DVSA is refusing to allow authorised testing facility operators (ATFs) to help clear a mounting backlog of thousands of annual HGV and trailer tests created by the Covid-19 lockdown - a move strongly condemned by both RHA and the ATF Operators Association (ATFOA) this week.

The HGV annual tests are the domain of DVSA vehicle standard assessors. However DVSA stood down its assessors on 23 March at the beginning of the lockdown and suspended all HGV and trailer tests for three months.

The suspension has resulted in a growing backlog of tests, estimated to be around 95,000 to date.

Following talks with DVSA last month on how to tackle the backlog of delayed tests both RHA and ATFOA recommended DVSA delegate some of the testing to ATF engineers with Irtec qualifications.

Asked if DVSA is considering the recommendations Richard Hennessy, DVSA’s director of operations (south), told MT: “These are unprecedented times and we are committed to returning to testing as soon as it is safe and practical to do so, while following government advice.

“We are working with ATFs, vehicle operators and trade associations on how testing resumes with minimal disruption to industry.

“We do not agree with the recommendations made by the ATFOA.”

The DVSA’s decision was slammed by both RHA and ATFOA this week. RHA head of licensing and infrastructure policy Tom Cotton told MT: “There is a huge backlog building up for no good reason. Why did DVSA shut down HGV annual testing at the start of the lockdown when tyre fitters have been allowed to continue to fit HGV tyres and HGV maintenance teams can carry on working through the lockdown?

“These annual tests could be being carried out right now using the same safe working conditions being applied by tyre fitters and maintenance engineers.

“There are over 6,400 Irtec examiners who could be part of the solution and I can only think DVSA are being protectionist.”

“Quite frankly, it is a mess and I feel terribly sorry for those ATFs that have seen no income for six weeks whilst still having to pay their bills. DVSA has failed the industry.”

ATFOA president Stephen Smith said he was shocked by the decision. He warned that ATFs across the country, many of which he said derive a substantial part of their incomes from services relating to HGV tests, are suffering severe financial hardship. He also warned that the delayed tests are compromising road safety.

He added: “To have our recommendations turned down so bluntly is quite a blow. We feel let down and really disappointed. We were asked to send in these proposals by DVSA in March and have heard nothing since.

“But this problem will not go away. It will only get bigger with more and more tests delayed. We estimate that there are around 500,000 annual tests a year so there are at least 96,000 tests which have not been carried out during lockdown.

“The backlog is going to cause severe problems to the industry if it is not tackled now.”