Achieving longer-term visibility of heavy vehicle test availability for Authorised Testing Facilities (ATFs) and operators alike is something that DVSA is “keen to look at” as part of ongoing work around the Heavy Vehicle Testing Review.
Writing in a blogpost, Head of Vehicle Policy and Engineering Neil Barlow says that one way to help achieve that could be moving towards “a longer term view of planning and confirming testing resource.” That may involve agreeing the hours for which DSVA Vehicle Standards Assessors (VSAs) are provided to ATFs over a rolling 13-month period, Mr Barlow suggests.
When combined with a mechanism for short-term adjustments, he believes that such an approach would “enable ATFs to give [operators] the service they need.” The Agency was criticised by some operators in 2021 for failing to ensure sufficient availability of heavy vehicle test slots in all regions. It put that down to testing exemptions awarded in 2020, which impacted the spread of expiry dates and caused bunching.
Mr Barlow says that DVSA wants to move to a system for ATFs to book VSA hours that “works for everyone.” He adds that establishing an equilibrium in that regard between DVSA and ATFs “is key to making the service work better.”
The Agency acknowledges that under the current arrangement for how VSAs’ hours with ATFs are scheduled, operators cannot always book tests as far ahead as might be desirable. Certainty of appointment availability “is something that is critical for many operators,” says Mr Barlow. “But we also know that flexibility to change things at shorter notice is important.”
Additional work by DVSA on a longer-term approach to the allocation of Assessors is anticipated early in 2022, although he cautions that any change “cannot happen overnight” as some quarterly booking processes for this year have already been confirmed.
Further focus groups exploring how DVSA can improve its heavy vehicle testing regime are planned. Sessions that have taken place so far have informed the Agency of “things that we were already thinking about, but also had some helpful and challenging insight in other areas,” says Mr Barlow.
DVSA earlier told routeone that it had received 38 applications for new ATFs since lifting the moratorium on accepting such submissions. Immediately before Christmas 2021, two of those were close to opening.