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Heavy vehicle testing update – Importance of selecting correct options on VOL

20 August

The DVSA has recently announced it will start to issue Certificates of Temporary Exemption (CTEs) from MOT testing of up to 12 months for certain low-risk vehicles.  The aim of the process is to remove lower-risk vehicles from the demand for commercial vehicle testing. It is envisaged this will facilitate test capacity is sufficient to meet the demand from the remainder of the industry, which is presently higher than usual.

Lower risk vehicles in this instance are those operated by operators in the Earned Recognition scheme, those in the top end of the green score in the Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) and all vehicles two years old or less.

The rules are fairly specific and therefore, operators need to become familiar with them and how they apply to them.

Operators also need to ensure they have ticked the correct options on their Traffic Commissioner’s Vehicle Operator Licensing (VOL) account so the DVSA can access their information and we detail more about this below.

Low risk vehicles

Operators in Earned Recognition or upper green on OCRS will be issued with CTEs of up to 12 months, so the vehicle’s test date in 2021 will be on the same date it was originally due in 2020.

It is essential vehicles in the fleet are correctly specified on their VOL account on 21 August 2020.  In order for the DVSA to gain access to operator record, the operator must have indicated through their VOL account that their records can be shared.  It is therefore important that operators ensure that they have placed a tick in the correct box on their VOL account.  The DVSA cannot access the records and will not be able to process exemptions.

Operators not in Earned Recognition or upper green on OCRS will be issued longer CTEs for newer vehicles (two years old or less), but not the others.

For operators not in Earned Recognition or upper green on OCRS and do not have newer vehicles but do have vehicles that have not yet been issued a CTE (original test date September 2020 onwards), DVSA has confirmed that all vehicles with test dates due before March 2021 will be issued with a three-month CTE. The significance of this is, for example, vehicles originally planned to be tested in September will now be due in December. Operators wishing to avoid taking a vehicle off the road during the Christmas peak may still want to have the vehicle tested on the original date.

Exemptions generally

Exemptions will be automatically applied, so an eligible operator will not need to do anything unless it has vehicles not specified on the licence (e.g., trailers or PSVs), but they should check online to ensure the date of a vehicle’s test expiry has changed. This will be altered after 21 August. Please remember it is the operators responsibility to ensure that the HGV or PSV has an MOT test or a certificate of exemption before it is used on a road. Using a vehicle without a valid roadworthiness certificate (MOT/CTE) is considered a most serious infringement and is likely to trigger a DVSA investigation and/or being called to a Public Inquiry.

Three-month exemptions will apply from the original test date. An illustration of this: a vehicle with a test due in September 2020 will be moved to December 2020. Operators should consider and work out what this means for their planned inspection/maintenance arrangements.

Twelve-month exemptions will also apply from the original test date. By way of as example: a vehicle that should have been tested in March 2020 but was issued with the two exemptions (March and June) until September 2020 will be moved to March 2021. Operators should think about any plans they had made for a three-month CTE, having now being extended to 12 months.

Operators are advised to continue to manage the regular maintenance and inspection schedule for vehicles and trailers during the exemption period. This is a legal requirement under operator’s licences and the Traffic Commissioner are likely to call operators who don’t to Public Inquiries.

Longer exemptions

Longer exemptions will only be applied to vehicles and trailers specified on operator licences. It is therefore important to keep your entry on the VOL database up to date (see above for more important information). Trailer data can also be provided in an Excel file.  We expect the DVSA to provide further details on how this spreadsheet should be formatted in due course but do not have this yet. Operators may wish to review their trailer list and make the necessary preparations for this data collection.  This should be done by 21 August in order to be given the 12-month provision.

As well as Earned Recognition operators, the exemption will be applied to all specified vehicles of operators who have 50 or more roadworthiness events and a green OCRS roadworthiness score of less than 1.3.

We understand that the DVSA will aim to notify the upper-green OCRS operators who qualify for the 12-month exemptions, but this cannot be guaranteed.  Operators are advised to check their score for themselves.

