The DVSA is considering allowing operators within its Earned Recognition scheme to conduct their own annual tests.

Speaking to at last month’s Microlise Transport Conference, Marian Kitson, director of enforcement at the DVSA, said: “The minister is telling us he is not confident of the ability of the industry to move to self-testing.

“But he wants to look at it again in another year’s time for Earned Recognition operators, so that might be another benefit for Earned Recognition operators in the future.”

Tom Cotton, head of policy and infrastructure at the RHA, said the association supported involving the private sector in test provision. “We’d rather not see operators testing their own vehicles,” he said.

However, he conceded that airlines essentially do so under rigorous criteria. "Irrespective, anything is better than the place we are now,” he added.

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Cotton used the example of a member in Scotland that has to make a 50 to 60 mile round trip to get their vehicles tested due to a lack of authorised testing facility (ATF) provision. With 270 vehicles this adds up to approximately 13,500 miles a year for them, he continued. “How is that compatible with the government’s stance on clean air?” he asked.

Stephen Smith, chairman of the Authorised Testing Facility Operators Association, said an industry stakeholders group, which includes the RHA, FTA and SMMT, had been lobbying government to conduct a trial of ‘self-testing’ of PSVs for some time, as it wouldn’t require a change in the law.

“There is an important caveat that we must also consider; many ATF operators cannot gain Earned Recognition because they do not run their own fleet, so a ‘non-DVSA testing certification’ could be accredited and delivered to private technicians to ensure ATFs are allowed to use their own technicians to test vehicles,” he said.

Kitson refuted claims that traffic examiners were being pulled off roadside checks to fill annual testing shifts at private ATFs due to a staff shortage. “That is not the case,” she said. “I think it happened before I joined but it is not happening now. DVSA has cancelled a tiny percentage of test slots.”

However, Smith said: “The industry knows that DVSA’s single strategy – to recruit themselves out of the tester shortage – is still failing.

“The FOI [from June 2018] made it clear that the DVSA recruitment attrition rate meant there were 7% fewer testing staff [year on year]. The staffing problems were exacerbated when enforcement were no longer allowed to fill in the gaps. In effect, DVSA’s wheels fell off,” he said.