Hauliers could see HGV test fees hiked to help fund an increase in DVSA testers, following a review of the system.

The DfT’s Heavy Vehicle Testing Review was launched in July last year, in response to rising industry concern at the shortage of DVSA testers, which reached crisis point during the pandemic lockdown, resulting in a massive backlog of thousands of HGV tests.

The review’s recommendations, published last week, include boosting tester capacity by increasing operator fees, which it says will require a public consultation; expanding testing intervals for Earned Recognition operators as a way of decreasing overall demand; lifting the moratorium on new ATF sites; allowing testers to be booked further in advance; and making it easier for operators to book tests.

Stephen Smith, president of the Authorised Testing Facilities Operators Association (ATFOA), called the review a “whitewash” this week.

He pointed to the review’s failure to consider using accredited private sector testers, to help tackle the shortage of testers - a move which would have broken the DVSA’s monopoly on testing.

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He said: “Omitting delegated testing from The Heavy Vehicle Testing Review was like organising a panel to review the best football players of all time but not allowing them to discuss the merits of Pele. It makes the debate rather pointless unless you’re on the other side protecting something."

Turning to the recommendation to increase ATFs, Smith added: “DVSA will have to massively increase their pool of testers before they can open more ATFs and deliver the supply and flexibility they are promising. Historically DVSA tester availability has reduced year on year.

“ATFOA welcomes competition, however, in a normal free market, businesses control their supply lines and charges - to help counteract the effects of competition. The greatest inhibitor will be the challenge DVSA will have to resist their protectionism.”

Comparing the DfT and DVSA to “flat earthers”, he added: “It doesn’t take a lot to surmise that DVSA will not be steering a course towards delegated testing in the mid term, that’d be like sailing towards the edge of the world for them.

“Unlike the rest of us, DVSA and government still think the earth is flat when it comes to testing, their protectionism overrides any decision process that might see them lose control over their supply lines – so with these priorities coded into their DNA it’ll be a continued challenge for them to deliver any type of flexibility and efficiency that matches what the private sector can deliver.”