‘S’ Marked Prohibitions

VOSA will issue an “S” marked prohibition where there appears to have been a significant failure in the maintenance systems. For example, a defect which appears to have been present for a number of days and which a driver should have picked up on his daily checks.
“S” marked prohibitions are serious because they are usually lead to a full fleet inspection by VOSA, meaning all of the operator’s systems being checked.
The next stage after the fleet inspection is that the Operator will be invited to provide a written explanation for the “S” marked prohibition and any other shortcomings found at the visit.  Depending upon the contents of the Operator’s response, the matter may then be referred to the Traffic Commissioner which could lead to a Public Inquiry being called.  Although the “S” marked Prohibition could have resulted from a one-off episode, the whole of the operators systems are left open to investigation and the full disciplinary powers of the Traffic Commissioner could come into play, potentially leading to the licence being revoked.
Operators therefore need to discover the exact reason why the “S” marked Prohibition occurred so that a proper explanation can be provided to the authorities.  The same rigorous investigation should be applied to any prohibition though.

The danger of “S” in Prohibitions

We are often asked about “S”-marked PG9 Prohibitions issued by VOSA These are issued where there is alleged to be it is a high degree of non-compliance. The standard wording on the PG9 is “this Prohibition indicates a significant failure in maintenance”. They may impact greatly on the OCRS ‘traffic-light’.
Operators and drivers often think it odd that a Prohibition can be marked “S” but not necessarily be an Immediate Prohibition i.e. one where rectification needs to be resolved straightaway.
An “S” marking will be made where there is evidence of a long-standing defect or something very apparent. By way of example, an obvious tyre defect which is not new and which has been apparent for some time will be regarded as something a driver should have picked up. A failure to spot this on repeated daily defect checks could trigger an “S” marked Prohibition. They also sometimes appear on such things as a failure by a driver to connect the ABS between tractor unit and trailer.
“S” marked Prohibitions are dangerous for another reason; they are normally automatically referred to VOSA senior examiners who will normally request a fleet inspection – this in turn leads to scrutiny of all the operator’s systems. Even if the fleet inspection is relatively positive the next stage thereafter will be a written invitation to the operator to provide an explanation for the “S” marked Prohibition and any other shortcomings before matters are referred to the local Traffic Area Office i.e. the Office of the Traffic Commissioner. Even though the “S”-marked Prohibition may have arisen from some one-off episode (perhaps a single but serious driver error) Pandora’s box is suddenly opened.
As with all Prohibitions operators need to discover “chapter and verse” the reasons for any “S” marked Prohibition and get together all maintenance papers, invoices, daily walk round checks, disciplinary memos, piecing together an exact picture of what has taken place so that proper explanation can be given to VOSA and ultimately to the Traffic Commissioner if matters get that far. These matters should not merely be left in the hands of Transport Managers and fitters at lower management level – “S”-marked Prohibitions are items which potentially have significant consequences for the Operators’ Licence, without which there can be no transport operations.

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