HL Deb 31 July 1962 vol 243 cc187-9

After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:—

Articulated vehicles

(".A vehicle so constructed that it can be divided into two parts both of which are vehicles and one of which is a motor vehicle shall (when not so divided) be treated for the purposes of the principal Act as that motor vehicle with the other part attached as a trailer.")


My Lords, the effect of this clause is to amend the law to correspond with what it was believed to be from the time of the passing of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, until the judgment of the Divisional Court in the case of Moscrop v. Blair in October last year. The Amendment makes clear that for all purposes in the 1960 Act, unless otherwise specifically stated, as it is in Section 69, an articulated combination consisting of two vehicles which, when separate, are a motor vehicle and a trailer, shall, when linked in combination still legally be regarded as two vehicles. Since the Divisional Court declared in the case referred to Chat there was no reason, in fact or in law, why the justices should not have decided that an articulated combination was one vehicle and not two (and therefore that the combination was a "heavy motor car" which might not be driven by anyone under twenty-one) there has been a fair flutter in the dovecots. The fear is that the argument might be extended beyond the particular case, and beyond the subject of drivers' ages; and, if it were generally held that these vehicle combinations formed one vehicle, they would almost all be illegal.

For thirty years it has been assumed that the appropriate two sections of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, together imply that an articulated outfit is two vehicles, not one. Not only are regulations—such as the Motor Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations—drawn up on this assumption (with "articulated vehicle" being specially and specifically defined where for any reason, such as the limitation on overall length, the combination has to be considered as one whole) but certain provisions of the Act made sense only on that basis. The clearest one is probably Section 69, which provides that, in the case of a breakdown only, an articulated outfit may, for the purposes of being towed, be considered as forming one trailer only.

Though the decision of the Court dealt strictly only with the subject of the minimum age for driving, and that on the particular facts of the case, I do not think we can overlook the repercussions I have mentioned. While most of them would not meet the regulations if they were held to be single vehicles, there is one regulation at least which they cannot conceivably meet, and that is the one which requires the unladen weight of a heavy motor car to be painted on it. Where the drawing vehicle part of an articulated combination picks up and drops any number of trailers in a day, as they often do, it would be impossible to paint the weight on it every time it picks up one vehicle and drops another, and then repeats the process with a vehicle of a different type. Any Amendment in this regard would be immensely complicated, if not impossible. Trailers axe separately licensed and are licensed on the basis, among other things, of weight. There is no provision for what one might call a "chamelion vehicle" which appears, disappears and changes its shape and weight whenever the tractor part and the trailer part are hitched up. Any extension of the argument in this case would produce an administrative tangle which would probably take years and much toil to sort out. It seems, therefore, best to clarify the situation completely by this Amendment. My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Chesham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.