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Heavy vehicle testing review – moving forward

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Features, Vehicle testing

Lorry in test centreSince moving into this role in 2019, I’ve become aware of the challenges faced by ATFs and operators because of the current model of annual (MOT) testing.

As you know, this has DVSA delivering the MOT test for heavy vehicle operators in privately owned Authorised Testing Facilities (ATFs). So, it’s a model that needs a close partnership to make it work.

Last year this led to the Department for Transport working with DVSA and industry representatives on the Heavy Vehicle Testing Review. Its purpose was to review the current model for heavy vehicle MOT testing and look at how we could improve it.

In this first of my regular blogs about the review, I’ll bring you up to date and highlight opportunities to provide feedback.

Key findings of the Heavy Vehicle Testing review

The review makes 6 recommendations. We will come back to these a lot in this blog. But it’s fair to say the main theme running through it is about making sure we have the right number of vehicle standards assessors to deliver the flexibility that industry wants.

Other recommendations include things like how we end the temporary suspension on opening new ATFs and how we schedule our vehicle standards assessors to ATFs.

Starting to change

The first change to come from the review is to open the market, by ending the pause on applications for new ATFs.

For this first phase we’ve set some criteria for applications, so that we don’t adversely impact existing ATFs. But it will begin to improve the breadth of the service.

In early June we started accepting applications meeting these criteria. Where these meet the criteria, we will open new sites. Where applications don’t quite meet the criteria, we are providing feedback to help applicants.


Over the next few months, we will talk to operators and ATFs about how to resolve the balance between how far ahead ATFs can book our vehicle standards assessors, against the short notice flexibility that customers – both ATFs and vehicle operators – may need.

We have tried different approaches over the last few years and by working with industry, we want to find a solution that works for everyone. This is an area it would be great to have views on.

Measuring performance

We deliver the heavy vehicle MOT testing service to vehicle operators in partnership with ATFs. So, we need to work with both in order to measure success across the whole service.

The things we measure, like the utilisation of our vehicle standards assessors and how often we cancel appointments with ATFs, are important. But they are not the be all and end all. So, we want to get to a broader set of measures.

Transparency is key to making this work, so we will continue to be open about how we are doing.

‘Find an ATF’ service

The review took place during a period of high demand for MOT testing, as the profile of the exemptions led to a peak in demand.

So, in parallel to the review, we developed the Find an ATF’ service. This allows ATFs to share information about short-term MOT test availability and helps vehicle operators to find a test at a nearby ATF.

As we again enter another busy period, I hope ATFs will use the service and share information about their capacity. Hopefully, this will help vehicle operators who are finding it hard to get an MOT test.

We are also keen to hear feedback from vehicle operators and ATFs about whether this is a service that goes far enough. For example:

  • should it include information about longer-term capacity?
  • is there more we can do to help vehicle operators find MOT test appointments?
  • does the existing relationship between operators and ATFs mean this service isn’t needed?

As with all of this, we are keen to hear your views.

Making this work

I don’t just want to work through the recommendations by putting a tick against each one. As we work through the changes, we will consider the bigger picture for heavy vehicle MOT testing. For example, we’ve been asked to look at scheduling and if as we do this, we spot other things we can improve, we will look at these too.

We will work with the trade bodies, our customers and partners to gather real insight and make sure that we do this right.

Getting involved

If you’re reading this and have a particular interest or need, please share your views in the comments section below.

We are organising customer engagement workshops with ATFs and vehicle operators to help us get much broader insight of how vehicle testing fits into different business models. We will also use the channels we have with trade bodies and direct conversation with customers to help us build on this.

We’ll use future blog posts to share feedback from the workshops, our thoughts and explain how you can get involved further in our plans to develop the testing service.

Where will we be next year?

In the next 12 months, I want us – working together with industry – to have addressed all the recommendations in the review. We will either have implemented a solution or have a clear view about where we are going.

