Czech road transport operators deny reports Czech trucks are unroadworthy

British MPs say they are seriously concerned about lorries registered outside the UK being a safety threat on British roads. A report by the House of Commons Transport Committee called on Monday for foreign lorries that are not up to UK standards to be taken off the road. Press reports pointed a finger at the Czechs as being the worst offenders with 60 percent of their lorries failing roadworthiness tests in the UK.

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague
The House of Commons Transport Committee would like to give the British Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) greater powers to immobilise unsafe trucks. Is the general state of Czech vehicles really so bad? – a question I put to VOSA’s Head of Operational Performance and Planning John Cark.

“Czech vehicles are not very good. We’ve prohibited more than half of the goods vehicles we’ve seen. But those figures are not uncommon for vehicles from Eastern Europe which are undertaking long journeys. The Czech vehicles have been showing steady improvement over the last two years and are by no means the worst that we encounter.”

Photo: Radio Prague International
The Geneva-based International Road Transport Union represents the entire road transport industry world-wide. I asked its delegate to the European Union Michael Nielsen whether any other country in Europe has complained about the safety of Czech vehicles.

“No, that’s not something that we in the IRU have heard about that there is a specific problem with the safety of Czech trucks in the EU, so that’s not something that we have statistics to prove. On the contrary, from the latest statistics that the Commission is giving out we know for instance that new vehicle registrations from 2006-2007, which is the newest statistics, in the Czech Republic increased by just under 25 percent.”

The Czech association of road transport operators Česmad disagrees with allegations that Czech vehicles are unsafe. Spokesman Martin Felix:

“On the one hand, we are surprised by the report because the Czech fleet is one of the most modern in Europe. That’s because ahead of EU accession, international permits were granted based on emissions classes so our transport operators were forced to update their vehicles and nothing has changed in that respect. So that’s quite strange. On the other hand we are used to our vehicles being favourite targets of road checks in the West so perhaps the statistic is influenced by this bias – by the choice of vehicles to be examined.”

As John Cark of VOSA says his agency has seen an improvement in the last two years concerning the mechanical condition of Czech trucks. In some other respects, he says, Czech drivers are very compliant.

“We also check the vehicles for compliance with drivers’ hours legislation which we regard as very important and what I can say that the Czech vehicles we encounter are among the best in Europe.”