Government motoring agencies - the user perspective - Transport Committee Contents

2  Service delivery

Effect of structural reorganisation on service users

4. The motoring agencies are introducing digital services and undergoing a period of organisational change.[6] These changes have the potential to affect the services that the agencies provide to the public, businesses and enforcement agencies.

5. The DVLA is required by the Treasury to reduce its operating costs by £100 million a year by the end of 2014-15 against a 2010-11 baseline. It is committed to achieving significant cost savings through the increased digitisation of services, and the closure of local offices and a move towards a centralised operation. By March 2014 over £70m had been realised and the DVLA is confident it will meet the target, which will represent a real cost reduction of more than 20%.[7] Oliver Morley, Chief Executive of the DVLA, told us that the organisation had made considerable expenditure reductions, both by reducing the local office network and also in some initial savings on the non-staff cost areas.[8] He was confident the DVLA could maintain the quality of the services it provided despite a reduction in expenditure. The then Minister told us that the DVLA was embarking on a major programme of IT transformation to deliver new and better services online. He added that the DVLA was committed to achieving £160 million of net savings on 2013-14 by the end of 2016-17, a figure he described as "a 30% efficiency saving over the next three years".[9] The DfT has recently published a review of the DVLA, prepared by Mary Reilly, a non-executive Director of the DfT. This recommended an acceleration and expansion of the DVLA's digital transformation in order to cut costs further and improve services.[10]

6. The DVSA was established in April 2014, following the merger of the DSA and VOSA.[11] The agency plans to recruit a permanent board in 2014 and will move to a single headquarters.[12] Alistair Peoples, Chief Executive of the DVSA, said that the DVSA had maintained front-line service delivery throughout the reorganisation and had taken 'great pains' to ensure merger issues were not visible to customers.[13] The changes have been broadly welcomed. Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport for Transport for London (TfL), thought the merger of DSA and VOSA had much promise and would improve communication, leading to a better relationship for TfL with the DVSA.[14] Stephen Smith, Operations Director, Confederation of Passenger Transport, said some benefits from the merger—a change of attitude and policy—were already visible.[15] The DVSA has started conducting annual roadworthiness testing of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) at Authorised Testing Facilities (ATFs) rather than at government-owned sites. The DfT recognised this change could reduce fuel costs and lost time for vehicle operators.[16] Alistair Peoples explained how the DVSA was working with the industry to forecast future volumes of tests and what facilities would be needed.[17] The DfT expects the DVSA to look at a similar model of authorised facilities for driving tests.

7. The VCA operates in a commercially competitive environment and offers its services as an approval authority overseas. It also offers management systems certification—quality assurance for automotive companies.[18] As well as its operations in the UK the VCA has a network of offices overseas. For example, the office in Italy provides type approval certification services to multi-national automotive companies and to smaller supply chain companies in Southern Europe, particularly in Spain, Portugal and Turkey. The VCA is looking to set up an office in Brazil.[19] The DfT is exploring options for the VCA to operate under a new commercial model and is looking for a private sector partner to help run and develop the VCA.[20] Stephen Hammond, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, told us the Vehicle Certification Agency had an international reputation for its work on certifying vehicles and that a private sector partner would help the VCA to realise opportunities to work in other countries more quickly.[21] The DfT had intended to begin this process by issuing an OJEU notice in autumn 2013[22] but this was not issued until March 2014.[23]

8. Not all those submitting evidence supported the changes. The Confederation of Passenger Transport explained how the closure of local DVLA offices had a potentially costly impact on bus and coach operators.[24] The AA, while generally supportive of the changes, was concerned about losing the skills and experience of DVLA staff when local branches close.[25] John Lepine, General Manager, Motor Schools Association of Great Britain, told us that there were 'not many DSA staff left at director level [in the DVSA]; they are all VOSA people'.[26]

9. Several witnesses called on the Government to go further and to create, in effect, a 'one stop shop' to improve service and avoid unnecessary costs and duplication. Karen Dee, from the Freight Transport Association, said more could be done to overcome a lack of joined up thinking. She thought the system as a whole was not coherent, and the lack of coherence imposed unnecessary costs.[27] Her evidence reinforced similar points made in the written evidence we received from the BRVLA, which called for:

·  a review of the responsibilities of the Government motoring agencies to remove duplication;

·  a move to electronic services as a priority for all aspects of motor vehicle administration;

·  the introducing the ability to purchase VED for multiple years;

·  a wholesale review of HGV testing to ensure that Authorised Testing Facilities are a long term success;

·  a review of access to MOT test data and wider distinction of vehicle type to improve road safety and provide greater data transparency;

·  measures to ensure that the impact of cutting costs within Government was a win for businesses as well as for the taxpayer.[28]

10. The Department for Transport explained the structure of the motoring services agencies was guided by the principles of putting customers and businesses at the heart of what they do.[29] The Department wants to reduce the number of agencies with which customers have to deal and wants to make their approaches more uniform and consistent.[30] The Department would also like to see greater sharing and less duplication of functions across the agencies. It told us it believes that "the customer experience should be streamlined wherever possible"; for example through sharing estate and back office services to reduce overheads and benefit customers.[31] However, DfT did not offer any broader vision for the delivery of motoring services or the involvement of the private sector in the delivery of such services. For example, there are areas of DVLA's responsibilities that may make an attractive business for the private sector—the sale of registration plates being an obvious one.