I want us all to get the high-quality heavy vehicle MOT testing service that we need.

For vehicle operators this means being able to easily get an MOT test that can sit seamlessly with their routine planned and preventative maintenance, so that they can go about the important business of moving goods and people around the country.

We deliver the MOT test in partnership with ATFs, who are responsible for enabling the service through booking vehicles in – and often delivering this as part of maintenance and repair work. So, we need to make sure that the way we work helps ATFs provide a quality service to vehicle operators. No one party can do this alone and our work with ATFs is critical to delivering the service.

We also need to make sure that all of our colleagues in DVSA come along on the journey with us. It’s a period of change and opportunity as we introduce more flexibility and resource into the service to make it better meet customer needs.

An opportunity for us all

We can’t do it all at once. But if we do it in the right way, I am convinced that we can improve the service over the next 12 months.

We will continue to give you regular updates on our progress. And we will be honest about what’s going well and what’s not going well.

Please do let us know your views, and where you aren’t sure we understand how this all fits in with your business – let us know.

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  1. Comment by kevin fryer posted on

    i have tried 9 atf to get a test the earliest i can get is 8th october so i have to park my lorry till then losing business and money

  2. Comment by Shaun Coole posted on

    I think it is time for full privatisation of the testing.
    Test stations should be able to have the option to work longer hours or weekends when the demand is there.
    Many business owners would also benefit from out of hours testing to suit their particular business model.
    Losing 8 tests in a day because of illness cannot be caught up with the present system but a private system could catch up using either a "spare" tester or by doing a couple extra tests per day.
    Test stations deserve to be able to utilise their equipment more profitably.
    They are far too restricted at present.

    • Replies to Shaun Coole>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on


      Thanks for the note.

      As I've said on a few of the others - the review is about making the current model work. I genuinely think we can make the current model of DVSA testing work well for industry as well as given the general public the assurance that it does. I know that others will share your view, but hopefully we can still all see the benefits in working together to make the current model work as well as it can.

      On the points on flexibility and utilisation of kit - I agree. Let's try and get to the point where we can provide the testers you need - and help make ATFs better able to compete with one another. As I have said in other forums, there will still only be so many tests to go around - but flexibility is important to industry, so let's try and make this work.



  3. Comment by Ron Manser posted on

    Thank you for posting this, and asking us, its good to read that you are looking at improving things. I replied to the "Views on increasing DVSA fee's" the other day, and much of what I said relates to what you're asking.

    We are a small commercial workshop and present about 40 commercial Mot's a year. I plan, and book these in six month batches, so that they fit in with the routine scheduled inspections, this minimises downtime and costs for our own and customers vehicles. Due to the nature of our main customers work, their Mot's end up in the summer months, so we'll often have one or two mot's a week in that period, as well as staff holidays. So I have to spread the Mot's out as best as possible, so we are not overwhelmed, so it takes quite a lot of planning.

    One problem we constantly face is our local ATF not being allocated an examiner, this seems to happen quite often, only the other day I had to change a November test as they haven't been allocated an examiner. Occasionally tests are cancelled at very short notice due to examiner illness, but last time this happened it was actually the ATF's fault (booking error), so I don't think this has been DVSA's fault for a long time now.

    Prior to ATF's I used to book my Mot slots online, I think I was one of the first to use the system and it was great, it would be very nice to have a system like this today, but appreciate it would be difficult to achieve with so many different ATF's involved. When I've had to find a test at short notice, it has been very difficult, on one occasion I phoned seven ATF's before I found availability, so being able to look online would make this rare issue easier to solve.

    • Replies to Ron Manser>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for comments - and taking time to reply.

      Hopefully we can get to the point where we allocate more testers to ATFs - will make easier for ATFs to deliver flexibility to their customers / our end customers (operators, presenters). Of course will need to be paid for - but hopefully we can use or adjust the arrangements with the ATF (retained fee where insufficient tests to cover the day) to cover the inevitable 'efficiency' impact of that - as we realise is actually what customers want (and makes them more efficient).

