The Work of Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA)
Written evidence from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) (VOSA 02A)
The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) welcomes the Committee’s interest in its work. The Agency plays a key role delivering the Government’s road safety strategy through ensuring compliance with regulations of vehicle operators, drivers, Transport Managers, MOT garages, tachograph and speed limiter calibration centres. VOSA also provides administrative support to the independent Traffic Commissioners.
The submission covers:
· Background - VOSA as an organisation and road safety;
· Annual testing – improvements to the arrangements for vehicle test sites;
· Enforcement – the standards of foreign HGVs operating in the UK
· Supporting the work of the Traffic Commissioners
· Implementation of the HGV Road User Levy and the effect of the work on VOSA
Background - The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency
VOSA is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport, and is part of the DfT’s Motoring Services (MS) Directorate. The Agency was established in 2003 and is responsible for:
· the annual testing of HGVs and PSVs;
· enforcing compliance with roadworthiness standards, drivers hours, Working Time Directive and operator licensing conditions;
· supervision of the MOT scheme, including training;
· provision of guidance and information to support customers compliance
· investigating collisions, monitoring of vehicle recalls and defects investigations.
VOSA also provides administrative support to the Traffic Commissioners, who are appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport and are statutorily independent of VOSA and the Department. Traffic Commissioners have responsibility for:
· the licensing of the operators of HGVs and PSVs;
· the registration of local bus services;
· granting vocational driver licences and taking action against drivers of HGVs and PSVs; and
· the determination of appeals against the impounding by VOSA of illegally operated HGVs.
The Agency operates as a trading fund. In 2011/12 the total income was, in round terms £189m. The majority of this income - £175m - came from statutory fees (e.g. testing and licensing), the remainder came from areas such as voluntary testing and grant funding.
VOSA employs 2216 full time equivalent staff as at October 2012. They are located at its headquarters in Bristol, at offices in Swansea and Leeds and at around 100 operational locations across Great Britain (GB). Staff turnover is low and staff survey results indicate a strong allegiance to VOSA’s vision of improved road safety.
Plans for the Future
VOSA believes it has, in the last three years significantly improved arrangements for vehicle test sites and will continue to do so into the future. VOSA’s objective is for annual t esting to be increasingly conducted at non-VOSA locations enablingstatutory testing to be brought closer to the customer and point of maintenance. The Agency will encourage the opening of more A uthorised T est F acilities (ATFs) in those parts of the country where early take- up has been slow ; current planshave been submitted from industry to create a further 62 new builds and convert 22 of the 88 D esignated P remises (DP s – these are similar to ATFs but are sites authorised for this function prior to the existence of ATFs – the key difference is that they are not managed through a contract) to ATF status. Our plan is that over 75% of testing will be at non-VOSA sites by April 2014 . However, should we fail to encourage the opening of sufficient ATFs we will consider alternative delivery models . These will include the renting of servicing lanes in private sector facilities or ultimately the sale or leasing of existing G oods Vehicle T esting S tation s to operate as ATFs. The history of testing and current practice in annual testing is set out in Annex 1 below.
VOSA’s vision is that its Vehicle Inspectors will be increasingly multi-skilled, flexible and deployed in a way that best meets the needs of ATF operators and their customers whilst maintaining test quality. VOSA has already conducted a significant amount of planning of a future design to enable this. This design has been approved internally and is currently with DfT for approval. This Design complements the successful roll-out of more ATFs and covers a number of areas:
· more flexible deployment – especially early starts/late finishes to match the working pattern of an individual site;
· travel to and from the ATFs direct from the Inspector’s home, rather than the VOSA estate;
· greater flexibility with regard to the end of day processes to ensure the full programme of work is delivered;
· Enhanced Inspector skill-sets; ongoing development of technical skills will be managed by a Continuous Professional Development approach. In addition, analysis of test result data will inform targeted re-training in a certain area/capability;
· Electronic capture of test results.
The proposed new Design will ensure that test quality and consistency is within tolerance levels and quality systems are ISO-compliant. Quality assurance of testing will be proportional to risk via ISO standards eg 9001/17025. ISO standards will also require improved arrangements for complaints handling and customers will be provided with a better range of information than is available now – see below.
More relevant and useful data will be captured – electronically at the time of test – which will be used to help operators, presenters and VOSA improve compliance. This will both increase efficiency and ensure specific quality tolerances are met. The technology required will ensure that equipment is better matched to the workshop environment and optimised to support the capture of test and other data in near real time.
