Senior Traffic Commissioner Richard Turfitt (pictured) has warned hauliers of their obligations regarding trailers amid a spate of Public Inquiries following serious transgressions.

Speaking at the Microlise Transport Conference last week, Turfitt said: “I need to flag up a concerning pattern of cases emerging from last year. It involves the maintenance of third-party trailers.

“There have been considerable efforts by the DVSA to make test reports available to all, but operators seem oblivious to maintaining trailers. It makes the ongoing work by the DfT all the more important.

“I don’t say this to scare but to forewarn. A growing number of operators have unfortunately found themselves at a Public Inquiry. Many simply overlook the obligations on their operators’ licence, which extends to the trailer."

New data suggests around 50% of operators own the trailers they use, 22% hire them in and 28% offer traction only, collecting and delivering from another party.

“It is always the case that the user of the vehicle and trailer bears legal responsibility for its roadworthiness,” Turfitt stressed.

“The user is generally defined as the driver or the operator who employs the driver, including agency drivers. Any defects found on the vehicle or trailer will be registered against your operators’ licence, regardless of who owns the equipment or instructs you to use it."

Turfitt advised any operators still unsure of their obliations to refer to the Guide to Mainitaining Roadworthiness. “There is really good guidance out there already written," he said. “The operator should take a risk-based approach including regular road testing.

"Remember to have an effective first-use driver check, ask yourself how you will ensure roadworthiniess, is the inspection in accordance with the operators' licence, what’s the legality of the load, and who is the driver?”