A West Yorkshire ATF operator said staff were on the verge of losing their jobs after the DVSA refused to allow its testers to conduct MOTs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Joanne Martin, MD at Birstall-based Leeds Fleet Services, said it had lost between 30% and 40% of its work following the decision to suspend HGV and trailer tests on 23 March.

And despite growing calls for the agency to delegate the work to qualified engineers, so far the DVSA has refused to back down.

Martin said her ATF had been inundated with calls from customers desperate for their vehicles to be tested and currently it was experiencing a backlog of up to 600:

“We have had no word whatsoever from the DVSA and commitment on a start date,” she said.

“I would love to be testing, but there’s nothing at all we can do until they commit to giving us a date to be sending a tester.”

Martin said a DVSA tester that visited its ATF told her it should expect to work nights and 24-hour days to clear the backlog once the lockdown rules were lifted.

She added: “We have seven people here abundantly qualified. I’m not particularly an advocate for in-house testing, but in the present situation it doesn’t stack up not to.

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“Our staff that work in the ATF are in danger of losing their jobs now.

“DVSA has effectively stopped operations and there’s nothing for them to do.

“I can’t see why they can’t do a reduced check; under the chassis, a brake test and the lights.

“The driver would never have to get out of their cab.”

The ATF Operators Association (ATFOA) estimated the backlog of tests could be around 95,000 and it described the situation as a mess, adding that the DVSA had “failed the industry”.

FTA policy director Elizabeth de Jong said: “The whole testing system needs an overhaul because you’ve got a public sector resource limiting private sector investment.

“Financial secretary Jesse Norman gave a commitment in April to look at delegated testing for Earned Recognition, so we will be holding government to that commitment at the very least. It would require primary legislation and there isn’t time for that at the moment, but we believe it will happen in the future.”

The DVSA was approached to comment on its rationale on not allowing its testers to carry out MOT tests at ATFs and how it intended to resolve the problem in light of its rejection of the ATFOA’s suggestion to use engineers with IRTEC qualifications.

A DVSA spokesman said: "It is vital that we help stop the spread of coronavirus, which is why we have suspended heavy vehicle testing to ensure drivers can continue to help keep the country moving and are not penalised if they are unable to get their vehicle tested

"We are committed to return to testing as soon as it is safe and practical to do so and are working with ATFs, vehicle operators and trade associations to ensure this will be done with minimal disruption to industry."