VOSA recognises it will need to build stronger relationships with vehicle manufacturers, main dealers, operators and presenters and that new roles will be required to manage the new commercial arrangements. Customers – whether they be an ATF or vehicle operators - will be provided with an extensive range of statistics: volumes of tests, pass, fail, failure items, consistency and contract compliance. Paper-based reports will be replaced with bulletins through a web-based portal to enable better management of income and contractual obligations.
Supporting the Work of the Traffic Commissioners
VOSA directly provides support to the Traffic Commissioners – through the administrative support of the Operator Licensing System. The background to this work is contained at Annex 2. VOSA’s enforcement activities – and in particular the provision of the results of roadside checks and operator systems checks – are another key element of the work that VOSA does for TCs. A background to that enforcement work is contained at Annex 3.
VOSA believes it can further improve its support for the TCs in the medium and long term. The IT system supporting the Operator Licensing processing for TCs (the Operator Licensing Business System – OLBS) is due for replacement. VOSA has begun work with TCs on establishing the scope of the prospective replacement. In doing so opportunities are being identified for how that system can be improved to better support the TCs’ regulatory responsibilities, improve service to customers, improve process efficiency or present information to better assist enforcement prioritisation and meet the Government’s digital target.
There is still work to be done on identifying the feasibility of some of the ideas being considered and discussed and detailed cost benefits have not been completed – but areas being looked at (either as a part of the OLBS refresh or as longer term developments) include the following areas:
1. Automated external checks
This is where an application for a licence is checked out against data held by other government bodies. For example, it should be possible to check – by automatic means - the status of the way the business of the operator is structured and whether the firm is registered with Companies House. Another example is a check of financial standing, where banks would provide evidence of sufficient funds. Although this might take some effort to set up these links, they offer significant benefits in processing time and quality of assessment for licence applications. A reduction in the burden on applicants (and VOSA) would enhance the reputation of the system of operator licences. Another benefit would be that it is accordance with one of the Hampton Principles: businesses should not have to provide the same information to government twice.
2. On-line licence applications and licence maintenance
Another reputation-enhancing development would be the completion of applications for licences on-line and the regular management of licences via a portal – an extension of the relatively limited services currently available to customers on-line through the Operator Self-Service element of OLBS. This would make the process slicker and quicker by the reduction/removal of paper documents. Moreover, confirmation of the licence parameters at set intervals by the licence holder would make many public inquires less contentious as the basic details (eg change of entity) would not be the subject of debate and the hearing could focus its efforts on the real issues. But on-line applications would take a significant amount of time to arrange with its attendant costs. Up to date data would have benefits for compliance generally. Having better information about customers would have a positive impact on education and enforcement activities, and it would help TCs/VOSA achieve the Government target of digital by default.
3. Better case management
VOSA has been using Electronic Case Management System (ECMS) for several years now. In essence it provides a structure for the creation of electronic case management files from paper documents allowing much easier transmission of information around the Agency. VOSA believes ECMS has further development potential which can help ensure that those cases reaching Traffic Commissioners contain additional information about the interaction VOSA has had with the operator. This would allow public inquiries to have the benefit of the whole picture. The reduction or removal of paper files where possible would also be a further move towards Government’s digital by default target.
4. Single customer account
The proposition here is that persons or entities have a single secure digital portal through which they conduct business with VOSA and Traffic Commissioners. Once an account is opened the user has the ability to apply for different licences, update licence details, access reports and receive links to training, advice and guidance specific to the role they carry out. Traffic Commissioners would benefit from the knowledge that communications between them and operators (especially the larger ones) would be made more effective and that any message sent out with an increased likelihood it would reach all parts of the business. This is currently under review and VOSA is looking at a data sharing agreement with the Senior Traffic Commissioner.
Standards of foreign HGVs operating in Great Britain
Since the last TSC – which broadly coincided with the implementation of new powers to enable VOSA to issue effective penalties to foreign drivers – the Agency has continued to focus its efforts to deal with traffic that presents the highest risk to GB road users. This has resulted in considerable effort going into the checking of non-GB vehicles – typically this being around 50% of the roadside checks that we conduct. Since then we have seen some improvements in compliance rates compared to the GB vehicles, as measured through the fleet compliance survey. This is a statistically robust view of on-the-road compliance rates – not skewed by the targeting of at-risk vehicles:
& Tachograph Checks
This shows that non-GB and GB prohibition rates for vehicles are converging. The exact reasons for this are not known – but the implementation of the fixed penalties and deposits scheme will be a factor, as will our continued efforts to target the non-compliance (including use of non-GB Operator Compliance Risk Score) and legislative improvements that other member states will have been complying with that include changes to the annual testing requirements and bringing in operator licensing schemes analogous to that of long standing in GB.
