The enforcement activities of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) - Transport Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) was created in 2003 as a result of the merger of the Vehicle Inspectorate and the Traffic Area Network Division within the Department for Transport. VOSA is an Executive Agency under the auspices of the DfT. Its primary functions are to enforce current legislation and standards for heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles by means of licensing and testing. In doing so, the aims are to improve road safety and environmental standards and to ensure fair competition in the road haulage and passenger transport industries. VOSA is responsible for:

a)  supporting the work of the Traffic Commissioners relating to operator licensing for public service vehicles (PSVs)[1] and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)[2] as well as PSV registrations;

b)  administering and supervising vehicle testing schemes, including the MOT test;

c)  enforcing vehicle standards and drivers' hours for HGVs and PSVs via annual and spot checks;

d)  administering the Single Vehicle Approval Scheme (SVA)[3] and the Vehicle Identity Check Scheme (VIC)[4];

e)  providing training and educational advice for commercial operators and drivers, and

f)  investigating vehicle defects and recalls, assisting the police with accident investigations., and conducting research related to these functions.[5]

2.  VOSA's work is closely intertwined with that of the seven Traffic Commissioners, each of whom oversees a regional traffic area.[6] Traffic Commissioners are responsible for the licensing of operators of heavy good vehicles (HGVs) and public service vehicles (PSVs), and for determining whether applicants for PSV and HGV licences are fit persons to hold such licences. Traffic Commissioners also play a key role in the registration and regulation of local bus services and the granting and revocation of vocational licences to drivers as well as permits to operators of not-for-profit community transport services. Finally, the Traffic Commissioners hear appeals against the impounding by VOSA of illegally-operated goods vehicles.

3.  VOSA has been in operation for some six years, and we last looked at the performance of this agency as part of a wider inquiry into the Driver and Vehicle Operator Group of agencies four years ago.[7] Since then, there have been several changes to the Agency's working practices and some shifts in its responsibilities. This inquiry therefore takes a timely look at the effectiveness of VOSA's enforcement activities, with particular emphasis on roadside enforcement checks and annual testing for PSVs and HGVs. Our report on VOSA's enforcement work is published alongside our report on Taxes and charges on road users[8] which also contains important recommendations affecting the HGV sector. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has given evidence, both in writing and in person, and to the staff of the VOSA inspection site at Leatherhead, which the Chairman visited.

1   A public Service Vehicle (PSV) is a vehicle that is used to carry passengers in return for a fee. Busses and other vehicles with room for more than eight passengers are defined as large PSVs. Taxis, small minibuses or hackney carriages able to carry less than eight passengers are small PSVs. Back

2   Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), also known as large goods vehicles (LGVs), are goods vehicles weighing in excess of 3.5 tonnes. Back

3   Checks that single vehicles brought into the UK without having been type-approved to British or European standards, it complies with UK legislation. Back

4   A scheme that seeks to prevent car 'ringing', whereby stolen cars are passed off as having been repaired following an accident. Back

5  Back

6   The role of Traffic Commissioners was established under the Road Traffic Act 1960 and they are appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport. With the implementation of the Local Transport Act 2008, one Traffic Commissioner, Philip Brown, has been elevated to the new statutory function of Senior Traffic Commissioner. Mr Brown had held the position of non-statutory Senior Traffic Commissioner since March 2003. The Senior Traffic Commissioner is responsible for encouraging consistency in the procedures and decisions on licensing of the seven independent Commissioners. Back

7   Transport Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2005-06, The work of the Department for Transport's Agencies - Driver and Vehicle Operator Group and the Highways Agency, HC 907 Back

8   Transport Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2008-09, Taxes and charges on road users, HC 103, July 2009 Back

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