Wednesday 20 February 2019

ATF rollout to remain on ice

The DVSA has said that the freeze on applications for new authorised testing facilities (ATFs), which was put in place late last year, is likely to remain for “some considerable time”.

Asked by Transport Operator at a round-table session with journalists at the Commercial Vehicle Show last month when the rollout of new ATFs would resume, chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: “The original model for Next Generation Testing was for 350-400 ATFs. At the moment we have 550 – so we’re spreading the resource across a significantly larger number of ATFs than were ever planned.

“The fleet hasn’t grown – in fact if anything it’s declined – which then means being able to meet the demand at an increasing number of ATFs becomes more and more of a problem. So we’re not sure we need more than 550.”

A special approach may be taken in parts of the country currently lacking ATF coverage, he said – for example in the Scottish Highlands and the Lake District. But overall, “there’s enough ATFs out there – it’s just a matter of using my staff when they get to the ATF in the most efficient way.”

Addressing dissatisfaction from some ATF operators about the availability of vehicle standards assessors (VSAs), Llewellyn defended DVSA’s record.

“We honour 99.42 per cent of all reservations across the country,” he said.

“In the first quarter we cancelled about 116 events; industry cancelled four times that.”

DVSA was nonetheless putting resources into additional recruitment of VSAs; 300 candidates were currently undergoing an assessment process, many of whom were based in the south, where problems are thought to be most acute.

In addition, the agency was in talks with trade groups around the development of a ‘clearing house’ which would give fleet operators access to information about which testing slots were available, and where, at all ATFs across the country – thereby helping to tackle underutilisation at some sites.

When asked whether private testing of heavy vehicles was on the agenda, Llewellyn said: “We’ll look at the case for self-testing, but it has to be safety first and foremost…

“We know there’s a lot of fraud in the [car and light vehicle] MOT system at the moment, which we’re working through… We need to make sure that scheme is robust before we do anything in the HGV space – because clearly if HGVs get on the road and they are unsafe, the potential risk to the public is even greater.”

He added that the earned recognition scheme could become the basis for a self-testing regime further down the line.

Image DVSA Crown copyright

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