Motoring services strategy: consultation

The Department for Transport’s three motoring services agencies are seeking your views on on the whole range of the various agencies’ activities:

Link to website

Essentially the consultation is seeking responses to 25 questions. DIDU chair Barry Kenward asks all DIDU members and any other interested parties to respond. Barry’s response is here:

User experience

  1. As we change the practical driving test to ensure it reflects the modern driving experience, what views do respondents have about how we can maintain standards and give candidates clear information about the competencies tested in the driving test? (para 2.4)

 

It would help if testing followed the advice of the Highway Code in that pulling up on the right (save for a One Way Street) and then moving away again into the face of oncoming traffic – which in itself is not a safe exercise – was scrapped. Just because drivers do it, contrary to good safety advice from many quarters does not make it safe nor does it want to be encouraged with the DVSA seal of approval.

 

Drivers can be taught to pull up on the right, reverse around a corner to the right and then consider moving out from that junctions as a turn right which is much safer.

 

  1. Driving tests might be offered from a wide range of venues. What factors should be considered in deciding on these? (para 2.7)

 

The premises are suitable, unlike an LGV new test centre that is coming on line where articulated vehicles will have great difficulty in getting in and out as the entrance is too small.

 

Test centres are getting further and further apart removing the “convenience” and “safe” aspects of what this consultation and Ministers have promised. This increases costs to pupils and clients alike, not decreases it.

 

There is also the aspect of large companies providing services of driver testing who also provide driver training. Concern is being expressed about those companies giving priorities to their own customers and making others wait in line, causing potentially long waiting times.

 

  1. We are interested to hear whether respondents would be willing to pay extra for more flexibility of driving test slots, both in terms of timing and location.(para 2.8)

 

Extra money is already paid for Saturday driver testing for cars (£13) and considerably more for other classes of vehicle[1]  

Currently lessons are taught for a majority of pupils in the dark, however testing is not undertaken during the dark, and examiners are concerned about examining in the dark with the inherent problems that brings.  This, surely, is something that must be overcome first before any consideration is given to making additional charges for out of office hours testing in the dark.

 

Having test slots available at test centres guaranteed without being ‘cancelled due to circumstances beyond their control’ and test centres conveniently situated as this consultation indicates is one of its aims, would be nice.  The shambles that is ‘waiting times’ is killing this industry, especially those who no longer have a convenient centre to take their tests at.

 

  1. What could be done to ensure that candidates are better prepared for their practical test? (para 2.10)

 

A good start would be to ensure only qualified persons provide a foundation of driver education before private practice is allowed to take place (which IS an important element of young peoples development); if private practice is available to them.

 

Consideration to a minimum number of hours or over all four seasons to provide the widest foundation in all conditions.  All lessons need not necessarily be paid for lessons from an ADI.

 

Only allow short courses; 1 to 4 week courses for other than absolute beginners. Although some absolute novices may be able to reach test standards within this time, there is no time to experience those elements that are often gained post test, usually by trial and error; or for that experience to develop into deep seated knowledge and understanding of how to deal with any situation that might be put a new drivers way.

 

A more structured method of teaching (Graduated Licensing System if you like) should be developed and adopted in the name of better road safety.

 

  1. What opportunities and risks would respondents see in alternative delivery models for aspects of the practical test?

(para 2.12)

 

If Privatisation of practical testing were to be considered (as seems to be the case from 2.14 – the way its written seems like it is a foregone conclusion) then companies who work in partnership or as a completely independent delivery company of the practical driving test will have just one thing in mind! PROFIT! 

 

They will have a duty to their share holders first and foremost. Other considerations will take a back seat; including road safety, even though this will be denied, as any decent business person will firstly look to “What’s in it for me.”

 

The NHS has tried this in the shape of ‘Circle Health’ at Hinchenbrooks Hospital, Cambridgeshire, which failed after nearly three years of a ten year contract, handing the hospital back and walking away[2].  What reassurances would be put in place to ensure such a thing would not, or could not happen with such an important provision?

 

The consideration of “Cash Back” based on a deposit being repaid should the pupil pass first time, having been better prepared is a pretty sure bet of little take up due to the method of marking (CHI).  There are far too many variables to be taken into consideration. This is nothing more than a gimmick! 

 

Even if it were to be considered, there is no indication what the deposit would be; what the balance would be; would it be a greater sum than the current £62 for a standard day time test? Is this a back door method of increasing fees?

  1. What factors are likely to attract potential partners to provide a practical driving test service? (para 2.14)

 

PROFIT first and foremost. Ensuring their shareholders are being catered for. This is the wrong way to go. An agency that actually understands the management of people and the task they have been set is what is needed. Any sensible company would not touch this provision with a barge pole in the same way as ‘Circle Health’ found out too late.

 

  1. What are the most important linkages we should make to streamlining the LGV driver licensing process, while ensuring standards are maintained? (para 2.17)

 

Better incentivised staff, who have good customer service backgrounds would be a start.

 

  1. Do respondents believe that the on – road and manoeuvring components of the LGV driving test could be conducted separately and be of benefit to the haulage industry? (para 2.19)

 

It might prove popular to split the manoeuvres and the on – road driving elements, just as the theory and HPT elements are split.

 

It could help potential clients, albeit, costs might increase to accommodate administration and booking processes. If this additional cost were to be absorbed by the User, if they felt it would help, then it could be a good adjustment to the system.  It is no different to taking and passing modules of an exam, where each element stands alone and is passed in order.

 

However; an even playing field should be in place for all categories of client. When this was put forward as an idea for both theory and practical testing for cars; the response provided was that it was too expensive to do it for car and bike pupils. 

 

  1. We would be interested to hear suggestions on how the Drivers Medical service might resolve cases more quickly. (para 2.23)

 

Better incentivised staff, who have good customer service backgrounds would be a start.

