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Owners of older horseboxes may have an unpleasant shock when they put their lorry forward for its MOT after 1 May.

The Vehicle and Operator Standards Agency (VOSA) is implementing regulations from 1986 that specify the minimum clearance of the lorry bodywork from the road.

Many older horseboxes, for example those built on a Bedford TK or Leyland Daf chassis, may not comply.

Mechanic Jason Cottrell prepares around 100 boxes a year for MOTs. He says he was not aware when the regulation was coming in until last week.

“A large number of my customers are going to fail and it will be an expensive job to sort out,” said Mr Cottrell. “And it seems confusing — even the lads at the test centre didn’t fully understand the rules.”

Modern boxes have storage spaces under chassis level, bringing the clearance within VOSA rules. But older boxes do not as standard.

A VOSA statement said from 1 May there must be no more than 550mm height from the ground to the lowest edge, when a 3.5-12tonne vehicle is unladen.

The sideguards must be continuous, so protuberances would mean an MOT failure.
Russell Smith at Trimtruk in Hants, said: “The main problem is that it takes a master to interpret this legislation.

“Roughly the skirt needs to extend to knee height and the majority of boxes will comply.”

Sideguards are a safety measure designed to stop items falling under the lorry.

“We have applied a practical approach to measuring sideguards and some people have abused this privilege until sideguards became so fully non-compliant it was obvious,” said a VOSA spokesman.

“We have training to improve the consistency of testing and this, with in-house quality assessment, will ensure all VOSA staff are fully conversant with the test standards.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (22 April, ’10)