Karin Smyth, MP for Bristol South, has condemned a Government decision to scrap a trailer and towing safety measure, and described the methods used as “Parliamentary sharp practice of the shoddiest order.” The Government moves will scrap the need for an additional test for those towing a trailer between 750kg and 3,500kg, called a B+E test – without any assessment of what risks this poses to the safety of drivers and pedestrians.
Statistics for the car and trailer driving test pass rates suggest there is a consistent fail rate of 30%, with 8,575 people failing the test in 2019/20. Under proposed legislation, these drivers deemed unqualified under existing rules could progress to towing a trailer without a mandated test, risking countless lives and posing a real and present danger to other road users and pedestrians.
Whilst the Government has proposed to replace the test with a voluntary scheme, the training will not be regulated, relying instead on businesses and individuals to “do the right thing”. Ms Smyth is calling on the Government to fill this gap with an organisation that administers an industry accredited training scheme for drivers towing light trailers, and is urging the Government to work with her to make the voluntary scheme work as well as possible.
Karin Smyth, set up the APPG for trailer safety following the tragic death of a young constituent by a runaway trailer in 2014, and has been campaigning for better towing safety standards ever since.
In a speech in the House of Commons on Monday she called on the Government to implement her four core asks:
- To ensure the remit of any voluntary accreditation scheme is widened to include all trailers and all drivers. The rules are now very complex and we need a simpler licensing system;
- To continue to work with the APPG on developments relating to towing and trailer safety but to also work with us on assessing the effect of this legislative change;
- For the minister to provide an annual written statement setting out where driver error is cited in towing accidents. This would give some reassurance that the Government will be in a position to undertake action swiftly if a problem emerges as well as have a point in time for which to review these measures in 3 years time;
- For the minister to give more specific details of the new proposed training scheme namely scope, how many people are expected to be trained, when such a scheme will come on stream, how it will be communicated, how it will be evaluated.
Karin Smyth, MP for Bristol South, said:
“This Government decision to scrap a mandatory trailer safety measure is a bitter blow, both to the campaign for greater trailer safety, and to the families of those who have lost loved ones in preventable accidents. I am extremely concerned about the impact this could have on safety standards, a fear I know is shared by many in the industry.
“That this legislation is being fast-tracked in the way it is represents Parliamentary sharp practice of the shoddiest order, with the Government offensively proclaiming these changes are needed to solve the HGV crisis. Whilst this legislation could free up some examiner capacity, it would not be enough to reverse the backlog. The key question for the Government is it worth risking lives for? It is also staggering that the Government has not made a Road Safety Impact assessment on this decision, the ramifications of which are literally a matter of life and death and something the House of Lords have also expressed concerns about.
“Devastatingly, the new Government proposals risk undermining the progress made by the #TowSafe4Freddie campaign, established by the family of a young constituent of mine, Freddie Hussey, lost his life in a trailer accident. Freddie’s parents, Donna and Scott Hussey, have shown continued tenacity and quiet heroism in their campaign for improved trailer safety, and a dignified yet unflinching determination to do something that would prevent another family suffering – so terribly and needlessly – as they had done.
“We have been promised, time and again, legislation that is fit to serve the memory of Freddie and the bravery of his family. These proposals are not, in any way, shape or form, fit for purpose, and there’s still time for the Government to pause and make good on its promises”