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The Government is plotting the biggest motoring revolution since the introduction of the driving test in 1935.
The consultation will form the basis of next year’s strategy on the future of the UK’s three motoring agencies – the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Vehicle Certification Authority (VCA).
According to the Independent, proposals include laying off staff at motoring agencies, closing test centres, increasing fees for non-essential services such as personalised registration plates and raising the age at which drivers are required to declare they are fit to drive from 70 to 75.
There is also a controversial proposal to part-privatise delivery of the practical driving test.
Ministers have acknowledged that the driving test pass rate is flagging at under 50% and has put this down to under-prepared learners booking their test date after only a handful of lessons. Anecdotal evidence has suggests that this could be due concerns over waiting times between booking and taking the practical examination.
Call Wiser recently reported that learners in some parts of Britain are facing five months waits to sit their driving tests, due to an increase in demand following the economic recovery and a shortage of examiners. However, the draft consultation lays out plans to introduce more flexible driving test slots, including more appointments at evenings and weekends.
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It also appears that the government is looking to modernise the driving test and is currently trialling an examination where learners are asked to follow satnav directions for 20 minutes. Examiners may also be asked to photograph successful candidates immediately after passing, so that their licences can be processed faster.
The Department for Transport also wants to look at reducing the size and number of DVSA text centres, particularly heavy goods vehicle centres, which would free up land for housing.
There are also plans to combine the DVSA’s and DVLA’s contact centres, finance, estates management and human resources departments, which suggests that redundancies will be inevitable.
To address shortfalls in examiners and test centres, it looks as though the government will turn to the private sector. In the document, it suggests that: “This might include operating [examinations] from a range of different sites, or delivering some elements of the test through partners.”
However, the president of the Public and Commercial Services Union’s Department for Transport group, Paul Williams, has said that this would cause “uproar” and “fury” amongst his members.
To reduce administrative and cost burdens at the DVLA, officials urged ministers to raise the mandatory license renewal age from 70 to 80 last year, despite RAC Foundation research suggesting that one in ten elderly motorists are not fit to drive. It looks as though they will be met half way however, as proposals suggest that the age at which older drivers can declare themselves fit to drive will increase by five years to 75.
The consultation also asks for respondents opinions on increasing the time before a new car must be MOT tested from three to four years, as proposed in George Osborne’s budget address earlier this year.
Ministers believe motoring agencies should increase their fees, particularly as austerity measures have emphasised the need to focus on revenue-generating activities across the public sector. Areas highlighted in the report include the DVLA’s number plate service and the VCA’s Type Approval for Goods Vehicles and Technical Services.
The document points out how motoring is rapidly changing due to advances in technology and is symbolically using this year’s 80th anniversary of the driving test to push through its reforms.
In the document, the DfT says: “In the 130 years since Karl Benz built the first modern motor car there has been continuous and accelerated development of automotive technology. Such development will doubtlessly continue, with the prospect of driverless cars now a real possibility.”
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Officials are also preparing an outline for a new safety regime, pointing out the five people a day are killed on Britain’s roads. However, this has fallen from nine in the past ten years.
Speaking to the independent, a spokesperson for the DfT said: “We are currently considering options for developing the motoring services agencies and will consult later in the year. We cannot at this stage comment on the detail.”
What do you think about the proposed changes? A move in the right direction or perhaps a step too far?
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