Mobile cranes are currently exempt from annual MoT-type tests, but fleet owners recognise this as an anomaly and have found themselves increasingly under fire on this point after every road traffic accident.
The Department of Transport has had consultations on reform to the regulatory regime of exempted vehicles but has yet to report on its conclusions.
The Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA), which represents the vast majority of UK mobile crane hire companies, is to develop a testing and certification regime for crane owners to adopt. Although the scheme will be voluntary – the CPA has no legal powers of enforcement – it hopes that the Department for Transport will work with it in the development of both this scheme and any future legislation.
The proposal to move ahead with the scheme was agreed at a meeting of the CPA’s crane interest group this week.
CPA chief executive Colin Wood said that the scheme would be similar in rigour to the thorough examination requirements of the Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), with testing to be carried out by an appropriately competent independent person who would then sign the certificate of roadworthiness.
Mr Wood said that he expected the scheme would take eight months to a year to produce.
Agreement to proceed with the scheme came just hours before a road traffic incident on Wednesday night when a 400-tonne capacity mobile crane caught fire on the M40 motorway, causing traffic chaos but no physical harm.
Pressure on crane owners grew in 2012 when a Scottish sheriff recommended that the government "as a matter of urgency bring in legislation to remove mobile cranes' current exemption from undergoing a compulsory regular roadworthiness test.” His comments followed a fatal accident inquiry into the death of Ann Copeland and her two young daughters. They were killed in January 2008 in a head-on collision after their car skidded on hydraulic oil that had leaked from a mobile crane. Questions were also asked in the House of Commons on the issue, when transport ministers gave assurances that action would be taken.
Yesterday the Department for Transport published a consultation document outlining its proposals for roadworthiness testing for ‘fast tractors’, defined as those with a design speed greater than 40km/h. But this would only apply to those that are used for commercial haulage. There is no mention of telehandlers or of construction machinery in the document.