DfT continues to work with other Member States and the EC on changes to European Legislation to ensure that the safety of GB road users is preserved and that there is fair competition between the GB and non-GB industries. This has resulted in a number of positive changes to the rules by which industry are governed that have improved the situation. Most notably this has included new cabotage rules that have been much more enforceable than the previous rules and new requirements for the competent authority in member states to take action where their operators are found to be committing serious offences. We expect an EC proposal to further liberalise cabotage by the middle of 2013. It is not known at this time what form this will take.
For the future, VOSA will continue to direct its efforts towards those operators that present the highest risk to road safety – and also ensuring that ‘fair competition’ rules (such as cabotage) are enforced. VOSA will therefore continue putting a considerable proportion of its roadside enforcement effort into checks of foreign vehicles. VOSA will also continue to improve its ability to target these vehicles through the future development of non-GB OCRS. It will also use other data sources as appropriate to help it build up a better view of compliance of foreign operators – and the data available from the HGV Road User Levy (when launched in 2014) should support this. Further detail of VOSA’s overall approach top enforcement is at Annex 3.
VOSA increasingly adopts a ‘ zero tolerance ’ policy with these high risk targets – ensuring that when all other strategies have failed that enforcement is disruptive and forces behaviours to change . In these cases, v ehicles are targeted at base/point of entry, targeted where they are known to be used and stopped on every occasion they are encountered . It is noted that where this approach has been used – that the operators soon approach VOSA to discuss what it is they need to do to comply, as they cannot continue to run their business with this level of disruption.
H GV R oad U ser L evy
The HGV Road User Levy is due to be implemented in April 2014 for both UK and (subject to the completion of the procurement process for the payment system) foreign hauliers. The new charge is being introduced through the HGV Road User Levy Bill which is currently working its way through parliament to provide the necessary primary legislation. The introduction of the levy is seen as a key measure towards levelling the playing field between UK and foreign hauliers. There will be new charges for foreign registered heavy goods vehicles that are 12 tonnes or over to use UK roads.
For most UK vehicles Vehicle Excise Duty will be reduced so that they pay no more than now, so this new initiative makes little practical difference, effectively splitting the current Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) amounts into two – elements for the Levy and VED. The levy will be paid for at the same time as the VED payment is made, either annually or six monthly. VOSA’s role is expected to remain broadly unchanged from the current processes, as they will deal with Levy offences alongside their other enforcement work.
For non-UK vehicles the Levy will be required for each day the vehicle uses UK roads – either on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis, with charges of £10 per day to £1,000 per year for the longest, heaviest vehicles. The Levy will be payable to an externally contracted service, and non-compliance will be primarily enforced by VOSA.
We are currently liaising closely with DfT and other stakeholders in establishing the detail of the VOSA work, but we expect the following to form the framework of the enforcement:
· In strategic locations, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) equipped cameras will access the Levy database to allow VOSA to specifically target non compliant vehicles.
· Every foreign based vehicle inspected by VOSA will also be checked for compliance with the Levy.
· VOSA will issue fixed penalty notices, or fixed penalty deposits (currently £200) to drivers of vehicles that are not covered by a valid Levy.
· For operators taken to court, there is a maximum fine of £5,000 (level 5) which can be imposed.
· VOSA will immobilise non compliant vehicles until the Levy is paid.
· Information will be maintained on operators found to be non compliant which will result on VOSA targeting those operator’s vehicles in the future.
The enforcement of the Levy will be new work to VOSA and introduces an extra compliance check on every foreign vehicle inspected. Some additional funding is planned to cover VOSA officer time as well as increase in IT capability, to ensure that robust compliance with the levy. The introduction of this work will not have a negative impact on VOSA’s other work.
ANNEX 1 – ANNUAL TESTING
Statutory roadworthiness inspections of heavy goods vehicles and trailers were introduced in Great Britain in the late 1960s for all vehicles after the first year of service. All tests were carried out by employees of predecessors to VOSA, at Government provided test stations. VOSA currently provides around  such stations from Shetland to Cornwall with a mix of full and part time sites to meet local requirements. The plan is for the size of VOSA’s network to decrease as a third party network expands.