      And note comments on on-line booking. As I mentioned on one of the other comments - would be great to know what the wider group think. Are people okay 'shopping around' between ATFs or do we need some sort of single system - which may work for test bookings, but (perhaps) be less flexible when you are looking for some maintenance work and an MOT? Sure we can explore that one in more detail over the next year!


      • Replies to Neil Barlow>

        Comment by Ron Manser posted on

        Our nearest ATF is just 12 miles away, with the next nearest being 27 miles from us. So shopping around is a last resort, as going to other ATF's is just not cost effective (travel time). So whilst I would use an online booking system, it wouldn't make a lot of difference to me, but
        if we were more central to multiple ATF's then it would make booking so much simpler than dealing with multiple ATF's.

  4. Comment by Lawrence Alford posted on

    Neil, I'm pleased DVSA ,the industry working group and partners have been focusing on this issue and seemingly communicating much more openly than before......advertising and creating for additional vehicle standards assessors roles should help the situation especially in "hot spot "areas....Retaining technical staff, inspectors and technicians is already very challenging for the entire sector and I suspect will become an increasingly difficult issue for the industry moving forward. We collectively need to look at how to attract more technicians/inspectors soonest or we will likely see severe skills shortages.

    • Replies to Lawrence Alford>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Thanks Lawrence.

      And agree - we need to make sure we don't rob Peter to pay Paul here! As we look ahead changes in tech will further complicate the picture and mean we all need to look at innovative ways of attracting staff into our industry - which inevitably will mean staff moving from DVSA to industry and vice versa.

  5. Comment by Trevor posted on

    Agree with previous comment that privatisation is overdue. This would leave DVSA staff to monitor ATFs and take a bigger role in monitoring compliance from operator level down as it was intended to function.
    Publishing OCRS ratings would immediately improve standards and a formal appeal system for prohibitions (VT 17 or similar) would improve confidence in roadside checks.

    • Replies to Trevor>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      For now we are focused on implementing the recommendations made on the HVTR - about making the service we have work as well as it can.

      Of course, I understand that some may perceive privatisation as being the answer to whatever problem - but the current ask in the HVTR recommendations is not to do that.

      I don't intend to get into a debate on here - it is okay we don't always agree!!

      What I hope we can get to is positively engaging on making the HVTR recommendations work and be implemented as well as they can be - that will make the service work better for operators and those involved in the industry, even though we may have different views on what a view of the longer term future could be.

  6. Comment by Stephen Crozier posted on

    Is it not time to fully privatise the HGV testing scheme and use DVSA personnel to police it like light vehicle testing.

    • Replies to Stephen Crozier>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply.

      The focus here is to implement the recommendations of the HVTR - which is about making the service as good as it can be for our customers. I do believe that there is much we can do to make the service work better - and I hope our customers and partners will engage with us in doing that with us.

      I do understand that some see privatisation as a way of solving all problems, and it may solve some problems! I will try and avoid getting into great debate on it here, as is a danger it will distract us from doing what we have been asked to do in implementing the HVTR recommendations!! All I will say, is that privatisation can mean many different things to different people - so we need to be careful in being clear in what we mean, and what we would really want - and in whatever we land on in the longer term, make sure that it really is a solution that is good for road safety and the environment, as well as working well for an efficient industry.

  7. Comment by Martin Detheridge posted on

    We maintain vintage Routemaster buses for private hire customers and our own hire fleet.

    The main problem we are finding now because the buses had their tests dates extended by 3/6 or even 12 months due to covid and it’s difficult for us to get test dates that fit in with our operator customer’s

    Our test pass rate is very high as we maintain the vehicles to a very high standard so would it not make sense for the vehicles that have already been tested to extend them again for good operators and repairers so the dates can get back where they were ?

