ATF operators staged a protest at DVSA’s stand today to highlight their frustration about the difficulties they face in booking HGV testers at their sites.
The Authorised Testing Facility Operators’ Association (ATFOA) and RHA supported the action, which they say follows a continued lack of action on the part of DVSA to rectify the testing situation.
Tom Cotton, head of licensing and infrastructure policy at the RHA, told CM that the HGV tester crisis is leading to significant financial hits, both for ATFs and hauliers.
He said ATFs have invested in their facilities and are unable to run at expected capacity due to unavailability of testers. “It puts the business model in a very difficult situation”.
Hauliers could also be out of pocket by as much as £1,000 per day if their lorries are off the road for extended periods travelling long distances to ATF sites. He cited the example of an Isle of Wight haulier that incurred a £450 ferry fare after having to travel to the mainland for testing.
Rod McKenzie, director of policy and public, at RHA, told CM: “ATF operators are very angry and keen to represent this anger to DVSA [through today’s protest]. Something needs to be done. If this was cars, there would be uproar. What is it about the truck industry that makes it OK to be ignored?”
Martin Clark, service manager at Oxford-based Heathrow Truck Centre, said he had invested £250,000 in his ATF facility and was currently only able to book a tester one day per week.
“Repeated requests for extra days have been repeatedly ignored,” he said. “We’ve invested a lot of money. DVSA need to change this situation but no one is listening.”
Phillip Lloyd, MD at consultancy Minerva, has been working with the ATFOA and other industry associations, and said they would be continuing to support and work with DVSA to try and improve the situation.
Peter Hearn, DVSA head of operations, North, said: “In 2016/17 DVSA delivered around 100,000 test sessions at ATFs and honoured 99.62% of confirmed reservations.”
“But we’re aware that a shortage of testing staff is causing challenges to the industry and are recruiting to fill the gaps. DVSA is also offering exceptional overtime payments to testing staff prepared to work longer hours or more days than scheduled during peak demand and redeploying staff from quieter areas to those ‘hot spots’ in need of extra resource, such as the South East.
"We’re also engaging with ATFs to understand better their plans for the future, through a series of local face-to-face events. In the longer term we’re working with the industry to develop a clearing house, enabling operators to more easily find free tests slots near them."