Friday, July 6, 2012

Unions, Freight and Road Haulage Groups Criticise DVLA Decision

All Thirty Nine Offices Affected by Efficiency Measures
Shipping News Feature

UK – Whilst officials and government figures are insistent that the swingeing cuts to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will lead to ‘quicker, better and more convenient services’ in the words of an explanatory DVLA video, the measures first proposed last December have critics amongst the road haulage industry, led by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) saying services will be slower and more expensive with the news that all thirty nine DVLA offices will be affected.

40,000 people used the face to face service in 2011 and in February there were demonstrations by staff around the country. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) were quick to criticise saying the plans "make no economic sense" and now the FTA have issued a statement following the go ahead given today by Roads Minister Mike Penning predicting slower and more costly services for its members and the general public.

The FTA says road haulage operators have valued the service, support and guidance provided by the staff at local DVLA offices where they could speak to experienced people qualified to deal with queries, and now worry that the closures could result in a reduction in customer service levels, ultimately impacting on the running of businesses and significantly raising costs.

It points out that local DVLA offices have always played a significant part in the running of freight organisations day to day business; from tax discs to digital tachograph services, and if the proposed intermediaries are not geared up to handle bulk business sector enquiries, everything will now to be dealt with by post; FTA believe that it will cause delays particularly over Christmas, New Year and Bank Holidays which could lead to vehicles being taken off the road.

At the time of the initial announcement giving notice of the proposed closures, concerns were raised by FTA members who pointed out that several DVLA services, including the taxation of a vehicle with a Reduced Pollution Certificate were not available on line, leaving the local office as the only option.

As a result, the Association had called on the DVLA to increase its online services, including that they develop a system where business users were able to log on and manage their own accounts allowing them to enter multiple entries, to introduce a licence checking service free to the user and importantly only pay once for the transactions being carried out. Ian Gallagher; FTA Policy Manager for Driver Licence and Vehicles Registration said:

“Now that the Minister has confirmed that the DVLA local offices will close in 2013 the Agency has now got to deliver an alternative which is fit for purpose and benefits business, we see this as being a radical improvement to the Agencies online systems, and a payment structure which is recognised by business and not complicated by Treasury rules.

“FTA members are keen to work with the agency to ensure that the end product has maximum industry input. What we won’t accept is a system simply geared towards certain sectors, resulting in additional burden with our membership having to pay thousands of pounds in additional administrative cost.”

Meanwhile Mr Penning has stated that the plans to move more services online and centralise the DVLA in Swansea would ‘make dealing with the DVLA easier’, a statement which brought scorn from the hauliers we spoke to who pointed out that none of them would ever waste time travelling to a DVLA office if they hadn’t found it impossible to sort out their problems and queries using internet or telephone services. Often original paperwork had to be presented and any need to use postal services might result in further delay or documents ‘disappearing’.

The full list of offices affected by the decision is: Aberdeen,Bangor, Beverley, Birmingham, Borehamwood ,Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Dundee, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness ,Ipswich, Leeds, Lincoln, Maidstone , Manchester, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, Shrewsbury, Sidcup, Stockton-on-Tees, Swansea, Theale, Truro, Wimbledon and Worcester.