Thursday, 7 April 2016

How DVSA will operate remote enforcement . . .


How DVSA will operate remote enforcement

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Scenes like this should become less common for ‘exemplary’ operators which allow DVSA permanent online access to their compliance records

Delegates attending the Freight Transport Association’s Transport Manager Conference in Chepstow, south Wales – one of 12 such events that the FTA hosts at locations through Great Britain each year – were able to hear more about the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)’s remote enforcement project from Sam Knight of the DVSA Bristol office.

Ms Knight had been working on the scheme during its successful trial in the Western traffic area. She said remote enforcement would reward compliant operators by not wasting their time at unnecessary roadside stops.

“The emphasis is on legal conformance rather than enforcement. If we have more information about an operator at the roadside then that makes roadside checks quicker.

“If relatively minor faults are found then we can use letters and emails where appropriate rather than making a visit to help the operator put things right.

“The previous ‘one size fits all’ enforcement method was only really suitable for a small number of ‘middling’ operators,” she continued. “It was a waste of time for the best operators but allowed seriously non-compliant operators to get away with it.”

Remote enforcement gave recognition to the degrees of compliance of individual operators. At the top of the tree were those in the ‘exemplary’ category. Ms Knight envisaged that they would allow DVSA permanent online access to drivers’ hours and vehicle maintenance records.

Providing these remained compliant, such operators would be unlikely to be troubled by random roadside stops or spot checks: however, she emphasised that vehicles run by exemplary operators would still be stopped and checked if problems with the vehicle were apparent to officers on the ground.

“Earned recognition does not give immunity from roadside stops, although a vehicle belonging to an exemplary operator is unlikely to be detained for long,” she said. “Vehicles with visible problems will still be stopped and processed no matter who the operator.”

Knight accepted that the vast majority of operators and drivers tried to be compliant but made the occasional slip-up. A broadly compliant operator who received, for example, an S-rated defect would be likely to be asked by letter or email to send in six or twelve months’ maintenance and inspection records for inspection before any further action was decided upon.

‘Nudge interventions’ would also be made where it appeared a previously compliant operator had grown complacent and was allowing standards to slip. Predictive analysis software developed for law enforcement to identify the start of offending behaviour had been adapted for this use.

“What do you do if you are contacted by us?” Ms Knight asked. She came up with five golden rules:
Do not ignore the letter: you will be given two weeks to respond
Contact us anyway if your substantive response will be delayed
Provide the information in full as requested (missing inspection sheets etc will count against you)
Get help from your trade association in getting representation and your operation back into compliance
Work with us to achieve compliance

Ms Knight added that remote enforcement was not an opportunity for unscrupulous operators to try to pull the wool over the eyes of DVSA. Those officials charged with ‘desktop enforcement’ were highly experienced in the world of roadside enforcement, and the information obtained from operators would be externally checked and verified (“triangulated,” in DVSA parlance).

“We will use information from other sources, ANPR cameras for example, and not just our own,” she warned.

There would be earned recognition of exemplary operators. “It’s not a rating system and it doesn’t replace OCRS,” she explained.

Selected operators would be invited to provide apply for recognition as exemplary operators, and they would be required to provide DVSA with access to their compliance systems before such recognition could be awarded.

The resources freed by such recognition would be deployed to ensure vigorous targeting and enforcement of seriously non-compliant operators, including foreign operators. She pointed to an instance where focused DVSA targeting over the space of two days had forced one foreign operator into working with DVSA to become compliant, where previously they had regarded the trickle of fines and penalties imposed on them and their drivers as little more than another business overhead.

“Our aim is to ensure that non-compliance is no longer a cost-effective option and that compliance will equate to good business value,” she concluded.

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