The DVSA has invested some of the money it has saved through the Earned Recognition scheme in a £300,000 prototype Mobile Inspection Unit (MIU) that can be quickly and easily moved around the country to carry out compliance spot checks on suspect HGVs.

The MIU enables DVSA examiners to carry out the same full range of checks as at the Agency’s 42 fixed sites, including roller brake testing, axle weighing, shaker plates to test steering and detailed inspection of the underside of the vehicle with video cameras and scanners.

At the MIU’s first outing in a large-scale Sussex Police and DVSA joint operation at Chichester’s Old Airfield just off the busy A27 trunk road in West Sussex, DVSA director of enforcement Marian Kitson told MT that 10% of HGV operators were now within Earned Recognition and the scheme showed that transport operators can run a “very profitable operation while following all the rules and putting compliance with all the safety standards at the heart of what they do”.

“We can be reassured that Earned Recognition operators are following the rules and they can get on with their business and not be stopped by us,” she said. “We can focus our resources on those who don’t follow the rules and are presenting a risk to road safety. I have a finite amount of resource and it is all about deterrence. I can show with this piece of kit that we are really serious – we can be less predictable and be in places we haven’t been before.

“It increases our capacity to get a better road safety outcome.”


Trucks run by operators with poor or grey (unknown) operator risk assessment scores (OCRS) were targeted on the A27 and brought to the disused airfield for a vehicle and document check. While MT was in attendance a 32-tonne tipper bearing the FORS logo was found to have defective brakes and was issued with a PG9 prohibition notice. This defect was picked up by the brake tester and might have been missed in a visual roadside inspection.

MIU underbody scanner

While operators in the Earned Recognition scheme are far less to be targeted for inspection their vehicles can be pulled in if a visual inspection indicates they are defective, overloaded or the load is badly secured.

Police officers work alongside DVSA examiners on these joint exercises because they have more powers to stop vehicles on the public highway and can carry out additional checks such as VED offences and whether drivers are over the drink or drugs limits.

Built by VTEQ to a bespoke DVSA design, the MIU folds itself Transformer-like into a ISO container size unit that can be transported on a standard flatbed. If the current series of trials proves successful more units will be ordered and the DVSA is also looking at the feasibility of adding a tachograph calibration checker to its existing capability.

The MIU can accept vehicles of any length and weight up to 5.1m high but the trial run in Chichester revealed that a 6x2 rigid truck fitted with a drawbar coupling was unable to safely climb the ramps onto the roller brake tester so a set of longer, shallower ramps may also be needed.

As a result of the operation, DVSA traffic and vehicle examiners found a total of 36 defects on the 18 vehicles checked. Four of the most serious issues discovered were tyre related, and these were required to be replaced by the vehicle operator before the vehicle was allowed to leave. Examiners also found several issues with load security and indicators – all of which could have been discovered during a walkaround check by the driver.

Finite resources

Kitson said that the MIU was an excellent use of the DVSA’s limited financial resources.

“We use our budget to the best effect,” she said. “There are unfortunately operators who continue to make the wrong decisions but my team will always try to be as effective as they possibly can be. This is where we increase our effectiveness because we can be more flexible.”

Despite pressure to retain staff who can often earn more in the private sector Kitson said the DVSA was now recruiting vehicle, traffic and driving examiners.

“It is a really interesting career and I would encourage people to find out more about it,” she said. “Inevitably people do move to different roles. With driving tests we are working really hard to recover the situation and we have put another 695,000 slots into the system. If candidates only come for their test when they are ready to pass that would make a massive difference.

“There are still a lot of candidates coming who are not as prepared as they should be and are not meeting the standard.”

The DVSA is still looking at proposals to allow Earned Recognition operators to employ delegated examiners to carry out more LGV driving testing of their own drivers in order to further expand test capacity.

The DVSA is encouraging more large logistics clients to specify Earned Recognition in tender documents and last year developed a specific module for HS2 detailing extra requirements for vehicles before being allowed on sites.

In addition to meeting the usual Earned Recognition KPIs trucks must have:
• Back and side pictorial warning sticker
• Side under-run protection of both sides of the vehicle
• An audible left turn alert
• Blind spot elimination to the front, side and rear of the vehicle
• Digital recording of activities outside the vehicle, where specified by the employer for vehicles regularly being used on HS2 project

Automatic detection of tachograph offences next on the battle plan

At its debut, the MIU was joined by the DVSA's first dedicated short-range communication system able to remotely detect drivers’ hours and other non-compliances transmitted by the latest generation of smart tachographs. Although these tachos were made compulsory on all new trucks in 2019 this is the DVSA’s first experiment with the technology, which can flag potential offences as the vehicle drives by. If successful these scanners could eventually be mounted on overhead gantries on major trunk routes – especially those serving ferry ports - to greatly increase detection of tachograph offences.