In the 1980s, VOSA offered operators of public service vehicles the option of tests at suitable Designated Premises (DPs), almost all of which were owned by operators of vehicles, usually the larger. About a decade later, VOSA extended this arrangement to include heavy goods vehicles and trailers, although many were converted serving lanes. In addition, an additional charge was made for testing at these sites to cover the cost of travel and lost time from sending staff to them and the typically lower throughput than at VOSA facilities.
Those providing DPs were under no obligation to present only their own vehicles for test, or to allow others to present vehicles at their facilities (open access). The relationship between the facility provider and VOSA was informal in that VOSA gave no guarantees about service provision and had no certainty their staff would be fully utilised. The organisation owning the premises could charge presenters for the use of the test facility in addition to the statutory test fees payable to VOSA. This charge could be in the form of a fee for the use of the facilities (referred to as a "pit fee") or could be included as an overhead in charges for other services which the facility provider was supplying to their customers.
In 2010, VOSA launched a new approach to providing test facilities, referred to as the Testing Transformation Programme (TTP). The aim was to make commercial vehicle roadworthiness inspections more accessible and flexible for operators by providing them at more locations and at more convenient times – in other words bringing testing closer to the customer. There is now a new generation of emerging non-VOSA test facilities known as Authorised testing Facilities (ATFs). Many ATFs, especially those provided by main dealers, have open access status, meaning they provide testing for anyone’s vehicle, including PSVs, which their facility can accommodate. Many ATFs can offer a menu of other services prior to test or after, which further minimises business downtime.
Unlike DPs, ATFs have a formal contract with VOSA which sets out obligations on both sides – e.g. the ATF is required to guarantee a minimum income for each testing session (the "reservation fee" – to encourage efficient use of VOSA inspectors) and VOSA pays compensation if it fails to provide inspectors at the agreed times. The ATF contract also applies limits to the pit fee which ATFs may charge for the use of their facilities.
ATFs can offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach, incorporating preventive maintenance inspections and repairs as well as roadworthiness inspections, all of which can be managed more efficiently and cost-effectively. VOSA has supported the opening of 278 ATFs in addition to the remaining 88 DPs . The coverage of ATFs is shown in the attached map of Great Britain.
A breakdown of test volumes (‘000s) by type of site is given below, together with the proportion tested in an ATF/DP.
Heavy goods (motor) vehicle
Heavy goods vehicle (trailer)
Public Service Vehicle
Volume by site
Volume by site
Volume by site
Most customers seem pretty content with the concept of ATFs. 90% of service agents are satisfied with the testing process as a whole. And 96%of service agents and 89% of operators are satisfied with the overall quality of servi ce provided at their main test location.
The benefits of ATFs are:
· For industry and customers
· Less vehicle ‘downtime’ – less time spent taking vehicles from repair locations to VOSA and improved access to other services including immediate rectification of test failure defects;
· Improved maintenance facilities through the use of ATF equipment and a consequent improvement in the pass rate of vehicles. The table below shows the more favourable pass rate at third party sites than for those owned by VOSA, resulting in a greater number of vehicles meeting the test requirements;
· Improved access to testing – a greater number of sites where testing is available than was the case with VOSA’s network;
· Reduction in the distance travelled – more sites closer to the point of vehicle repair;
· Reduction in the overall cost of testing vehicles – shorter journeys, fewer journeys for those vehicles requiring a re-test;
· For the UK public
· Less congestion, Better air quality, less noise and fewer greenhouse gases;
· Reduced risk of accidents / incidents with vehicles travelling to test;
· Less wear and tear on infrastructure;
· For ATF operators
· Opportunity to reduce costs through maintenance and test of vehicles on-site;
· Greater convenience with an in-house one stop shop for tests;
· Opportunity to grow their business through additional add-on services.
Pass Rate (%)
No of additional vehicles meeting test requirements
Heavy goods (motor) vehicle
Heavy goods vehicle (trailer)
Public Service Vehicle
ANNEX 2 – VOSA SUPPORT FOR THE TRAFFIC COMMISSIONERS
The role of Traffic Commissioner dates back to the 1930s. As part of the Department of Transport, they had locally based teams of support staff such as administrators, Mechanical Engineers and Traffic and Vehicle Examiners. 1994 saw the completion of the move of the teams (except admin support) across to the Vehicle Inspectorate (VI). In 2003, the TCs administrative support (Traffic Area Network) was split away from the Department for Transport and integrated with the VI to create the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA). The purpose of the changes was primarily to improve efficiency and effectiveness – whilst ensuring concerns around the independence of TCs was dealt with. The new agency became a trading fund with the CEO as the Accounting Officer.