11. The Government's mixed approach to reforming the motoring agencies is clearly aimed at improving the customer experience and targeting specific inefficiencies in individual agencies. This is laudable and it is important that the Government monitors the outcomes of reform of the motoring agencies to ensure the expected benefits are realised. We see little evidence of a holistic long-term strategy, however, and it is not clear, for example why organisational change is the DVSA's focus, while efficiency savings are the order of the day at DVLA, and VCA is undertaking a complex procurement to find a private sector partner. Nor is it clear how this mix of different approaches in the agencies will allow a common approach to back office services through the shared services programme and a common approach to digital services for end users. We recommend that the Government make clear its long term agenda for change by setting out clearly its overall strategy for provision of motoring services. This should cover all its motoring agencies, demonstrate how the strategy will make services more unified and deliver efficiencies and cost savings, and set out a timeline for the further changes needed to bring about a more unified approach. It should also justify the different approaches it is promoting for the three agencies and explain the impact the Department's work on shared services will have on the agencies. The Department should consider whether it needs three separate agencies to achieve the streamlined, largely electronic services it provides. We would like the Government to expand on its plans for private sector involvement in the provision of motoring services and how it sees the long term future for its agencies as monopoly public service providers. The Government should also make clear the extent to which efficiency savings will benefit both the users of services through reduced costs and fees, and the general taxpayer in the form of savings to the Exchequer.

12. The DVSA should provide us with a reassurance that the wealth of experience built up by its vehicle inspectors, examiners and other staff is not being lost in the course of the merger and the changes it is making to authorised testing facilities. Similarly, the DVLA should provide us with a reassurance that it is managing the risks around the loss of knowledge and experience as it closes local branches.

13. We are concerned about the six-month delay in issuing the OJEU notice for the VCA's private sector partner and seek assurances from the Government that a partner will be announced on schedule in January 2015. If there are any further delays to plans to recruit a private sector partner for the VCA, we would expect the Government to write to us.

Support for businesses

14. The DVLA and DVSA provide services to both individuals and businesses. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) told us that the agencies' focus on delivering effective services to individuals often created difficulties for business users, fleet operators and those who employ drivers.[32] Further, there is no incentive to improve matters because commercial road fleet operators are a relatively small part of the DVLA's customer base.[33] Specific concerns included:

·  agencies not understanding how their systems create inefficiencies for fleet businesses;

·  delays caused by the requirement to register and tax vehicles through the DVLA rather than through the dealership, as previously possible; and

·  difficulties for bus owners arising from the time it takes DVLA to re-instate driving licences.[34]

Karen Dee told us that if a company was trying to relicense 500 vehicles it would need to do them one at a time, incurring a £2.50 charge for each one. The lack of support for bulk transaction imposes financial and time costs on businesses.[35] She also pointed out that DVSA systems with the vehicle test data needed for relicensing was in a separate system.

15. The FTA recommended some solutions to help tackle these issues, to prevent further problems arising in the future and to anticipate difficulties before they arose. These included:

·  establishing a cross-agency champion for business and fleet users;

·  establishing a long-term plan for a 'one-stop-shop' for driver and vehicle information and services; and

·  developing a consolidated plan for world standard e-services 'on a par with online retail providers'.[36]

16. The DfT said its agencies continually monitored service delivery and regularly sought customer insight.[37] The DVLA and DVSA respond effectively to the needs of individuals, who usually undertake only two or three transactions each year but account for the bulk of the agencies' business. However, on the basis of the evidence we received they do not adequately meet the needs of businesses, some of whom undertake hundreds of vehicle or driver transactions in each year. The agencies need to develop a better understanding of the needs of their business users, particularly small fleet owners and operators who play an important part in economic prosperity. We recommend that DVLA and DVSA develop specific strategies for responding to the needs of business customers. In setting out a longer-term strategy for the future of its motoring agencies, the Government should consider the needs of business users as well as those of individual motorists.