    This would also take the pressure off the ATF’s and these vehicles regularly have PMI’s carried out anyway.

    We also use a computerised system for our PMI inspections and planning including tyre management.
    101COE LTD t/a London Bus 4 Hire

    • Replies to Martin Detheridge>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for the note - and sorry for my delay in replying.

      I think it is fair to say (and other's may word rather stronger) that the exemption programme to cater for the period where DVSA was unable to test last year, has led to some pretty unhelpful effects on demand and supply. So - yes, it did enable us to smooth demand to some extent for HGVs and PSVs, but still we have been left with a peak in the autumn and a trough in the winter - which is not helpful for DVSA or industry. (And of course there have been similar challenges in private vehicle MOTs from the 6 month exemptions issued there).

      What we have seen, is that peak to start to smooth itself through operators getting vehicles tested earlier (than the peak in the autumn), and it will start to smooth as vehicles are replaced (which I know won't help on historic vehicles).

      So, I understand the frustration - but I do think coming from test earlier is a solution that can be applied to get tests back to where an operator wants, than further exemption from test - which inevitably has some risk.

  8. Comment by James Fairchild posted on

    Help to find a short notice test slot would always be welcome.

    Typically people would need these when buying secondhand buses/trucks, as their existing fleet should be scheduled in already.

    • Replies to James Fairchild>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Thanks James. Absolutely, understand that there are different needs - some businesses do and need to plan a long way ahead, and other customers have the need to find slots at much shorter notice.

      The "Find an ATF" service covered in the last blog from Claire ( covered this - and hopefully this can help - and the service does include a link to let us know if you really are struggling to find a slot. However - sure that there is more we can do to make the service work for all - so appreciate the comment.

  9. Comment by Glen Anderson posted on

    Private individuals, like me, who run a single vehicle as a historic/collector’s item that still need to have an annual test, but don’t work within a rigid maintenance schedule and have a “day job” that requires planning to get time off for, would be well served if the system allowed us to take advantage of short notice appointments or cancellations, even if that meant travelling a distance a commercial operator might baulk at. I suspect many smaller operations on restricted licenses and those that use their lorries as “private HGV” or horse boxes etc. might be similarly relieved if the system could be slightly more flexible too.

    • Replies to Glen Anderson>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Thanks Glen - understand the point, and James has made similar points below.

      And I absolutely agree - we need to make sure we get the service best working for all; be that a private individual with one vehicle, or a large haulage or passenger transport firm.

      • Replies to Neil Barlow>

        Comment by Glen Anderson posted on

        Thanks for your response Neil.

        I think my main concern, as far as future planning is concerned, is that revisions are made with the needs of major fleet operators as a primary concern, and the difficulties of small/single vehicle operators are simply swept away.

        I fully understand the needs of commercial operators to plan ahead, and to be able to schedule tests as efficiently as possible to minimise customer and staff costs, but there are many people like me at the other end of the spectrum that have entirely different obstacles and costs to work around. From the one extreme of a commercial operator that wants a test booked really close by, far enough in advance that the vehicle is in their yard with time to prepare it, a driver to move it and minimal time spent not earning money at one end, to the enthusiast with a day or two off work, happy to do a hundred mile round trip in a vehicle they enjoy driving, if only they could find a slot available on the day.

        Personally, I was dismayed to find that the testing exemption for classic vehicles wasn't extended to retired LGVs built post 1960 because that would have allowed unbroken "social/pleasure/show" use of them unladen when circumstances prevented getting a test, but retained the requirement to having one if used laden.

        I also understand that, in terms of actual vehicles tested, people like me are a tiny minority; but the existing regime is already extremely challenging to negotiate and recent legislation (such as that regarding tyres) has added to our burden considerably. It would be a huge step if there was actually a clear route to navigate for those of us not operating LGVs and PCVs on a commercial basis, obviously without jeopardising safety guiven the size and weight of the vehicles concerned.

