of new enforcement legislation. Despite the advance, further improvements in compliance were "not only realistic, but necessary," he added.

Tom Wilson, general manager – Ireland at the FTA, said the association was “absolutely pleased” with the results, but added that breaches of drivers’ hours rules, in particular, remained a concern. Vosa checks on the A75 in Scotland showed that 50% of the trucks coming off ferries from Ireland were in breach of these rules, he said.

First-time pass rates at annual vehicle test – currently around 70% - also left room for improvement, said Wilson. And Northern Ireland still does not have an OCRS system for any test failures to count against, he pointed out. “We were told there were plans for this two years ago, but it still hasn’t arrived yet,” he said. “The sooner we see that, the better.”