In 2007, the operator licensing function was centralised in Leeds. Local administrative support to Traffic Commissioners is provided by VOSA. The operator licensing work and the administrative support to the TCs is paid for primarily through the fees that operators pay for their licences and for registration of local bus services. There is some additional funding from the DVLA for the driver conduct work the Traffic Commissioners carry out on their behalf.
Functions of the Traffic Commissioners
Traffic Commissioners (TCs) are appointed by the Secretary of State in accordance with the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981.There is one less TC than Traffic Areas because the West Midland and Welsh Traffic Areas are served by a common Traffic Commissioner. Mrs Beverley Bell, the North Western TC is the Senior Traffic Commissioner.
The TCs are responsible for the granting and issue of operator licences to operators of goods vehicles and public service vehicles. They also take regulatory action against the holders of licences when they fail to meet the standards required of them. Such action is triggered by VOSA providing the results of its enforcement actions – roadside examinations and assessments of operator’s systems. TCs are also responsible for registering local bus services and taking action against those operators who do not operate the services in accordance with their registered timetables.
Traffic Commissioners also have responsibility on behalf of the Secretary of State for considering the fitness of people who hold vocational driving entitlement for heavy goods vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles and those that are applying for the entitlement based on their conduct.
Other responsibilities of the TCs include: dealing with appeals against local authority proposals to implement a Quality Partnership Scheme; chairing Quality Contract Scheme Boards when a local authority proposes making a scheme; imposing Traffic Regulation Conditions when asked by a local authority to reduce or limit traffic congestion or noise / air pollution.
Traffic Commissioners will also rule on an application received from a person or company against the impounding of a vehicle being operated without the benefit of the appropriate operator’s licence.
The Traffic Commissioner for Scotland also has responsibility for devolved issues involving the Scottish Parking Appeals Service and appeals against contraventions of bus lanes. This work is funded through recharging the relevant Scottish local authorities.
The Local Transport Act 2008 introduced changes to the way in which Traffic Commissioner s engage with Government. The Framework Document – signed earlier this year - supports the drive to make the service provided by individual TCs more transparent, accessible and efficient, whilst ensuring fairness and trust, which lie s at the heart of the licensing system. The Document also aims to assist operators in understanding those relationships.
The VOSA Chief Executive is the Accounting Officer with responsibility for the provision and performance of TC support staff. The Head of the Office of the Traffic Commissioner (OTCAL) (a VOSA employee) is responsible for the provision of services to the Traffic Commissioners and reports to the Operations Director of VOSA. There are a total of 168.78 full time equivalents (fte) working to support the Traffic Commissioners, organised along the following lines:
The Central Licensing Office – based in Leeds - deal with applications for new licences and applications to vary licences, as well as updating records for changes of address, etc. There are 82.17 full time equivalent (fte) staff in this office and they are structured into teams each with a defined responsibility of support they provide to Traffic Commissioners.
The Offices of the Traffic Commissioner (OTCs) – see below - support the Traffic Commissioners in their regulatory functions regarding operators and drivers. This primarily involves processing cases for public inquiries, including carrying out administrative duties.
The OTC locations and staffing are as follows:
South Eastern and Metropolitan
Current licences - 2011/12
Applications for licences and variations to licences in 2011/12
5762 (New GV)
7994 GV Variations
656 (New PSV)
998 (PSV Variations)
Work of the Traffic Commissioners and their deputies on public inquiries in 2011/12
972 (Deputy TCs)
Currently licence applications are reduced from recent levels. Whilst this has reduced the volumes of work on this specific activity, it has not reduced the volumes of work on variations and other activities – and in fact the volumes of those are increasing. This is presenting challenges in funding the licensing activities.
Delegation and Statutory Guidance and Directions
It is impracticable for the Traffic Commissioners to personally make all decisions in the exercise of their functions. Staff in the OTCAL are therefore awarded delegated authority to make decisions on behalf of the Traffic Commissioner for certain functions or within certain parameters. This delegation is granted under the terms of the Deregulation and Contracting-Out Act 1994. Delegation is awarded to named staff once the Traffic Commissioner is satisfied that they are competent to fulfil the role and make decisions on their behalf. The work carried out under delegated authority is regularly and routinely audited by OTCAL managers with the results available to Traffic Commissioners. Certain functions, such as calling a public inquiry, are not delegated.