        • Replies to Glen Anderson>

          Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

          Understand the point Glen - and agree it is easy to get drawn into designing the service around any group of customers. Inevitably best meeting the needs of large fleets must form a big part of our thinking (they operate a lot of the vehicles after all) but that should not be at the expense of other customers. So, completely agree - we need to make sure that all customers have a voice in changing and improving our services, not any one group!! And do remind me as we go on - it can be easy to forget; and does me good to be reminded!!!

  10. Comment by Lee swift posted on

    I think its time to allow class 7 mot stations to upgrade and allow vehicles to be tested up to ramp size. All vehicles up to 7.5t could easily be accommodated by most mot stations who are class 7. Taking massive pressure off the system.

    • Replies to Lee swift>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Hi Lee,

      Thanks for the note - and taking the time to reply.

      Understand the point - and that there will be different views. For now we are focussing on the HVTR and implementing what is recommended there - which is about making the system we have work as well as it can.

      But I do understand your views. As you may know, I do have oversight for the private vehicle MOT service as well - so do want to see all our vehicle testing (be it that delivered by DVSA through ATFs, or delivered directly by garages authorised by DVSA to do MOT testing) work as well as it can for the end customers who use vehicles, so pleased to see you engaged in the debate!

      • Replies to Neil Barlow>

        Comment by Lee posted on

        Thanks Neil

  11. Comment by Michael Watson posted on

    As a small haulier I would firstly like to applaud your decision to provide us with regular updates and asking for our thoughts along the way. This alone is a massive step forward - well done.
    I would table a couple of suggestions at this stage .
    1) Have 'regional appointment' portals so we as Hauliers and others can see slot availability on a wider scale instantly and in 'real time'.
    2) Potentially have a regional 'floating' Examiner to cover any short notice requests / sickness. I for one - would be happy to contribute a little more via fees to have this option.

    • Replies to Michael Watson>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Thanks Michael - and thanks for taking the time to reply.

      Good to get the feedback on ideas for making bookings more transparent. The 'ATF Capacity Service' is a first step in that direction - but is just that first step. Feedback like this can help us work out if we need to invest in it more to make it easier to find gaps around you, or if is good enough as is. So - thanks for taking the time to feedback.

      And, note the idea on 'floating' local staff. I guess getting staffing levels right - and high enough - to give a flexible service is really at the nub of the HV Testing Review. We do always try and build in some contingency, but I'm sure there is more we can do. And note the point on fees - and that is something we have heard before, so good to have confirmed again!! Just the sort of comment that could go into that current test fees consultation!

  12. Comment by Paul Clarke posted on

    There are a number of system suppliers in the market controlling the scheduling of inspections and MOT's. Most of these system have reminder and notification capabilities. Here at Truckfile we look after the maintenance and scheduling of over 250,000 vehicles. It should be possible to integrate MOT bookings into the maintenance scheduling system used by the Operators and Workshops throughout the UK.

    As scheduling systems are normally set for up to 5 years we can predict the resource needed. This resource can be effected by VOR; also taken into account within these systems.

    Scheduled PMi's are usually attached once a year to an MOT so scheduling is automatic and pre-planned.

    A number of such systems, including Truckfile, have been verified by the DVSA for Earned Recognition and our therefore considered robust and secure.

    • Replies to Paul Clarke>

      Comment by Neil Barlow posted on

      Thanks for the note Paul. I know there are a few systems out there that do this kind of thing - and I do think present some great future opportunities.

      One of the things we are working on at the moment is making test history information much more transparent (as we already have for car MOTs) and creating APIs that can connect up to this type of system - making planning accurately far easier and avoid reliance on manual steps. We aren't quite there on it all being real time - but we will get there.

      Looking further ahead the point you mention on linking to booking is interesting. Guess would be interesting to get others' views - do we want / need an overarching booking system, something that ties into other booking system (along lines of 'Late Rooms' etc - or is there not the need. Interesting to hear views.