Planning an Annual Brake Test? You’ll Need a Heavy Load This Year


The DVSA is changing its requirements for brake tests in 2023, with a stronger emphasis on brake safety and testing methods that simulate the real-world scenarios of commercial vehicles out on the road.

So if you’re making plans for your fleet’s annual tests in 2023, you’ll need to ensure that you’re following the new requirements for every vehicle that goes in for brake testing.

Here’s what you need to know:


What’s changing?

From 1 January 2023, most goods vehicles and trailers undergoing brake tests as part of their annual testing will need to be appropriately laden to be eligible for the test.

You won’t be able to receive a brake test without the correct load — and you might end up paying twice for your brake tests if you ignore the new requirements.

The DVSA previously issued announcements about this new upcoming change, and they’re continuing to issue new reminders as the new year approaches.


Why do vehicles need to be laden?

Brake testing is a crucial safety check that’s a part of every vehicle’s annual test. But when goods vehicles are tested without realistic loads, the results of those tests might not match the true performance of the brakes once you’re out on the road.

Without the right weight to simulate the real-world forces and inertia of a fully laden vehicle, your brakes could be incorrectly deemed safe — and your vehicle incorrectly deemed roadworthy.

This new requirement for commercial vehicles comes at a time when the DVSA and the Traffic Commissioners have been placing a greater focus on brake safety — particularly in light of the 2014 Bath tipper tragedy, where neglect and incompetence regarding brake safety led to a devastating public incident.

Since then, the DVSA’s efforts have already had an impact, nearly halving the number of heavy goods vehicles that are failing their annual tests due to brake performance — from 3.3% of heavy goods vehicles in 2014, down to 1.88% in 2021.


What does that mean in practice?

For most vehicles, that means loading a weight to at least 65% of their design axle weights with cargo (or loaded with ballast to achieve the same effect).

With the correct weight on the vehicle, the Vehicle Standards Assessor can accurately carry out the test with maximum grip between the tyres and the rollers — allowing the vehicle’s wheels to keep turning for longer and avoid premature lock ups.

In some cases, this specific load level might be difficult to achieve due to the design of the vehicle. So there may be exceptions where the DVSA would accept a load that’s less than 65% — but never less than 50%.


What happens if your vehicles aren’t laden?

Put simply: your vehicle won’t be eligible to receive the test, and won’t be able to get the certification it needs.

You might lose the initial testing fee for the refused test, and then have to pay a second testing fee when you return with a vehicle that’s correctly laden and eligible to be tested.

In the past, some examiners may have carried out a brake test regardless of whether the vehicle is properly laden. But from 1 Janury 2023, these rules are being enforced to a more strict standard, and you should expect any examiner to consistently refuse an unladen vehicle for brake testing.


Want to know more about the changes to brake testing?

Get the full details on the Government’s Moving On Blog — or talk to your local test centre to find out more.