Good news: VOSA & DSA to merge in 2014

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Alastair Peoples will become CEO for both VOSA and the DSA
Alastair Peoples will become CEO for both VOSA and the DSA

Move gains backing of CPT and FTA, removing ‘non-customer-focused DSA’

Roads Safety Minister Stephen Hammond announced last week that VOSA and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) are to merge into a single agency which will bring together their testing and standards services.

Alastair Peoples, VOSA Chief Executive, will become CEO for the two agencies and will oversee their strategic operations towards a full merger over the next year. DSA Chief Executive Rosemary Thew is to leave the Civil Service on June 30.

Alastair Peoples explained: “The aim is to remove duplication of functions, improve efficiency and give our customers a simpler framework of agencies in which to work with. I will now begin the process of working with staff and stakeholders to develop proposals to combine the work of VOSA and DSA.”

The announcement was welcomed by Karen Dee, the FTA’s Director of Policy, who said:

“FTA supports any move which can deliver improved services and better value for money for its members, and we can certainly see some potential for this in the proposed merger of DSA and VOSA. For example, if this allows Transport Managers to check their OCRS scores at the same time as their drivers’ DCPC status that would be a big step forward. However, we will be looking very carefully at the detail behind this to ensure benefits such as this are delivered.”

CPT’s CEO Simon Posner told CBW: “We (CPT) responded on behalf of the industry to the DfT’s consultation earlier in the year, and we are pleased to see some of our recommendations have come to pass.

“The move will make the process of dealing with these agencies much easier for operators and we are hopeful it may lead to a reduction in the fees they pay.”

During the consultation, CPT was full of praise about VOSA and the successful implementation of ATFs but by contrast, it was critical of the DSA’s “lack of customer focus.”

The trade body said: “The DSA is not so responsive and at times it is a struggle to obtain answers regarding daily operational problems or for it to engage effectively with the industry to discuss future strategic issues and where current policy is detrimental and an administrative burden to the efficient daily operation of bus and coach services in the UK.”

Indeed, CPT was particularly critical of DSA’s decision to remove the Delegated Examiner (DE) status from PCV operators due to not meeting the minimum number of driving tests, primarily because of the current economic climate. CPT described the move as “an excellent example of DSA being out of touch with its consumers and their business requirements. When the economy improves the ability of the PCV industry to recruit, train and test new bus and coach drivers will be severely delayed as a result of this draconian action by DSA. The continual drive to gold plate the EU Driver CPC directive in spite of industry and training provider objections only seeks to add administrative and cost burdens on industry.”

Calling for the industry to deliver PCV driving tests directly through “a revised delegated examiner testing regime rather than having to be reliant on DSA examiners and test stations,” CPT said this could be achieved easily through a reduction in the minimum number of tests required to obtain a DE status.

“The ability to carry out tests for operators would reduce the administrative and cost burden on the industry and encourage new drivers into the industry as it would be easier for the unemployed to be trained and tested rather than having to fund the PCV licence acquisition themselves, which at over £3k can be prohibitive to many on unemployment benefit. This would meet the Governments Policy objectives of helping the unemployed into work and the DWP/JCP/CPT Sector-based work academies is an excellent example of this.”

CPT also called for “consideration” to be given to creating one body to deliver licensing and testing of drivers and another dealing with vehicle certification, testing and roadside enforcement. “This could be achieved through the merger of DVLA and the Certification Agency,” it said.

Last but by no means least, CPT said: “One area which would significantly benefit bus and coach operators and would not compromise road safety given the maintenance undertakings given by operators as part of the O-licensing regime would be if the requirement for PSVs to have an annual test was extended for new vehicles to be tested two years after date of first registration and then annually thereafter.”