Testing Times: hidden costs of ATF switch for hauliers

Not everyone is thrilled by closures of goods vehicle testing stations in favour of ATFs, with some operators complaining they are now having to travel much further.

Following on from part one and part two's description from hauliers of the impact the closure of test stations are having,  FTA says it receives queries from members about test availability. However, James Firth, head of road freight and enforcement policy at FTA, describes these as “sporadic rather than systemic”.

“We are now at a point where around 80% of tests are carried out at private premises, which means that if an operator only attempts to access tests through the DVSA GVTS they are significantly constraining their ability to access the market place.

“In general, an operator will find a testing site closer to them now than pre-TTP. However, in some cases where an operator had been in close proximity to a GVTS then clearly they will feel aggrieved if the distance to test is increased as a result of the changes,” he adds.

An additional point raised by hauliers is that it’s costing them more to use an ATF.

Mick Harvey, a transport co-ordinator at W Clifford Watts in Bridlington, east Yorkshire, says the facility in Hull charges £137, which is cheaper than the £177 he paid for its eight-wheeled tippers at a DVSA lane.

“But then there is a ‘lane fee’ to add to that, which is a further £47.50, giving a total cost of £184.50,” he says.

“Now, that may not seem much on its own but add to that the extra cost of diesel and the extra cost of our mechanics being out of the loop for longer, having to haul a loaded vehicle 30 miles further and it’s all adding up to extra financial costs to the haulier.”

Test fees at government run sites will increase.

Firth says ATFs can charge “pit fees” of up to £55 for an HGV and £40 for a trailer, but that the DVSA has a policy of adjusting its statutory fee structure to reflect the differing costs to them of delivering tests at GVTS.

“As the number of GVTS continues to decrease and the costs are spread over fewer customers, we can expect this differential to increase in future fee reviews,” he says. “With so few customers at GVTS now the increase could be significant.

“FTA anticipates it will not be long before the up-front cost of a test for a four-axle rigid vehicle will be more expensive at government sites than at private sites.”

The DVSA says that its policy of providing more ATFs than GVTS “reduces travel costs and vehicle downtime for operators. “Test fees at ATFs are also lower than at DVSA sites, due to lower overheads,” a spokesman adds. “DVSA sites will only close where there is sufficient local provision at ATFs.”

But this provides little comfort for Harvey: “We and many, many hauliers are going to have to travel further afield to obtain a test if the closures take place,” he warns.

New Dartford Crossing safety system to go live in June

The Dartford Crossing will see a new traffic management system go live over the weekend of 13-14 June, which will aim to prevent oversized vehicles from entering the tunnels.

The system will identify oversized vehicles and stop them with a series of traffic lights and barriers.

Stopped vehicles will then be re-routed by the lights and turned away from the tunnel. The new system will also stop dangerous goods vehicles travelling in the wrong lane, and will ensure they have escorts when they use the tunnels.

Dart Charge project director Nigel Gray said: “This new safety system is vital for the safe operation of the tunnels and will enable us to remove the old payment barriers for good. It will mean a significant change to the road layout, so I advise drivers to take extra care and pay extra attention to all signs and signals, especially for the first few times they use the crossing following the change.”

CM recently discovered that Dart Charge, the new payment system for the Dartford Crossing, could potentially be costing hauliers thousands of pounds following an oversight in the payment process.

Hauliers receiving penalty charge notices (PCNs) were originally granted a 14 day amnesty to settle any payments for crossings made subsequent to the one listed in the penalty document at the standard crossing rate, even if they had received a penalty charge that the haulier was yet to receive.

It transpired that this had not been implemented into Dart Charge's payment process, leaving many paying unwittingly paying off PCNs they were exempt from. 

Dart Charge told CM the problem has now been fixed.