Planned motoring services reforms to address fleet needs
The 27-page document has been published following consultation and covers a range of services provided by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
Of particular interest to fleets is a focus on further developing relationships with commercial clients. The document quotes BVRLA figures saying “Fleet operators are responsible for a combined fleet of 3.8 million cars, vans and trucks, and for buying around half of all new vehicles sold in the UK” and added that a consistent message from the professional bodies representing some of the motoring services agencies' commercial users is that the services on offer are not always designed with fleet managers in mind.
In response, the DfT said it’s committed to strengthening the relationship between the agencies and their corporate users at a practical level, and that it will engage broadly with industry practitioners, to ensure that the services on offer meet the needs of all users.
Measures include the appointment of a corporate services manager to champion the needs of commercial customers while the DVSA will continue to work with commercial users, the Traffic Commissioners and other stakeholders to develop a new, more efficient operator licensing and compliance system, with additional self service functions.
It also explored LGV training and licence acquisition, acknowledging the current driver shortage. In response, the document says part of the way to address this shortage lies in ensuring an efficient path for trainees through to their test, with measures to commit to timely test slot availability to be applied to vocational tests as well as private drivers, and plans to examine the possibility of allowing for separation of the on-road and manoeuvring components to make best use of LGV test slots. The DfT will examine how to raise the professionalism of LGV instructors.
The strategy also notes how DVSA will roll out a new Operator Excellence scheme for trusted fleet operators, based on its earned recognition pilot scheme.
The DfT has also addressed digital services and said it’s working to introduce commercial digital channels for access to DVLA and DVSA services (including the Traffic Commissioners' Operator Licensing and Compliance System).
The document also sets out details for reforms on fitness to drive, including the review of DVLA’s Driver Medical Group and the development of a DVLA web application which will enable customers to provide details online.
The strategy also suggested the DVLA and DVSA’s contact centres would merge.
Other areas include proposals to modernise the practical driving test and plans to evolve it to more closely reflect real-world driving with a commitment to look at the law regarding motorway driving lessons
And the document says the DfT will work with the insurance industry to encourage links between safe driving and lower premiums, especially for younger drivers.
In response to the document, BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “When we responded to the consultation in January this year, we urged the Government to think about fleets as well as customers. It is therefore pleasing to see Lord Ahmad pledge to work with commercial fleets and drivers to promote best practice.
“We welcome the news that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will work to introduce new improved digital channels for accessing their services. We will be pushing for this to include the ability for fleets to pay Vehicle Excise Duty for multiple years, and to apply for bulk refunds online.”
In response to the new Operator Excellence scheme for trusted fleet operators, Keaney said: “We are glad to see this scheme expanded and look forward to hearing more details of how the agency will work with industry-led initiatives including the BVRLA Code of Conduct, Van Excellence and the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme.”
Keaney added one word of caution: “While the strategy is to be welcomed, we are concerned that budget cuts could in particular damage the agencies’ ability to innovate with new digital fleet services, and their ability to deliver programmes they have already committed. The BVRLA will be lobbying to ensure these projects are delivered within the already agreed timescales.”