Plans by Vosa to begin clamping down on ATF operators who do not meet minimum levels of examiner utilisation or who cancel testing arrangements at short notice are within the scope of the current ATF contract, the agency has insisted in response to criticism over its proposals.

Vosa said last week it would reduce the number of testing sessions it provided cover for at ATFs which did not meet expected levels of examiner utilisation or cancelled testing periods with less than seven days’ notice. The reductions in both cases will be equivalent to the shortfalls created, it has since confirmed.

It also promised to cancel a full month’s testing at ATFs who had insufficient funds in their account more than twice in any month to satisfy draw-downs by Vosa, and said it would consider terminating ATF contracts completely in more severe cases.

The move drew immediate fire from Stephen Smith, MD of Boleyn Transport and president of the ATF Operators Association, who labelled it "seriously hard-hitting" and said it was unclear whether the current ATF contract provided for such sanctions. Smith is currently awaiting full legal advice but told his lawyer had initially agreed there were “some concerns”.

Whatever the outcome, Smith said he felt Vosa’s move was “against the spirit of the document and right up at the other end of the spectrum in how they need to be treating their partners”.

But Vosa has insisted there is nothing wrong with its plans.

“The existing contract makes provision for these measures and there is a reasonable expectation that ATFs will abide by the ‘fair usage’ policy,” a spokeswoman for the agency told MT. “ATF operators need to be aware of the measures contained within the contract they have signed, if vehicle operators – and the industry as a whole – are to receive the best service possible.

“All Vosa is seeking to do is ensure that all ATFs act reasonably and manage their ATFs accordingly,” she added. “We’re trying to be fair to all ATFs and none of these measures will be used lightly.”