17. Anyone wishing to drive a heavy goods vehicle HGV for a living needs to hold an HGV licence and pass the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC). The CPC for professional drivers was introduced as a result of European Directive 2003/59/EC,[38] which was intended to:

    ... improve road safety, to improve the professionalism and the quality of service offered by professional drivers and to facilitate the free movement of workers.[39]

All new professional HGV drivers must pass an initial qualification, and all existing professional HGV drivers must take periodic training on a five-yearly cycle. The requirements to pass an initial qualification were introduced on 10 September 2009 and existing drivers will have to have undertaken the first round of training by 9 September 2014.[40]

18. Several witnesses doubted the Driver CPC was delivering the benefits expected of it. Beverley Bell, Senior Traffic Commissioner for Great Britain, told us that the quality of training of a "small percentage" of companies was poor and failed to engage drivers.[41] Leon Daniels, from TFL, told us

    I could have got my driver CPC by going to the same course in the same office on five consecutive days and sitting through the same syllabus […] It is entirely inappropriate that there is a shortcut that allows people to get their driver CPC in that way.[42]

19. Adrian Jones, National Officer for Road Transport, Commercial, Logistics and Retail Distribution, Unite the Union, made the same point in his evidence and added this was of "no benefit to the driver, the employer or the industry".[43] He also said the training was sometimes little more than attendance at an event and little engagement in the content of the course was required.[44] TfL called for greater transparency so that transport managers could view the modules taken by each of their drivers. They argued that this would encourage drivers to make less arbitrary choices on which training modules to take, while also increasing professionalism in the industry. They said the Safe Urban Driving course—a TfL-developed course aimed at drivers operating in or passing through London and intended to lower the risk to vulnerable road users, including cyclists—should be mandatory.[45] In our inquiry on cycling safety, British Cycling called for cycle awareness training to be made a mandatory part of the CPC.[46]

20. The then Minister told us he was aware of the concerns that the CPC might allow a repetition of the same training every year but argued that responsible hauliers would understand the need to ensure their drivers maintained their professional competence. He said the Department was in the process of reviewing the CPC regulations; this included whether there should be a safety element within the driver CPC.[47]

21. If businesses and drivers must commit time and resource to mandatory training then that training must be worthwhile and effective. At the present time this is not the case. We welcomed the proposals made by the Government in November 2013 when it reported to the European Commission on the effectiveness of the CPC and called for more flexibility and for the training to take account of other road users, particularly cyclists.[48] But under the current regulations the Government could not add modules on vulnerable road users to the Driver CPC or compel drivers to select them. If the Government unilaterally amended regulations to make such modules compulsory drivers from other countries using roads in the UK would not have equivalent training. For that reason, we recommend that the Government lobby the European Commission to introduce an amending Directive to require the inclusion of a compulsory new training module in the Driver CPC focused on vulnerable road users.

6   Department for Transport (GMA0010) Back

7   DVLA, DVLA's annual report 2013 to 2014 June 2014 [accessed 1 September 2014] Back

8   Q111 Back

9   Q173 Back

10   Department for Transport, A review of DVLA, January 2014 [accessed 1 September 2014] Back

11   In Northern Ireland, the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) remains responsible for services provide elsewhere by the DVSA. Back

12   Q129 Back

13   Q115 Back

14   Q82 [Leon Daniels] Back

15   Q32 Back

16   Department for Transport (GMA0010) Back

17   Q129 Back

18   VCA, Management systems certification [accessed 1 September 2014] Back

19   Q187 Back

20   Q188 Back

21   Q187 Back

22   VCA, Vehicle Certification Agency new commercial models prior information notice, July 2013 [accessed 1 September 2014] Back

23   DfT and VCA, VCA new commercial models: OJEU notice, March 2014 [accessed 1 September 2014]  Back

24   Q39 Back

25   Automobile Association (GMA0006), para 3.3 Back

26   Q33 and Q34 Back

27   Q6 Back

28   BVRLA (GMA0007) Back

29   Department for Transport (GMA0010) Back

30   Department for Transport (GMA0010) Back

31   Department for Transport (GMA0010), para 31 Back

32   Freight Transport Association (GMA0015) Back

33   Q13 [Karen Dee] Back

34   Q37 [Mr Parmar], also see Q7 [Ms Dee];Q38; and Unite the Union (GMA0009) Back

35   Q7 Back

36   Freight Transport Association (GMA0015) Back

37   Department for Transport (GMA0010) Back

38   European Directive 2003/59/EC which was brought into effect by the Vehicle Drivers (Certificates of Professional Competence) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/605) Back

39   DSA, Certificates of Professional Competence for professional lorry and bus drivers - partial RIA, November 2005, para 2.1.1 Back

40   For bus and coach (PSV) drivers these dates were 10 September 2008 and 9 September 2013 respectively Back

41   Q101 Back

42   Q98 Back

43   Q25 Back

44   Q26 Back

45   Transport for London (GMA0017) Back

46   Transport Committee, Third Report of Session 2014-15, Cycling safety, HC 286, para 17 Back

47   Q181 Back

48   Department for Transport, UK Government response to the European Commission's call for evidence and review of Directive 2003/59/EC on the initial qualification and period training of drivers of certain road vehicles for the carriage of goods or passengers, 20 November 2013 [accessed 1 September 2014] Back

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Prepared 7 October 2014