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ATF operators alarmed by DVSA growth plan

  • 30 April 2014
  • By Robin Meczes

Operators of authorised testing facilities (ATFs) have voiced alarm at a recent suggestion that the number of ATFs within the UK market could double.

At the official launch of the DVSA in early April, chief executive Alastair Peoples said there was no limit on the total number of ATFs established and that around 800 might be an appropriate eventual total.

However, Stephen Smith, president of the ATF Operators Association (ATFOA), accused Peoples of “diluting” the market for current ATF operators, and said it would be “impossible to sustain a doubling of the facilities”.

Smith has calculated the current UK HGV and PSV testing requirement of just more than 702,000 vehicles a year is only enough to take up 71% of current ATF capacity, assuming all lanes are running five days a week. While this is an approximation, the total vehicle parc is falling (by 4.5% over the last two years, according to the DVSA) and spare capacity is likely to grow regardless of new site openings.

Smith said he was particularly concerned given the seven-hour daily testing limit that applies to the DVSA testing staff that ATFs are obliged to use, and which restricts their operating hours, given the number of DVSA test stations that continue to compete with ATFs at lower rates to end customers.

“Peoples is diluting our business without giving us the tools to compete and grow,” he said.

Other ATF operators are also concerned. “It’s worrying,” said Andy Wreford, fleet director at Northampton-based SW Wreford.

“If you’ve got competition out there, with the massive investment we’ve all put in, we might be fighting for the work,” he added.

“All that will happen then is people will start cutting their rates and, like everything in the haulage industry, it’ll keep going back until it’s just worthless.”

“It just seems crazy – there has to be a limit,” agreed Peter Gibbons, group aftersales director at HTC Group, which opened the UK’s 400th ATF lane in Hemel Hempstead in January (pictured). He continued: “It’s going to reduce the profitability of each individual ATF lane.”

At a meeting at the CV Show yesterday members of the ATF Operators Association again expressed concern about the availability of DVSA testers.


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