Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400
WEDNESDAY 17 JANUARY 2001
400. For whom do you do these assessments?
(Mr Harvey) Vehicle manufacturers, vehicle component
401. If I were one of those manufacturers and
there was an error of whatever nature in what I was paying you
to do, and 30 of them per year had some error, I do not think
I would be very happy.
(Mr Harvey) That is what I am trying to explain. They
are not errors in the quality of the report necessarily, in the
assessment which was done on site and delivered to the manufacturer,
but in the quality of the report that has to then go through a
subsequent process, a further checking process. So perhaps there
was not sufficient information for the next person who was checking
that report to verify all the things had been done. One of the
major things we have done to try to improve that is to educate
the staff conducting the assessment on all the things they have
to include in that report, so that it is a smooth process. I do
not think we have any evidence that those are necessarily bad
reports as far as the customer is concerned but they will be slowing
down the time it takes to finally issue the certificate.
402. If I was one of your customers and I understood
that 10 per cent of your reports contained some error, I do not
think that would inspire me with a great of confidence. Do you
think that is unreasonable?
(Mr Harvey) If they were errors in the elements of
the report which affected that customer, that would not inspire
me, but they are not necessarily errors of that type. They are
omissions perhaps in the report which allow it to proceed on to
the next stage.
403. Another service and quality target is to
ensure that all certificates should be issued within one month
of the completion of assessments and closure of non-compliances.
In the year 1999-2000, only 92 per cent of certificates were issued
within a month. Again, another target you have failed to meet.
(Mr Harvey) Indeed.
404. Do you meet any targets?
(Mr Harvey) We meet a lot of our other targets. All
these were new targets in that year and all of them were set with
the same aim in mind, which was to establish a measurement system
for that area of work, score a benchmark and then improve against
it. I think that is a perfectly good methodology to go through.
405. Were your targets too rigorous or have
your efforts so far not been as successful as you would want them
(Mr Harvey) The targets were based on an audit of
some of the results in the previous years to give us a marker
of about where we were. Our aim will be to improve on all of these
406. On these three targets I have highlighted,
would you give us some indication of when you are likely to meet
(Mr Harvey) I think we shall meet the first two in
this current year, I am not quite sure we shall meet the third
one. The third one is an absolute target and we have already missed
one of those, so we will not meet that target this year.
407. Next year?
(Mr Harvey) I think we will meet them next year because
we are learning a lot of lessons from this very process. Just
identifying and measuring what we are doing is the crucial element
of all this.
408. Mr Harvey, are you a soft touch in Europe?
(Mr Harvey) I do not think at all we are a soft touch.
I would say we were the opposite of being a soft touch in Europe.
409. But you are trying to win business from
Europe, are you not? You are trying to persuade people to come
for your certification. What advantage does someone have having
your certification rather than going to one of the other European
(Mr Harvey) I think that is because we are not a soft
touch, that our certification will not be questioned in other
countries, we have a reputation which we are anxious to maintain
in all those other countries which receive those certificates
that they are good certificates and all issued on a sound basis.
That is why a manufacturer would come to us. Aside from all the
other benefits of VCA, he would have faith in those certificates.
410. So other countries are entitled to accept
your certification or reject it?
(Mr Harvey) Strictly speaking they are obliged to
accept our certification unless they feel or find there is some
cause for concern that is detrimental to safety.
411. Is there any other country within the EU
whose certificates are not accepted in this country?
(Mr Harvey) No, we are bound by the obligations of
the EU Treaties and the Geneva Agreement, under which all this
legislation is made, to accept those certificates.
412. So what advantage do you have then over
those other countries? You have said basically that you have no
advantage over the other countries.
(Mr Harvey) Each country is entitled to carry out
some enforcement, some checking. It is not allowed to stop the
vehicle or the component being registered or sold willy-nilly
on a routine and random basis, but it can take out some enforcement
action, or it could just be slightly awkward if it wished to at
the point of registration. If we have a good certificate and it
is well-respected, it is less likely they will do that sort of
413. How do your costs compare to other EU countries?
(Mr Harvey) The range of costs varies and it is very
difficult to compare them. Not all of the other EU countries are
operating, as we believe we are, on a full cost commercial recovery
basis, but for those which are, we are very comparable. We think
we are slightly cheaper than Germany, for instance, which is operating
on that cost basis.
414. Do you think in Germany they are applying
exactly the same standards as you are?
(Mr Harvey) We have a high degree of confidence in
the way the German system works and we have a number of partners
in Germany working with us, so we regularly visit them, audit
their work, inspect the reports they send back to us, so that
gives us quite a confidence.
415. Which EU countries are running a subsidised
(Mr Harvey) Some are running a subsidised service
because they are funded in a different fashion, so they do not
have to meet all their overhead costs, they only have to meet
their direct running costs. Others are funded through the vehicle
registration fee, for instance.
416. Are you happy you are able to win what
would be a fair share of the European market?
(Mr Harvey) We think there are also some countries
that may be looking to win some of this business and we are anxious,
in conjunction with the Department, to promote a further discussion
in EU fora about peer review to make sure standards are maintained.
417. What does that mean, Mr Harvey, "We
are anxious to promote discussion"? You mean they are not
listening to you and you want to make sure they are aware of the
fact there are differences?
(Mr Harvey) We want to make sure we are all operating
not only to the same standard but operating the standards in the
same way, that we are all working on the same interpretation.
418. That implies, firstly, that you are not
and, secondly, you are still having to push to get it discussed
(Mr Harvey) We believe that there may be some inequalities
because manufacturers tell us so. I do not think we are having
to push. We are now pushing at an open door. We have raised this
discussion in Brussels and Geneva and been invited to continue
that discussion and put forward a structure which would help ensure
standards are maintained.
419. Can I move on to the Vehicle Inspectorate?
You are promising to be more pro-active, what does that really
(Mr Newey) It means we want to target our activities
much more effectively, so that we, for example, recognise there
are three main categories of operator on the heavy goods vehicle
and PSV sidethe good, who we can largely leave alone; the
striving, who are trying to do a decent job but are falling short
in some way, who need quite a lot of attention; and the bad, who
need a more severe system of penalties. Our intelligence systems
which we are now developing with the help of information technology
and so on are enabling us to do more effective targeting in that
way. We know mainly which category each operator falls into. The
other very pro-active thing we are trying to do is, recognising
different people require different tailored attention according
to the level of their compliance, we are putting more emphasis
on education and advice for those people who we think will be
receptive to it. We will still come down hard in a traditional
enforcement way on those who deliberately flout the rules but
there are some very good examples recently where we have tried
a softer educational approachI do not mean softer in terms
of outcomes but in terms of trying to change behaviourand
have had some notable successes and we are trying to go more down
that route. We have always done a degree of education and support
for operators but we are recognising its value in road safety
terms. It is true that levels of compliance have remained stubbornly
at unsatisfactory levels for a number of years, and this is an
initiative to take that forward, and get a step change in levels
of compliance and therefore road safety.