Operators with a green OCRS roadworthiness score can access their OCRS report for the three-year period of eligibility to find out if they will qualify for a 12-month exemption. Operators should check their details and score and contact the DVSA if there are any errors. Operators can check their OCRS score here.

If not already registered, we recommend operators do this now, as it will take a few days for DVSA to process this.

Longer exemptions should be applied to trailers and vehicles that are up to two years old. If an exemption has been issued to the vehicle or trailer, it will be re-calculated to 12 months from the original test date (retaining the date and month of the original test prior to the exemptions being issued).

Dangerous goods vehicles

Operators of dangerous goods vehicles who are getting an exemption for the first time should complete the application for an ADR annual inspection waiver to keep their inspection date in line with the new test date. The DVSA say that further information will be provided directly to dangerous goods operators.

Journeys outside the UK

We understand that exemptions being issued in Great Britain extend beyond the relaxations outlined by the EU that must be recognised across all Member States (and the UK). Recognition of domestic exemptions that go further than the EU relaxations cannot be guaranteed to be recognised in other countries. Vehicles for international journeys have been recognised by DVSA in the list of types of vehicles ATFs have been asked to prioritise.  We recommend that operators check any vehicle travelling internationally has a valid regular test certificate and is not operating and relying on a CTE.


Three-month exemptions will begin to be applied by the DVSA immediately. Operators should  check this periodically to ensure it has been done.

From 24 August 2020, twelve-month exemptions will be processed. They will include those vehicles currently due for test by the end of August 2020 (those issued with three-month exemptions in May 2020). By 31 August, operators should ensure all May tests (due in August) have been extended and contact DVSA if this is not the case.

The test date for PSVs is a specific date rather than the month end, therefore, some otherwise eligible PSVs will not receive longer exemptions prior to their August 2020 test expiry date because the individual expiry date is before 24 August 2020.  We believe these vehicles will need to have passed a test by their due date, otherwise they will not be legal to drive on the road.

Getting a test

DVSA has asked that operators only present vehicles and trailers when tests are due. DVSA’s forecasts of provision of a reasonable service anticipate vehicles to be presented for test in the month they are now due following any CTEs being applied.

DVSA has also asked that, where an operator now benefits from longer exemptions but had a test booked for the old date, the existing test should be cancelled to create space for those that need it.

DVSA has indicated that it will be making more testing staff available to ATFs at short notice.

First tests for trailers are due 12 months after their first use, rather than after registration (as with motor vehicles). Consequently, the DVSA does not have a record of the age of a trailer until it has been presented for test after its first year. DVSA has indicated that the pro forma for submitting trailer data will include date of first use.

If an operator has taken all reasonable steps to find an appointment and is unable to secure a test, DVSA has said it will be able to notify them when a test slot comes available – more information will be provided on how this should be done.

Exemptions planner

The following exemptions planner has been issued by the DVSA with details of exemptions and new test dates which operators may find helpful:

Original test date due New test date
Eligible for 12 months  Not eligible for 12 months
March 2020 March 2021 September 2020
April 2020 April 2021 October 2020
May 2020 May 2021 August 2020
June 2020 June 2021 September 2020
July 2020 July 2021 October 2020
August 2020 August 2021 November 2020
September 2020 September 2021 December 2020
October 2020 October 2021 January 2021
November 2020 November 2021 February 2021
December 2020 December 2021 March 2021
January 2021 January 2022 April 2021
February 2021 February 2022 May 2021
March 2021 March 2022 June 2021


Guidance from the DVSA to AFTs

The DVSA has given AFTs guidance on the vehicle tests they should prioritise. The highest priority are those vehicles and trailers which legally need a test.

They have asked ATFs to prioritise:

  • Vehicles/trailers legally due a test within a month.
  • Vehicles/trailers going on international journeys.
  • Dangerous goods vehicles.
  • Specialist vehicle types (e.g. refuse vehicles, gritters).
  • Prohibition clearances.

Further guidance

If you would like to read the guidance, you can find it here.  Otherwise, please contact a member of the regulatory team on 01254 828300 or for advice.


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