Bus Punctuality Enforcement
VOSA’s bus punctuality work for Traffic Commissioners is funded by the Department and the Scottish Government rather than through fees. The approach to this work changed in 2011 following the recommendations of the Bus Punctuality Working Group, formed from stakeholders to develop a more effective punctuality regime. The changes required VOSA to move away from an enforcement role which focused solely on proving an operator was at fault into one that focused on facilitating improvement, promoting prevention and taking a more proactive approach to punctuality issues. The shift in approach also reflected new powers of Traffic Commissioners to hold local authorities, as well as operators, to account for the poor punctuality levels.
In practical terms, this has seen VOSA moving the work from a small dedicated team of around 16 bus compliance monitors, into the mainstream activities of around 65 enforcement examiners, who for part of their time provide a greater physical presence on the ground and a higher skill level, for a similar level of funding.
The new approach has meant that VOSA activities are;
· Concentrated on undertaking visits to operators and local authorities, investigating complaints as well as providing an educational and advisory role.
· Aimed at promoting, and facilitating, partnership working between operators and local authorities.
· Allowing partnerships to resolve issues between themselves where possible, but following up to ensure that this is happening.
· Continuing to take an enforcement role and referring the more serious cases to the Traffic Commissioner, particularly where other avenues for improvement have failed.
· Carrying out monitoring exercises where required, for example where evidence is required to support a public inquiry.
· Checking (and investigating where necessary) operator processes and records for making claims for Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG);
· Taking a wider view of a bus operation beyond punctuality, e.g. drivers’ hours systems, checking that appropriate processes are in place ensuring the roadworthiness of vehicles etc.
It is still relatively early days to measure the success, or otherwise, in this area of work. However, over 500 bus operators have received a visit from a VOSA examiner since the introduction of the new scheme. Information provided by VOSA following investigations into claims for Bus Service Operator Grants has contributed to savings made by the DfT.
ANNEX 3 – HEAVY VEHICLE ENFORCEMENT
Purpose and Role
V OSA carries out enforcement of regulation s covering the operation of heavy and other commercial vehicles – goods and passenger carrying – both GB operated vehicles, and non-GB vehicles operated on GB roads. The primary driver for this enforcement is the support of the regulation of Operator’s Licensing across Europe – with the focus for enforcement of GB operators in support of Traffic Commissioners in discharging their regulatory duties.
The particular rules that VOSA enforce largely focus on road safety – but do also cover other objectives on protecting the environment, ensuring fair competition, protecting employees, protecting government revenue and, in a very limited way, reducing vehicle crime.
In 2011/12 VOSA carried out at the roadside and operators premises :
· approx. 80,000 mechanical checks of HGVs
· approx. 11,600 mechanical checks of PSVs
· approx. 100,100 HGV drivers hours checks
· approx. 8,400 PSV drivers hours checks
Scope of Enforcement
The main areas that VOSA has enforcement responsibility for are:
· Drivers’ Hours (and use of tachographs)
· Vehicle Roadworthiness
· Vehicle L oading – weight and load security
· Operator Licen s ing (including Cabotage and Combined Transport rules)
· Related scheme enforcement – Tachograph Calibration Centres, Tachograph Repair Scheme, Road-Speed-Limiter Scheme
· Working Time Directive
· Bus punctuality
· Other operator licensing requirements – also including driver conduct, transport managers, licence conditions & undertakings
· Other policy priorities – Drivers’ Certificate of Professional Competence, PSV Accessibility Regulations, Bus Service Operator Grant, Lorry Road User Charge, Driver Licensing
In addition to the enforcement of heavy vehicles, VOSA does have a limited responsibility – with limited funding - for in-use enforcement for other commercial vehicles – including Light Goods Vehicles, Taxis, Agricultural Vehicles and Mobile Plant (often collectively grouped under the LGV heading).
Approach to enforcement
VOSA’s enforcement strategy for enforcement is focussed on changing the performance of the highest risk operators. The delivery of the strategy consists of the following five key elements – targeting the worst offenders and helping other operators improve:
Targeted checks of vehicles in use
VOSA conducts checks of vehicles in service – with the primary purpose of delivering deterrence to offending, but ensuring that best efforts are made to target the non-compliant;
This predominately involves stopping the vehicle to check roadworthiness, drivers’ hours and licensing aspects;
Where possible use is made of technology to enable checks to be made remotely – particularly for weighing, vehicle over-speeds and potentially drivers’ hours – and in the longer term this should enable some infringements to be dealt with fully automatically without significant VOSA intervention.
