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Thu April 15 2021

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Engineering plant exemptions labelled 'indefensible'

23 Jul 15 The Mineral Products Association has dismissed claims that the entire volumetric concrete mixer industry could be wiped out by new regulations as “completely exaggerated”.

A volumetric concrete mixer
A volumetric concrete mixer

It described the exemptions enjoyed by so-called engineering plant were “simply indefensible”.

Government ministers are keen to remove the loopholes that allow heavy engineering plant like mobile cranes and truck-mounted batching plants (volumetric mixers) to avoid MoT roadworthiness checks and other regulations that apply to large vehicles. They are not even part of the operator (O) licensing regime.

A consultation paper proposing removing exemptions was published last December, with consultation running until March. Had it not been for the general election, the results of that consultation were expected to have been published in June.

While the mobile crane sector has kept its head down, the concrete industry has come alive in a war of words about the merits of volumetrics and the commercial risks that regulation might carry.

Earlier this week we reported that the British Aggregates Association (BAA) is backing the Batched on Site Association (BSA) in lobbying for engineering plant’s special exemptions to remain in place. (See our previous report here.)

In response to that, the Mineral Products Association (MPA) has made renewed representations to roads minister Andrew Jones to introduce regulation for volumetric concrete mixers, to put them on a level playing field with drum truckmixers, which are classed as good vehicles.

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While Conservative politicians are generally temperamentally disinclined to impose new regulations on business, this one might be hard to avoid. When the Industrial Heavy Goods Vehicle Task Force carried out spot checks last year, it found that five out of the six volumetric mixers that it stopped had mechanical defects that made them not roadworthy.

MPA chief executive Nigel Jackson said, “Currently five million tonnes of concrete annually are being delivered by HGVs not subject to HGV weight limits, drivers’ hours rules or Operator Licensing. It is becoming increasingly absurd that two types of vehicle delivering concrete to customers, have such different regulatory requirements. Both ready-mixed concrete truckmixers and volumetric concrete mixers are HGVs operating on public roads and should be subject to the same regulations as any HGV. The fact that volumetric concrete mixers operate to weights up to 50% greater than equivalent HGVs and there are no limits applied to drivers hours for vehicles of this size is simply ridiculous and flies in the face of one of Government’s key responsibilities – to improve road safety.

“Claims by the volumetric concrete mixer industry that the application of HGV weight limits would in effect wipe out the sector and lead to the loss of thousands of jobs appear to be completely exaggerated. In practice, volumetric concrete mixers are an important part of the concrete supply mix and are particularly geared up to supply the smaller loads required by many customers. When subject to HGV regulation they will continue to have a key place in the market and such regulation would create no net loss of economic activity.

“The MPA has been urging government to apply fair and reasonable HGV regulation to the operation of volumetric concrete mixers since 2010. Successive transport ministers have taken no action, but Department for Transport consultations in early 2015 raised the possibility of HGV weight limits being applied to volumetric concrete mixers and volumetric operators being required to obtain Operator (O) licences. This consultation is now being reviewed by the new government and it is essential that an early decision is made to ensure that consistent HGV regulations are applied to all vehicles delivering concrete or other materials.

“At a time when MPA members and other parts of the construction supply chain are heavily engaged in initiatives to improve road safety, particularly for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, it is simply indefensible for government not to regulate as a matter of urgency.”

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