News that heavy vehicle testing will gradually restart from 4 July is welcome. But the question that needs an urgent answer is simple: How will DVSA handle the backlog of tests that a three-and-a-half-month forced stoppage has created?
DVSA’s use of three-month exemptions from testing – with some vehicles having been awarded two such periods already – will help to smooth the transition back to normality. How long such exemptions will continue to be issued for is unclear. There is an indication that they will be for some time.
That is a short-term partial fix, but it will not solve all problems. Even if the award of temporary exemptions continues for the remainder of 2020, the outlook is troubling. The Confederation of Passenger Transport suggests that testing capacity may be constrained into the autumn.
Some slack may be available in July. There will be ‘free’ capacity thanks to the issue of temporary exemptions for all tests due in that month. But the reality for coach operators is that many of their vehicles will remain SORN until August at least. It is questionable whether they will be willing to pay a month’s road tax just for a test appointment before then if it can be avoided.
Weekly meetings of an industry action group dedicated to heavy vehicle testing will continue. That gives an idea of how seriously the problem is being taken.
But DVSA and Authorised Testing Facilities have finite capacity. DVSA has rejected the idea of delegated testing when it has been raised previously. Delegated testing is the most obvious means for a degree of equilibrium to be regained.
If it is not, there is a likelihood of some vehicles being parked with no way to secure a test or needing to be taken a long distance for an appointment. Given the industry’s precarious current position, neither are palatable options. A long-term solution is required. Quickly.