All vehicle checks are targeted towards those operators believed to most likely to be non-compliant to minimise disruption to the compliant.
Checks are conducted across GB to provide national deterrence, with a large proportion of checks being conducted on routes where there are high volumes of traffic (and hence high numbers of non-compliant vehicles).
Action is taken to ensure that non-compliance is dealt with and any significant road safety is mitigated before a vehicle or driver continues their journey.
Where possible, checks are made highly visible, and the results of them publicised to maximise their deterrence value.
Targeted Follow-up Investigations
For GB operators, information from in-use checks (in GB or abroad), complaints, intelligence, Traffic Commissioners and/or other sources are used to prioritise operators to be visited "follow-up" investigations.
Such investigations, which increasingly do not involve a physical visit where only minor infringements have been detected, are to determine the effectiveness of an operator’s systems for managing compliance of the various areas that VOSA enforces.
The results of the follow-up work results in one or more of the following actions: no further action; advice provision, referral for further investigation, application of a sanction and/or provision of information to the Regulator (The Traffic Commissioner) for them to consider what they wish to do.
VOSA has a clear and systematic approach to the deployment of its more specialist investigative efforts – ensuring that these are directed towards the most serious offenders.
Application of Sanctions or Other Interventions
VOSA has a range of interventions available to the different entities that it conducts enforcement on – to ensure that improvement is best achieved and that regulatory efforts can be best focused on the worse offenders.
For drivers, these are primarily dealt with by fixed penalties – including the taking of deposits for those without a satisfactory GB address. Repeat and serious offenders are reported to Traffic Commissioners such that they can consider any driver conduct aspects.
For operators the current range of interventions available to VOSA is quite limited. For minor infringements these are dealt with by providing education and advice. Where failings in an operator’s systems are found these are reported to Traffic Commissioners to enable regulatory action. VOSA will take prosecution action where there is evidence of operator involvement in fraudulent activities.
In the longer term VOSA is working with DfT and TCs to consider whether there are any actions that it can take to deal with operators that have failings that will complement the Traffic Commissioner regime and better and efficiently achieve improvements in performance - and this could include the issuing of conditional offers to operators for minor offences (effectively a fixed penalty) and/or ensuring there is an appropriately high cost to non-compliance.
Reporting for Potential Regulatory Action
The results of all that VOSA does in relation to drivers, operators and transport managers are collated and presented to regulators.
For GB based entities this is to the Traffic Commissioner – enabling them to make decisions on what regulatory action they wish to take.
Information on offences found for non-GB EU operations is fed through to the home member state.
Provision of information, through partnership working, to improve compliance
VOSA provide clear information on legal requirements and how they apply – primarily through the internet. This will be done in a style that is readily understandable by the majority of GB vehicle operators – in plain English. These explanations of regulatory requirements are agreed with the main bodies representing the trade. VOSA will work with the trade to support them in providing information on how to comply with the law – including on best practice systems for managing compliance. This information is primarily now provided on-line – and covers key areas such as Drivers’ Hours and Roadworthiness. In recent years VOSA have produced a number of tailored ‘guides’ for specialist industry sectors that have suffered from particularly poor compliance rates – including Horseboxes, Limousines and (currently under preparation) Recovery Vehicles.
In its day to day enforcement activities VOSA examiners provide advice on potential areas for non-compliance and direct drivers, operators or transport managers to where further information may be available.
Enforcement – Current Focus
This section provides a brief note on the primary activities being improved in enforcement:
O perator C ompliance R isk S core (OCRS) This is the primary tool that VOSA use to target vehicles at roadside. The system was originally built to cover GB Operators only, but in recent years has been expanded to cover non-GB Operators – the data for that being built up from our checks on the vehicles. Whilst these systems have been recently enhanced we believe that there is still scope for further improvement to be made – this being important in ensuring that our roadside check efforts are best directed to deal with at risk vehicles – and that the burden on the compliant is minimised. Our efforts in the short term will concentrate on the addition of further data sources to the scoring mechanism – from both within VOSA and without. This is particularly of value for the ‘traffic’ (drivers’ hours and overloading) where the current data set is relatively limited. To that end changes have recently been made to how we record the outcomes of operator investigations to enable these to be included in the OCRS in the future. Other future changes may include the addition of some offence types not currently included in OCRS, the results of larger volume analysis of operator’s tachograph charts and the inclusion of the results of operator assessments conducted from organisations outside of VOSA.