 

  1. What more can we do to meet the needs of users, so that vehicle testing services could continue to meet industry’s needs? (para 2.25)

 

I am not involved with this part of the industry and feel I have no input to make.

 

 

  1. Would an expansion in the number of LGV testers to include private sector testers be welcomed? Does industry have the appetite and capability to provide such an expansion? (para 2.27)

If the agency allows driver testing by some of the larger private companies who can show they have a large number of vehicle drivers, can be tested, then it might follow, that those who are qualified within these companies could be allowed, with periodic checking, provide vehicle testing to a high standard also.

 

This could allow better productivity of their vehicle fleet and less down time. 

 

  1. Is there an appetite amongst LGV/PSV operators to be involved in an ‘earned recognition’ enforcement scheme? What more do you think DVSA could do to process vehicles more quickly during roadside checks? (para 2.30)

 

If OCRS does not give companies an incentive to conform to the regulations then nothing will.

 

  1. Are there other ways in which DVSA could better target enforcement on non – compliant operators? (para 2.31)

 

Developing an intelligence data base just as the police did when VOSA and the police worked together was an excellent way in which to target those who were more likely not to comply with the regulations and therefore put other road users at risk.

 

  1. What would be the best way(s) to ensure that commercial users are kept abreast of developments in the agencies? (para 2.33)

 

Government IT systems are so large that they become unmanageable. I often hear the complaint that it is difficult to find anything on GOV.UK web pages.  Considering £millions are spent every year on such systems, one would have thought a more simplified system, targeting specific agencies separately would be the way forward?

 

Digital

  1. What more could be done to expand and increase the use of digital services offered by the motoring agencies and what should be done for those who cannot or choose not to use a digital service? (para 3.5)

 

As above – make it more user friendly.

 

  1. In the past, services requested by industry groups have often not been used to the level forecast. How can we incorporate their requests into service design? (para 3.6)

 

Focus on providing what is wanted / needed against what is cheapest or what the agency think is wanted.  E.g.  A much better system should be in place for those with Specific Needs (SfN) of which 20% (according to ONS) of our populace are categorised within, (and that doesn’t include those who do not wish to be put in a box). 

 

Many have to telephone their test requirements, which takes much longer, costs more money, and often the service provider operator does not have all the information available in-front of them, needing another person to be consulted and a return call made, which doesn’t get made or comes many hours later, because the operator has forgotten about that caller.

 

There needs to be consultation with those OUTSIDE experts who specialise in SfN clients to engage with their needs, which are wide and varied and NOT a one size fits all, which is what we have at present.

 

  1. In providing assistance to those accessing digital services, are the agencies providing the right kind of assistance? Would web page pop – up assistance be valued? Would guidance for those assisting users (in, say, community centres, council offices or job centres) be more helpful? (para 3.8)

 

The commercial world provides drop down boxes / pop services or even operator chat options to assist with making enquiries for services. Is it not about time DVSA also came into the 21st Century?  Customers want to be able to do this from their homes and not have to go seek out people in other places.

 

For those who do not have computer facilities then some kind of service could be placed in Public Libraries (where they are still available) or Local Council offices.

 

  1. Is there a demand for developing and publishing an application programming interface (API) for fleet management software developers to build on? If so, which services should it cover? Is there industry appetite to lead this work? (para 3.10)

 

Not involved with this element of the industry.

 

  1. Would smartphone or tablet applications for drivers and owners be welcomed? Would the public sector be best placed to provide such services? (para 3.12)

 

Many companies utilise these methods of communication so it makes sense that Aps for these are developed.

 

Efficiency

  1. Are there any social or economic factors which the fees review should consider in proposing either to reduce or to increase fees for these services in the future? (para 4.8)

 

Before any price increases / decreases are considered it would be helpful if a decent service across the board could be provided.  In the driver testing industry the service is abysmal at the moment from some parts of the DVSA, (according to published Civil Service DVSA surveys 2014 and from those colleagues who use it day in and day out).

 

  1. Should fees more closely reflect the differential cost of service provision by different channels? (para 4.11)

 

The fees should fit the value of the service provided. Keep it Simple! I do not believe one section of the agency should be bolstering another.  Prices should be transparent, honest and fair to everyone, including the agency.

 

Agency transformation

  1. We would be interested to hear from respondents what operating models for the agencies would best promote ever increasing efficiency, improve user service, maintain standards and deliver accountability to Parliament. (para 5.2)

 

In my past life one of the major lessons learned is to keep the work force motivated, well informed, up to date and happy.  Given my response at 20 above, there is much work to do there before anything outside of the agency is even considered.

 

Cutting costs does not necessarily improve efficiency, as this government is pushing for. You can’t make a silk purse out of a pigs ear springs to mind.

 

  1. We would value views from respondents with experience of VCA operations overseas on the value VCA adds to business or the automotive sector through such operations. (para 5.10)

 

No experience in this area. 

  1. We welcome views from industry about the services currently provided by VCA in the UK and overseas, its effectiveness in supporting users and growth in the sector and whether the existing operating model should be retained. (para 5.11)

 

Given my comment above, I would say there now needs to be more investment into PROPER inspection of emissions of vehicles after the V.W. scandal, which Panorama publicised by doing tests with experts (including retired VOSA officials) to prove its not only VW who have a cheat method of by-passing the EU directives.

 

 

Deregulation

  1. Are there any other areas of regulation administered or enforced by the motoring agencies, which you consider should be reviewed and potentially be safely reduced during the next four years? (para 6.13)

 

I do not think I can make any constructive comment on this issue.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/driving-test-cost

 

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nhs-hospital-s-unsustainable-privatisation-deal-collapses-amid-concerns-over-poor-care-9967479.html

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