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UK law and impounded commercial vehicles
Your commercial vehicle is essential for your business, whether it's used for delivering goods or transporting your employees around the country so that they can deliver a service, you need that vehicle on the road at all times. Should your vehicle be impounded, for whatever reason, it could have a disastrous effect on your business. Here is our guide on regulations surrounding the impounding of commercial vehicles, including HGVs in the UK. Read on to find out under what circumstances vehicles can be impounded and what you can do about it if they are.
Police and DVSA Roadside Checks
When you are the driver of a commercial vehicle you need to be aware that the police or officers from the Drivers Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) do have the right to stop your vehicle to carry out an inspection at any time. It is your responsibility to adhere to their instruction and failure to stop at their request could leave you facing court action. They will check that you hold the correct licence to drive the vehicle that you are using, that you are following load limits and that you are only carrying permitted load types. They will also check for roadworthiness and will assess any mechanical faults with the vehicle as well as check your tachograph records. They can immobilise the vehicle if they deem it to be necessary for safety reasons or because you have breached the regulations of your licence. If any serious failings are found during such a check, your vehicle could be impounded.
Any other reasons a vehicle could be impounded?
Vehicles can also be impounded by a local authority should it be abandoned or causing an obstruction on the road that the driver has failed to deal with. It is possible to reclaim the vehicle back from the local authority, but you will need to pay release and storage fees which will vary between the different localities. Go to the local council to find out what you need to do if you are in this position.
Traffic Commissioners
If your vehicle is immobilised you will need to sort out the problems that have been found and pay a fee of £80 to have it released. If your vehicle was impounded the breaches will have been more serious or a series of offences will have occurred. The authorities should detail what these offences are to you so that you know exactly what the issues are and what you might need to do to get your vehicle back. Once the vehicle has been impounded, you will have 21 days to apply for its release, otherwise, it might be sold or even scrapped, so it is essential that you apply to the Traffic Commissioner as soon as possible.
Grounds for appeal
To get your vehicle back you will need to attend a court hearing and answer to the Traffic Commissioner. They will order that your vehicle is returned to you so long as you can prove that you can meet one of the four grounds for appeal. It is up to you to prove this to the commissioner during the hearing, you will have to build your own case. The grounds of appeal include:
  • The driver using the vehicle did hold a valid operator's licence
  • There vehicle was not being used for illegal purposes
  • If there was illegal use of the vehicle, you as the owner was not aware of it
  • If you knew that the vehicle had been used for illegal purposes you must be able to demonstrate that you were taking every action available to you to prevent this use.
If you are able to prove that your case is subject to one of the above grounds then the Traffic Commissioner should agree to release the vehicle in question back to you, as the owner. There will likely be charges to pay unless you are able to prove that the vehicle was impounded unlawfully. These charges might well include a release fee, a storage fee and maybe even a recovery fee if your vehicle had to be towed. You should be able to find out exactly what charges you will need to pay by speaking to the police authority under which your vehicle was seized.
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