Vehicle tester shortage reaches “crisis” level

The Department for Transport’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is being urged to take further action over a worsening shortage of vehicle testers for mandatory annual truck and bus roadworthiness tests at privately-operated test stations, “authorised testing facilities” (ATF) in the civil service jargon.

The DVSA has agreed to “review the current testing model” by the end of October and to try to make test slot availability more transparent.

Many ATF operators, including franchised dealers and independent workshops, have been complaining for months that a shortage of DVSA-employed vehicle testers has meant that they are increasingly having to turn vehicle testing business away. Truck operators have been forced to travel further and further from their operating bases to find suitable annual test booking slots either at ATF sites or the few remaining testing stations still run directly by the DVSA.

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The DAF Trucks dealer network in the UK claims to operate more ATFs than any other truck manufacturer. DAF Trucks managing director Robin Easton told us that the situation varied from region to region but that “most dealers have suffered test cancellations because of no availability of DVSA testers.”

Easton says he would support “deregulation to allow testers to be recruited locally.” But others say that the current system with truly independent testers employed by DVSA is preferable to the fully privatised MOT systems for cars and vans, in which technicians employed by garages are authorised to carry out mandatory roadworthiness tests.

RHA demands answers

At the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC in April, a delegation led by Tom Cotton, head of licensing and infrastructure policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), descended on the DVSA stand to demand answers to what was described as an “ATF tester crisis”.

Suggested means of easing the problem put forward by the RHA include additional training for the specialised PSV (passenger service vehicle) testers employed by DVSA to allow them to test trucks as well, and redeployment of roadside vehicle examiners to ATFs until more testers have been recruited.

“This is a crisis for hauliers and ATF operators alike,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett at the April CV Show.

“Hauliers across the country are now struggling to get their trucks through roadworthiness testing, the equivalent of the MOT, because the DVSA cannot attract and retain enough qualified testers to meet the demand.

“If hauliers are unable to keep their vehicles compliant and on the road then the risk to their businesses and the economy is huge. We also know of hauliers having to book testing slots far from their operating centres, thereby costing them money and of course time.

“This is a disaster for hauliers, for ATF operators and for the supply chain as a whole and we urge the DVSA to improve pay and conditions for ATF testers to attract more staff.”

Sparks Renault Trucks workshop in Swindon

DVSA recruiting more testing staff

The RHA was among several trade bodies, including CPT (Confederation of Passenger Transport UK), SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), ATFOA (Authorised Testing Facility Operator Association), and NFDA (National Franchised Dealers Association) represented at ATF-related talks with DVSA this month.

“This was a very positive first meeting and we look forward to working with the industry,” says Richard Hennessey, DVSA’s southern region operations director.

“We know ATFs, vehicle operators and their representative bodies have concerns about the availability of testing slots and the ease of securing test bookings. However, there is more we can do to improve the way we work with ATFs and operators.

“We are in the process of recruiting an additional 85 vehicle testers into high-demand areas. This will have the benefit of also relieving testing pressure in other parts of the UK.”

But neither the DVSA nor its Department for Transport (DfT) bosses seem receptive to suggestions that non-DVSA staff, such as authorised technicians employed by dealer workshops, should be allowed to carry out truck and bus roadworthiness tests. This would require “primary legislation”, points out DVSA.

“Our focus at present is on addressing the immediate challenges surrounding heavy vehicle testing,” the agency says in a statement.

Online roadworthiness records

In a separate development, the DVSA website has been updated to allow the annual roadworthiness test record of any heavy commercial vehicle, truck, bus or coach, to be checked freely online. The MOT history of cars and vans has been accessible on the DVSA website for some time.

The new service for trucks, buses and coaches reveals vehicle age, date of its most recent test (and when the next one is due), most recent test result (pass or fail), and any defects recorded in previous tests.

The plan, according to DVSA, is to extend this for buses soon so that even more information is available online including vehicle description, mileage, fuel type, and more details on recorded defects.

“Our priority is to help you keep your vehicle safe to drive,” says DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn.

“Although bus, coach and lorry operators should keep their vehicles roadworthy at all times, the annual test is a key indicator that the vehicle is being maintained properly. Anyone who operates a commercial vehicle that has not passed its MOT is not only breaking the law but also maybe putting lives at risk.”

More information at

A list of DVSA network business managers, who should be the first port of call for operators having difficulty booking test slots, can be found on the RHA website:

roller brake tester


Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore is an award-winning automotive journalist and the former editor of our sister title, Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. He is also the UK representative on the panel of judges for the biennial, pan-European Trailer Innovation Award scheme.

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