On 7 October 2021, the UK Government published new guidance on how the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) ensures that vehicles, trailers, equipment and their components meet safety and environmental standards.
The guidance is important for manufactures of vehicle and vehicle components to consider, as it provides information on how the DVSA conduct their investigations and their enforcement powers and procedures in scenarios where unsafe vehicles or components are found.
Key features of the guidance
Objectives of the Vehicle Market Surveillance Unit
The Vehicle Market Surveillance Unit (a branch of the DVSA) carry out annual inspections and tests of vehicle products placed on the UK market, including inspections based on reports from industry and the general public, to ensure safety and environmental standards are met. There are over 40 separate pieces of guidance that manufactures may need to consider in order to ensure their products meet the expected standards.
A product is likely to be considered unsafe if the design and/or final product poses a risk to the vehicles driver, occupants or others. Products inspected by the Vehicle Market Surveillance Unit including both physical component and vehicle software, reflective of the developments in technology for modern day vehicles.
How the DVSA conducts investigations
Enforcement action that can be taken by the DVSA
If unsafe vehicle products are found, the DVSA has power to issue civil penalties (which can be appealed), recall notices and, in the most serious circumstances, prosecute individuals or businesses under section 29(5)(e) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
The following factors will be considered by the DVSA when considering the appropriate enforcement action:
- The manufacturers’ intent
- Cooperation of the manufacturer
- Any previous offences
- Personal circumstances
- Public risk
In the event that a product recall is required, the DVSA will work with the relevant manufacturers and/or their legal representatives to help take the most appropriate steps. A common approach to recalls involving a large number of vehicle products is to conduct a ‘phased recall’.
To ensure the expected safety and environmental standards are met for vehicles and vehicle components, manufacturers should:
- Ensure that procedures are in place to allow the Vehicle Market Surveillance Unit to conduct inspections.
- Be familiar with the safety and environmental guidance specific to the vehicle components and software manufactured.
- Ensure their products are compliant with the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 all product safety regulations on a rolling basis.
- Understand their rights to appeal DVSA penalties.
- Put in place plans and strategies for effective product recalls, including in adherence with any guidelines or best practices in the UK and industry generally.