Fleet News

Vehicle recall disorder puts lives at risk

INEFFECTIVE vehicle recall procedures are costing lives and threatening the safety of company motorists, the government has been warned.

According to the Vehicle and Operators Service Agency (VOSA), 1.8 million vehicles were subject to recall notices in 2005 and the response rate was 91.47% – meaning more than 160,000 vehicles with faults were never fixed.

This statistic has prompted bosses at one of the UK’s biggest leasing companies, Lloyds TSB autolease, to write to transport minister Dr Stephen Ladyman to outline their concerns.

David Kershaw, operations director at Lloyds TSB autolease, has asked the minister to support a campaign for standardisation of vehicle recalls. <> Mr Kershaw wrote: ‘Because there is a lack of standardisation in the way that recalls are issued and communicated, some drivers are put at risk – but there should be a relatively simple solution,’ .

‘We all accept that car manufacturers will occasionally discover that a model needs to be recalled for modification or repair. There is an expectation from drivers that this is all sorted automatically – that if their vehicle ever needed important safety work undertaken, they would be informed immediately and that whenever it went in for a service or MoT, the issue would be flagged up. Currently, this is not necessarily the case.’

Mr Kershaw said there had been at least one fatality on UK roads resulting directly from a failure to adequately communicate a recall.

He said: ‘We are calling on the government to intervene and work with all parties – not just manufacturers – to address this issue for the protection not only of the driver and their passengers, but also to other road users.’

According to Mr Kershaw, manufacturers vary in their approach to recalls and not all notices are registered on VOSA’s UK Vehicle Safety Recall Scheme.

Some recalls are sent by post, some by email and some go to drivers, while others go to registered owners, which can include leasing firms for company vehicles. Some notices only go to dealers, leaving them to manage the problem.

‘It is unclear who is responsible,’ Mr Kershaw said in the letter.

‘We need a recall process that is uniform across the industry by converging on a central electronic system, which everybody has access to. If a driver takes a vehicle with an outstanding recall to an MoT centre, a franchised garage or an independent garage, they will be automatically informed.

‘We need to be linked into a central system so that we can identify which of our drivers have failed to act on the recall, then follow up until we know that they have had the issue resolved.’

A VOSA spokesman said: ‘We will respond to the letter in full in conjunction with Dr Ladyman. In the meantime we cannot provide any further comment.’

  • Check on the latest recalls.

  • The letter from Mr Kershaw to Dr Ladyman in full:

    Dear Dr Ladyman,

    VEHICLE RECALL – A LEGAL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

    I write to you in your role as Minister for Transport, with your remit to “contribute to the improvement of road safety.”

    I would like to raise a vital safety issue concerning the process for vehicle recalls. The issue doesn’t just affect the 130,000 drivers we are responsible for, or business drivers in general, but all road users in the UK. Because there is a lack of standardisation in the way that recalls are issued and communicated, some drivers are put at risk of injury or even death – but there should be a relatively simple solution.

    I quote from the VOSA website: “In 2005, 228 recall campaigns were registered with VOSA, affecting 1.9 million vehicles. The current response rate stands at 91.47%, but VOSA, along with the vehicle producers, is keen still to improve upon this figure.” - www.vosa.gov.uk

    This means that more than 160,000 vehicles that should have been recalled in 2005 were never rectified. In other words, in just one year, more than 160,000 cars were still on the roads when the manufacturers knew that they were defective in some way.

    We all accept that car manufacturers will occasionally discover that a model needs to be recalled for modification or repair. There is an expectation from drivers that this is all sorted automatically – that if their vehicle ever needed important safety work undertaken, they would be informed immediately and that whenever it went in for a service or MOT, the issue would be flagged up. Currently, this is not necessarily the case.

    Many within the motor industry have simply not appreciated the severe implications of the current situation. Tragically, there has been at least one fatality on UK roads that has resulted directly from a failure to adequately communicate vehicle recalls with drivers.

    I write respectfully because we recognise that the UK is already very progressive in this area; we are one of very few countries with a body such as VOSA, which is responsible for the supervision of the UK Vehicle Safety Recall Scheme. Other countries rely totally on direct communications from the manufacturers. But we believe there is more that must be done.

    We are calling on the Government to do the right thing and intervene and work with all parties – not just manufacturers – to address this issue for the protection of not only the driver and their passengers, but also to other road users.

    KEY ISSUES WITH THE STATUS QUO

    The process for manufacturer recalls is not standardised across the industry, causing confusion, miscommunication and posing serious safety implications.

  • Manufacturers vary significantly in their approach, and, crucially, not all recalls are registered on VOSA’s UK Vehicle Safety Recall Scheme.
  • Some recalls are sent by post, some by email; some are communicated directly to the driver; others to the registered owner (which may be the leasing company for many company vehicles); some are only communicated to the dealerships, leaving it to their discretion as to how they should manage the problem. It is unclear who is responsible.
  • Some communications don’t adequately highlight the full nature of the safety implications
  • Even when recalls are registered on the VOSA database, independent garages don’t have access to individual recalls on vehicles and we know that franchised garages fail to go into the VOSA system each time they work on a vehicle because it is not integrated with their main IT systems.

    WHAT ARE WE CALLING FOR?

    We need a recall process that is uniform across the industry by converging on a central electronic system, which everybody has access to.

    Of course, a prompt communication with the driver should be the first step, whether it is direct or via their leasing provider, but this is not enough.

    As soon as a recall has been made, ALL touch points in the motor industry should be used to ensure that every driver takes their vehicle in. That means that if a driver takes a vehicle with an outstanding recall to an MOT centre, a franchised garage or an independent garage, they will be automatically informed of the recall and given instructions as to how to get the problem rectified.

    We need to be linked into a central system so that we can identify which of our drivers have failed to act on the recall, then follow up until we know that they have had the issue resolved. We believe that, on top of our legal responsibility to pass on a recall communication to the driver, we have a moral responsibility to follow up and ensure that they take action and remain safe.

    Thinking further ahead in the future, I think other monitoring systems should be integrated to ensure that no vehicles slip through the net. For example, most fuel stations already have registration plate recognition cameras and I’m sure these could link up to the VOSA database, which would make it easy to automatically instruct fuel attendants to warn a driver that their vehicle has an outstanding recall.

    A LEGAL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

    Please support this campaign to address the issue. We appreciate that others need to be involved. Let’s engage manufacturers, leasing firms and garages and sort this problem out.

    The industry places increasing emphasis on legal responsibility, but we don’t want this to obscure what we believe is our moral responsibility to improve safety for all road users.

    We want to move things forward and we are very keen to integrate with the VOSA database in order to ensure our drivers and others remain safe on our roads.

    Let’s build a standardised, efficient, failsafe procedure for all vehicle recalls.

    I will look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours sincerely,

    David Kershaw CAE FIMI
    Operations director, Lloyds TSB autolease

  • Leave a comment for your chance to win £20 of John Lewis vouchers.

    Every issue of Fleet News the editor picks his favourite comment from the past two weeks – get involved for your chance to appear in print and win!

    Login to comment

    Comments

    No comments have been made yet.

    Compare costs of your company cars

    Looking to acquire new vehicles? Check how much they'll cost to run with our Car Running Cost calculator.

    What is your BIK car tax liability?

    The Fleet News car tax calculator lets you work out tax costs for both employer and employee