The government is to launch a major review of the DVSA’s HGV testing system which could clear the way for accredited private sector testers and break the DVSA’s grip on HGV tests by the end of the year.
The review, exclusively revealed yesterday by motortransport.co.uk, was confirmed today in a letter from Transport Minister Baroness Vere to the chairman of the Authorised Testing Facilities Operators Association (ATFOA) and RHA.
Both organisations hailed the move and said they hoped the review would lead to the modernisation of what they described as an outdated and unsustainable HGV testing system and open the door to qualified, accredited testers from the private sector.
The government review follows concerted lobbying by the Authorised Testing Facilities Operators Association (ATFOA), the RHA and their political ally Conservative peer Lord Attlee, which has highlighted DVSA’s inability to meet demand for HGV tests, which reached crisis point during the pandemic lockdown, resulting in a massive backlog of thousands of HGV tests.
In the letter, Baroness Vere said: “Over recent months, the Department has heard a number of representations about how the current system of heavy vehicle testing in Great Britain works for its customers.
“Given the vital role of heavy vehicle operators, it is key that the system works well, not only as we recover services as a result of exceptional changes during the pandemic but also in the longer term to ensure the smooth flow of goods.
“It is also important to recognise that heavy vehicle maintenance and roadworthiness testing play a crucial role in ensuring road safety.
“For this reason, Department officials will undertake a review of the current heavy vehicle testing provision over the coming months.”
Baroness Vere added: “This review will focus on understanding whether current roadworthiness testing is fit for purpose and provide evidence as to whether it supports or hinders the effective operation of the haulage and logistics industries. It will highlight areas where further work needs to be carried out. We expect this work to conclude by the end of this calendar year.”
The letter sets out key issues the review will cover. These are:
• Resilience and responsiveness in the testing system
• Expected lead times for test bookings, and local variations
• Understanding and reconciling customer, testing facility provider and DVSA information, along with evidence and feedback about the current testing system
• Establishing a single, clear evidence base with which to assess levels of testing performance.
“ When the review is complete, and if needed, we will consider options for the future of testing to achieve the best outcomes for road safety and industry,” Baroness Vere added.
The review will be led by DfT officials with DVSA support. The review will also work with an industry panel that will include industry bodies such as ATFOA, RHA and FTA, as well as the OTC.
ATFOA chair Stephen Smith told motortransport.co.uk: “This is brilliant news. We feel vindicated. Our plight is finally being properly addressed. Hopefully, this means all the old hindrances and restrictions and the remaining bottleneck on testing, which has held back the industry for so long, will be removed and we will be able to flourish as an industry and I am sure that we will help further improve the quality of HGV testing.”
RHA national policy director Duncan Buchanan said: "This is a reaction to the work ATFAO and RHA have done. We have both led the way to push to generate a system that is sustainable for HGV testing. DVSA's HGV testing system belongs to the last century. It was not sustainable before the pandemic and was not sustainable during the pandemic and we believe will not be sustainable going forward. We need a system of testing that is done in an efficient way as all other engineering testing is done - by qualified, independent, authorised staff."