The DVSA’s Earned Recognition scheme has finally moved into its pilot stage after a protracted build up.

Many moons ago, the DVSA set itself the target of attracting 40 operators before it would move to a live scheme. It has now revealed the 20 operators plus coach and bus operators that are in its pilot, which collectively hold 100 O-licences and run 6,000 vehicles. If successful, the scheme promises operators with recognition benefits including:

  • recognition from 31 January 2018 that you meet the standards:
  • that you are unlikely to be stopped at the roadside;
  • that you are an exemplary operator and can demonstrate this when you bid for contracts;
  • you are unlikely to receive a visit from the DVSA;
  • you can use Earned Recognition positively on websites and publicity;
  • you have access to a DVSA business manager.
But in reality, is it worth it?

Of course, all operators strive to achieve the highest standard of compliance that they can, but the low take-up of the pilot so far suggests the scheme is not very attractive to operators.

Maybe one of the main reasons for that is trust, or indeed distrust. Even the best operators get it wrong sometimes, and what will the DVSA do if an operator breaches the required key performance indicators (KPIs)? The scheme requires the submission of data via an automatic reporting system to the scheme manager, and let’s not forget, this scheme is managed by the DVSA.

They are robust KPIs, which the DVSA has claimed are based on analysis of more than 1.5 million records, and are achievable.

The scheme requires both vehicle and trailer MoT initial pass rates to be at or exceed 95%, yet the national average for vehicle MoT initial pass rates undertaken at DVSA premises in the year 2015/16 was only 72%, and 92% for trailers.

For all other KPIs for safety maintenance, 100% compliance is required.

The reality might be that many operators running safe and compliant fleets fall foul of the KPIs simply because the administration of their system lets them down. In essence, it will only ever be as good as the information inputted.


The KPIs for driving activities are no less robust. Oddly, in December 2017 the scheme saw the removal of a KPI specifically for repeat offenders – drivers who either regularly or repeatedly infringe, and who might otherwise have been missed or hidden by an otherwise satisfactory KPI across the fleet. December 2017 also saw the removal of the KPI for most serious infringements and missing mileage. One can only speculate that they were causing a high failure rate.

The scheme sets four weekly measurement periods and proposes to alert operators when a KPI is exceeded, but not sufficiently to notify the scheme manager. The calculations required by the DVSA for driving activities are based on the total number of infringements against the total number of tachograph days, and is shown as a percentage.

It proposes an automated notification to the DVSA in a number of scenarios:

  • over three rolling KPI measurement periods, the operator fails to meet any one of the KPIs three times by less than one percentage point;
  • over three rolling KPI measurement periods, the operator fails to meet any one of the KPIs twice by one percentage point or more;
  • during any KPI measurement period, any KPI is exceeded by two percentage points or more;
  • over 13 rolling KPI measurement periods, any performance indicator is exceeded more than four times.
  • If an alert is notified, the guidance suggests the scheme manager will discuss the matter with the operator. The ultimate sanction proposed by the guidance document is a removal from the scheme –however the reality is perhaps far graver.
  • It is at this point that the lines between advisor and prosecutor become blurred. The DVSA will never offer immunity from prosecution, and they will never say that the information gathered by Earned Recognition can not be used in other proceedings. There is, for me, too much risk of self-incrimination where the evidence for the prosecution is being gathered and submitted by the defence.

    DVSA immobilised vehicle

Industry reluctance

What other things are turning the industry off Earned Recognition?

  • Eligibility –Earned Recognition is not available to new entrants to the industry, and is available only to those who have had no adverse interactions (other than a warning) with the Office of the Traffic Commissioner in the previous two years.
  • Technical – for smaller operators the first stumbling block comes in the form of a requirement to have an electronic management system for both maintenance and drivers’ hours.
  • Cost –entry to the scheme comes without an application cost but operators must submit themselves to an audit, which will not be undertaken by the DVSA but by a number of private companies. There is no indication as to any agreed fee level.
  • Business disruption – broadly speaking, it appears that the audit criteria and standards loosely mirror the traffic examiner’s operator report ordinarily undertaken either post-roadside encounter or as part of a DVSA routine visit. They define a set of standards that must be met for the operator to gain entry to the scheme.

The audit sampling size depends on the amount of vehicles in the fleet and the number of operating centres. Fleets of more than 51 vehicles require an audit sample containing a minimum amount of 10% of both its vehicle and driver records. For those with 16-plus operating centres the audit sampling will require 10% of those operating centres to be audited (or three operating centres, which ever is the lowest).

There are no surprises in the assessment requirements, but those wanting to apply to the scheme would do well to ask for a copy of the audit standards in advance to internally undertake an assessment in preparation for an application, and avoid the unnecessary cost and disruption of an external audit resulting in an outcome that improvement is required before standards are met and a further application to the scheme would need to be made.

Rebecca Stanton is an associate at national law firm Weightmans, based in its Leeds office.