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.

Gang that targeted hauliers sent to prison for more than 25 years

Six men who targeted haulage yards and stole lorries and their freight, including £200,000 worth of chocolate, have been sent to prison for more than 25 years.

Police described the men, mostly based in the Merseyside area, as “organised, professional thieves” after an investigation found they travelled the country looking for hauliers to steal vehicles and their consignments from.

In April 2013, high value whisky with a retail price of £23,000 was stolen from a trailer in a haulage yard in Lydden, Kent.

Days later, a £40,000 Daf tractor unit was taken from a yard not far away in Whitfield.

It was eventually found four days later in an industrial park with false number plates.

In a third incident, the Lydden haulage yard was targeted again and this time the thieves stole the keys to a lorry and its refrigerated trailer containing Toblerone chocolate.


It was driven to Graham Ascroft’s home address and haulage yard in Lancashire where the truck was abandoned but the chocolate and trailer have never been discovered.

Ascroft was found guilty following a trial at Maidstone crown court on 26 May and sentenced to four years and eight months.

Accomplices Lee Gilmore pleaded guilty to his involvement and was sentenced to four years and eight months; Jeffrey Hamid received a four years and six month sentence, John Dahl got four years and eight months and Darren Price four years and eight months after these three pleaded guilty and Stuart Nicolson received a four year sentence after a trial found him guilty of taking part in the theft of the Daf.

Investigating officer detective sergeant Jon Saxby, from Kent police, said: “Whilst this group made a quick sale, legitimate businesses and hauliers suffered greatly with property stolen, deliveries cancelled, excess payments on insurance and not to mention the inconvenience to their customers.”