GB Operator Priori ti sation VOSA currently have a wide range of views of an operator’s performance that can be used to help operational managers determine where best to direct their efforts towards in terms of further investigating an operator’s compliance management systems – with a view to providing information for Traffic Commissioners to determine any necessary regulatory action. It is important that VOSA directs its efforts towards the ‘right’ operators – those that appear to be presenting the highest risk to road users as informed by the results of roadchecks (be that serious offences and/or repeat less serious offences), intelligence or direction from Traffic Commissioners – to ensure that Traffic Commissioners are presented with information on these operators, rather than those that perhaps have less serious failings. To that end, VOSA is improving the way that information is collated and presented internally to ensure that there is a systematic and clear process for prioritising these ‘follow-up’ activities. This will ensure that VOSA does investigate the ‘worst’ operators and that Traffic Commissioners have the results of such investigations.
Road-check Sites The majority of VOSA’s road checks are conducted at government owned sites around the country. Whilst in the longer term there are aspirations that an increased proportion of our checks may be able to be conducted at non-government owned sites (for example at motorway service areas) it is recognised that for higher volume check-sites these are unlikely to be able to be provided by such means – and therefore it is assumed that VOSA will need to retain a reasonably substantial network of its own sites. At the same time it is noted that the current network of sites does not fully match current and projected heavy vehicle traffic flows – and that some adjustments are required to the network to ensure that. Therefore VOSA have in place plans to add four new sites to the network – which are strategically placed and have modern facilities suitable for conducting high quality, high volume vehicle checks. Those sites are planned to be cover the following routes (which are all gaps in our current network or ones where our current facilities are inadequate): A75 from Stranraer ports (Glenluce), M3/A34 (Chilcomb), A14 from Felixstowe and Harwich ports (Elmswell) and M20 from Dover and the Channel Tunnel (Ashford). It is intended that all four of these sites will be commissioned in 2013. In parallel to delivering these new sites VOSA are reviewing the legacy network of check-sites with a view to ensuring that it is focused around areas of significant high risk heavy vehicle traffic flow – and this is resulting in some rationalisation of these facilities.
Compliance from the Record & ‘Back Office’ Analysis VOSA recognised that its roadside checks can only ever deal with a relatively low proportion of heavy vehicle journeys and whilst it is working to ensure that it maximises road-check numbers and the targeting of those, it is also working in a number of ways in making use of technology to increase the number of enforcement ‘touch points’. One area of focus is around moving towards being able to conduct a level of enforcement ‘from the record’ Efforts so far have concentrated on using data from VOSA’s Weigh-in-Motion sensors (located at 9 locations on the strategic road network) to detect overloaded vehicles remotely and to make compliance interventions from that data. It is still early days in this project and there are a number of technical difficulties that still need resolving, but we believe we can have a production service available shortly. In addition we expect to set up similar services to deal with vehicles travelling above their set speed and for other areas that can be detected remotely. In parallel to the work to enable us to deal with offences remotely we are also conducting work to establish a function to process bulk data in a ‘back-office’ environment to support our front-line activities. In particular it is intended to use this for tachograph analysis (primarily of digital records) which will better inform our view of operators to help us direct any further enforcement activities – as well as having positive benefits in meeting EU obligations for numbers of tachograph charts checked.
A utomatic N umber P late R ecognition (ANPR) Cameras VOSA uses ANPR cameras in a number of applications to help it target at-risk vehicles. One of the main applications is a network of fixed cameras that support its key strategic sites. These cameras currently operate as stand-alone pieces of equipment, and this does not make them as easy to operate as could be possible – and VOSA therefore have plans to link these to its network. This will ensure that they have access to the most up-to-date databases, and will also make collection of data to use for enforcement from the record or other back-office analysis purposes much more straightforward. It is also a key enabler to the checking of compliance with the HGV Levy requirements – which will be delivered later in 2013 (covered in a later section).
Interconnection As part of the new EU legislation VOSA is building a link between its own systems and those of its EU counterparts. This is to enable information that VOSA has on infringements on foreign vehicles to be notified to the home authority and vice versa – and will build on the work already conducted on establishing the national registers across the EU. This interconnection will better facilitate other member states taking action where their operators do not meet the requirements – and should also better enable VOSA to understand which member states are better enacting their regulatory responsibilities.
I have no comment, I am buggerd if If I would read that lot!