DfT says ATFs are working well for commercial vehicle operators

The Department for Transport in the UK has responded to concerns raised over the privatisation of Authorised Testing Facilities (ATFs), the independence of Traffic Commissioners and their relationship with the Vehicle Operator Services Agency.

Transport News Brief reports that while many of the DfT responses to the Transport Select Committee in Britain have been welcomed, the UK’s National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) says it is concerned over the decision to not fully privatise ATFs so testers are employed by the site itself and not VOSA.

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It says this full privatisation would provide the greater flexibility in commercial vehicle testing that operators require.

NFDA Director Sue Robinson said, “The NFDA believes that the future of privately run ATFs is dependent on the HGV testers being employees of the ATF. This would allow them to create a dealer facility that is a ‘one-stop-shop’ and can also offer 24/7 service to fleet operators.”
The DfT says that operator choice over the past three years has increased from 90 government sites to 350 ATFs, and that 70% of the 700,000 commercial vehicle tests conducted last year were at ATFs.

Its report to the committee says, “Based on contracted ATF staff provision levels, managers currently work with their local ATFs to ensure their business needs are met and that a fair allocation of resources is made.

“Processes are in place to respond swiftly to increasing and reducing demand at all sites through short notice booking arrangement and active monitoring of the ATF utilisation of VOSA inspectors.”

The DfT says that 90% of operators are happy with the system now in place, and that 96% of ATFs are satisfied with the service provided by VOSA inspectors.
Responding to concerns that operators face long waits or travel distances for tests at ATFs, however, the DfT said, “The cessation of testing at government-owned sites does not take place until sufficient tests are available through the ATF network.”

It also said that measures had been put in place through 2013 to ensure better communication between the Offices of Traffic Commissioners (OTCs), VOSA and the DfT, and that the Senior Traffic Commissioner considers the efforts a success. OTC staff now have new, separate e-mail addresses to emphasise their independence from VOSA, for instance.

The DfT said it is also reviewing the functions of Traffic Commissioners and invited stakeholders for their views on how their reliance on VOSA staff can be reduced, how their role may change or how they may be merged into another body or out of central government control.