Having to face a DVSA desk-based assessment is the last thing that any road transport business wants. It can be extremely stressful and, in some cases, can force an Operator to face up to problems that they either didn’t know about or had swept under the carpet.
If a DVSA desk-based assessment goes badly, you can find yourself being called to a Public Inquiry hearing with the Traffic Commissioner.
As a transport regulatory solicitor, I help haulage and PSV operators respond to DVSA desk based assessments. In this article, I look at 5 common mistakes that I have noticed transport managers can make when on the sharp end of a DVSA desk based assessment.
1. Not engaging with the DVSA desk-based assessment
It may seem surprising but this happens more often than you might think.
If you are running a busy haulage, bus or coach business, it can be tempting to put a DVSA desk based assessment on the back burner.
You may think you will get around to it when you have time. This of course would be a mistake.
You usually only have 7 or 14 days to respond to a DVSA desk-based assessment.
This includes completing a detailed REO1 questionnaire form and gathering and sending off your records to the DVSA Examiner.
The records they will want to see usually include the following:
vehicle maintenance records, including regular safety inspections, wheel re-torque logs and driver defect reports;
tachograph raw data and infringement reports of drivers hours;
training (including refresher courses) and disciplinary records;
driver licence checks
You do not want to be in the position of sending these in late or not at all.
This can lead to a DVSA visit to your premises or a referral directly to the Traffic Commissioner.
As soon as you receive a DVSA desk-based assessment request you should contact the DVSA officer and agree on a timetable which to provide all the required documents.
Co-operation really does go a long way.
2. Trying to do Everything Yourself
A DVSA desk-based assessment will usually follow some form of regulatory intervention.
This might be a roadside stop of one of your vehicles. Or it might be that you have applied to increase your Operator’s Licence authorisation but your OCRS score is a bit patchy.
A DVSA desk-based assessment is your opportunity to satisfy the DVSA and the Traffic Commissioner’s office that there are no problems with the way you are managing your transport.
For some A* Operators this won’t present any difficulty. Those operators will confidently gather their records together, complete the REO1 form and send it off.
However, some of the questions in the REO1 questionnaire may cause you problems. Perhaps you are unable to find or just do not keep the records that they have asked for. Then you should seriously consider getting some help from a transport solicitor as soon as possible.
They will be able to guide you through the process, review the papers before they’re sent in and help you to spot any problems.
They can also help you put together proposals for fixing any problems. By getting help at an early stage from a specialist it is often possible to avoid matters getting worse.
3. Not doing your homework
We have already seen that during a DVSA desk based assessment you will need to send in all of your records.
But, before you do, you should check through them and look for any areas that may need explaining.
For example, if you have a gap in your preventative maintenance inspection intervals, but this was because the vehicle was off the road. Then this explanation should be provided to the DVSA during the assessment.
Otherwise, it may just look like one of your vehicles had a late inspection without good reason.
Likewise, if your tachograph records suggest that one of your vehicles was used on the road without a driver card in, but it was with your garage for a road test on that day, then it is your responsibility to prove this.
Remember the DVSA are not mind readers.
4. Cutting Corners with the “Response to Shortcomings”
At the end of a DVSA desk-based assessment, the Traffic Examiner or Vehicle Examiner will send you a summary of any problems that they have found and ask you to provide an explanation.
This is a crucial moment.
It is your chance to give assurances that the problems found have been dealt with and will not be repeated.
This is another opportunity to avoid the matter escalating to a Traffic Commissioner’s Public Inquiry.
Remember, the report to the Traffic Commissioner means they will usually be able to see your response to the desk-based assessment. This means that it is important to get it right.
This is another reason why many operators get specialist help when responding to this part of the desk-based assessment.
5. Sticking to Business as Usual
Once the DVSA desk based assessment process is over, it can be tempting to put the matter to the back of your mind and hope that it will all just go away.
Again, this would be a mistake.
It can take weeks or months before you find out the result.
This is a crucial period of time and you should not waste it. If problems were found during the assessment, this is the time to fix them.
The more evidence you have that you have addressed any problems found during the assessment, the greater the chances are that if a Public Inquiry does happen you will walk away with a good outcome.
Remember, following an assessment it is always safest to assume the worst and imagine that you will find yourself at Traffic Commissioner’s Public Inquiry at some point in the near future.
Even the most compliant transport company, who conduct regular maintenance investigations, will find the experience of a DVSA desk-based assessment nerve-wracking.
Nobody likes having their business, maintenance and tachograph records scrutinised in detail by the regulator.
But be warned, DVSA desk-based assessments do appear to be on the rise and will continue to be central to the transport enforcement process going forward.
When in doubt specialist advice is available.
At Rotheras we have many years of experience representing transport companies at Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry hearings and during DVSA assessments, investigations and interviews. Contact us on 0115 910 0600 or email us at email@example.com.