The DVSA’s decision to shut down HGV testing during the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in a backlog of thousands of tests is indicative of a “cultural issue” within the department which “needs to be fixed”, MPs were told this week.

The damning criticism of the DVSA was made by RHA chief executive Richard Burnett as he was giving evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s inquiry into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the haulage industry.

Burnett raised the issue of the DVSA’s decision to suspend testing of HGVs and trailers at the start of the pandemic lockdown which has created a backlog of thousands of HGV tests and threatens to wreak havoc during the sector’s peak season.

Burnett told the Transport Committee: “We need DVSA to come to the table and work with industry far more transparently than it has.

"It has been a blocker right the way through - DVSA needs to be held to account. It needs to work far more openly with us.”

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Asked by the committee if the problem was deep rooted, Burnett said: “With DVSA, it is a brick wall. We try to have an open and transparent conversation: 'What are you thinking? Can we help you with the planning?'

“DVSA just looks at it from one element. It does not actually consider the operators, the OEMs, the vehicle manufacturers or the people who are testing vehicles, and the capacity and constraints that they have.

He added: “They should not be working in silos, bringing the shutters down and not engaging with us. It has been a long-standing issue. There is a cultural issue, I believe, in DVSA that also needs to be fixed.”

FTA policy director Elizabeth de Jong, who also attended the hearing, concurred with Burnett: “The area where there has been big disappointment in the industry has been with DVSA," she said. "There has been frustration and even anger, because the industry has been working so hard. It has had obligations throughout to maintain roadworthiness of HGVs."

She questioned why the DVSA withdrew its staff when the private sector continued carrying out similar tasks duing the pandemic, adding that the experience had left “bad feeling” among operators.

“There are lots of things that need to happen to rebuild the relationship with DVSA and get testing back on track,” she added.

A DVSA spokesperson said: “As we resume testing safely, we are working during these unprecedented times to make sure we have sufficient capacity for those vehicles which will need a test.

“We are also working with the Department for Transport to seek legislation to introduce flexible exemptions so we can manage the demand for annual tests into next year, and make exemptions work better for industry.

“We have also been working with trade associations – including the RHA – and vehicle operators and have regular meetings with them on plans for testing going forward.

“All vehicle operators still have a responsibility to ensure their vehicles are safe to drive, regardless of when the vehicle’s test certificate expires.”