DfT mulls annual test relaxations for Earned Recognition fleets

By Categories: NewsPublished On: Wednesday 3 May 2023

The Department for Transport (DfT) launched a new consultation last month seeking evidence on a range of options that would relax current rules around the testing of heavy vehicles for operators participating in its Earned Recognition scheme.

Earned Recognition (ER) – the voluntary scheme which enables operators to demonstrate compliance on drivers’ hours and vehicle maintenance remotely via data uploads to DVSA, resulting in reduced likeli­hood of roadside stops – is now said to cover around 10 per cent of the UK’s commercial vehicle fleet, via around 115 participating operators running some 25,000 HGVs and 18,000 PSVs.

Following engagement with stakeholders including ER operators and trade bodies, DfT has identified three potential options for amending the heavy vehi­cle annual testing regime in ways that would reduce the regulatory burden for ER participants.

“These options are not considered to be govern­ment proposals,” emphasised the department. “They are suggested options that require more understand­ing of their potential benefits or disbenefits. For all options, careful consideration will be given to any po­tential impacts on road safety or air quality.”

Any change would need to ensure that the safe op­eration of vehicles was maintained, said DfT, which would mean considering whether changes to the pa­rameters of the existing ER scheme would need to be made, and/or other interventions, reflecting that ER fleets’ vehicles are not generally subject to roadside stops.

The first option identified was to increase the time between tests for ER operators.

“This would remove the requirement for ER oper­ators to have their vehicles and trailers tested at the current 12 monthly intervals, extending the period to provide more flexibility,” said DfT. “Initial considera­tion is that every other year (two-yearly) would be an appropriate frequency.”

Benefits would include less downtime for ER operators’ vehi­cles, as well as savings in terms of fuel and personnel time. It may also free up DVSA testers who could then provide more flexibility in terms of their service at other authorised testing facilities (ATFs), DfT added.

A second option offering sim­ilar benefits, ‘delegated testing’, would allow ER operators to test their own vehicles and trailers by default, but at the existing annual frequency.

“There is a consideration as to the extent to which those conduct­ing the test would need to be able to demonstrate independence from those that are maintaining or repairing the vehicle,” observed DfT. “A sub-option of delegated testing… could extend the dele­gation to allow the ER operator to delegate that responsibility further, for example, to nominate a maintenance provider. However, such delegation would only apply to the testing of those vehicles from the ER operators.”

A third option would be to re­duce the content of the annual test for ER operators’ vehicles, such as removing some items already covered in routine inspec­tions, or those that could other­wise be effectively monitored by in-vehicle systems.

“However, the vehicle would still be required to be presented for assessment against the as­pects that remain within the an­nual roadworthiness inspection, and existing in-use requirements for vehicle condition would remain across the whole range of items,” said DfT. “This option would pres­ent ER operators with shortened test times, which has the benefit of reducing vehicle downtime. There also could be a reduced cost for these tests, albeit that may be minimal.”

In addition, a fourth option being consulted on proposes that DVSA could focus its service improvement efforts on ER oper­ators to minimise their testing bur­den, without requiring changes in the law – for example, improving access to ATF slots for ER fleets.

DfT is seeking input on the viability of these options from interested parties including: vehi­cle operators, leasers and other users; manufacturers and dealer­ships; maintenance and ATF pro­viders; trade bodies; other road users; and road safety groups.

The consultation will close at 11:45pm on Friday 9 June, and can be accessed here, along with an assessment of the risks, benefits and considerations at­tached to each option.