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Technical Competence: another kick in the teeth for the compliant?

vehicle depollution
Technical competence has done nothing to raise standards and everything to highlight the financial disadvantage of complying with the law.
We brought you information last month from WAMITAB regarding changes to technical competence certification. Readers have been quick to point out the unfairness in the system and MVDA have passed on some startling facts!


Just to recap, under the law any ATF must have at least one technically competent person. This is supposed to demonstrate that the site is being controlled by someone who knows what they’re doing. This used to be assessed by the Environment Agency through a site visit. Since 2009 this has been ‘farmed out’ to a commercial organisation that makes money out of the scheme. Nowadays technical competence is simply demonstrated by passing a multiple choice test and being issued with a certificate. We should all be more than aware of this as this came into law in 2009. At the time MVDA warned DEFRA, EA and WAMITAB that they needed to get to grips with licensing and enforcement activities, or this would go the same way as CODs and recycling targets (that is, they appear to be one of those ‘optional’ legal requirements completely ignored by large numbers of operators). So in order to help members MVDA organised training courses (which, if I remember correctly were also open to non-members as well).

Now those dismantlers who took the law seriously and wanted to do the right thing, paid the fee for training and for certification and were then classed as technically competent for a period of 2 years. The test is only valid for 2 years and has to be retaken to maintain technical competence. The first period of TC ran until the end of February 2012, and the cut-off date for the second period is the end of February 2014.

This is where the whole situation becomes totally unreasonable and really demonstrates that doing the right thing appears to do nothing to benefit your business. MVDA’s Chas Ambrose told ATF-Pro that of the nearly 2000 registered ATFs, it would appear that only about 50% took the TCM test in that first period. But even worse, so far in the 2nd period, less than 20% of ATFs appear to have retaken the test but the number of ATFs has continued to increase. There are now about 1700 ATFs just in England (Scotland and Wales are now separate). To date there have been a few isolated prosecutions, but nowhere near enough for anyone to worry about. With less than 4 months remaining to the cut-off date, 80% of ATFs still have to take the test.

It looks likely that the period 2 numbers will fall a long way short of period 1 numbers. So where does that leave TCM? To date, once again, it’s been the compliant operators that have borne the brunt of regulation. And we haven’t even started to think about the huge numbers of illegal dismantlers that avoid all licensing (and many other) costs.

But let’s face it. When so many have not bothered and there have been no repercussions, it isn’t surprising that these businesses and individuals don’t appear concerned - you can completely understand why. This reticence is highlighted further when one considers that it will cost it will cost £2-3,000 to take the course and resit the test from scratch once their TCM has expired and only £100 to resit the test for existing holders. The feeling of abuse by the system is so great, that even this differential has not been enough to inspire them to re-sit and stay within the law.

So what’s gone wrong? It’s simple – this law, like so many others applying to our industry, is not policed. So flouting it becomes a plus, not a minus. In principle TCM makes good sense, but Government just seems so remote from reality – these laws are put in by people sat in their ‘ivory towers’ and the job of implementing it is given to ‘incompetent Government agencies’ (focused on their own survival rather than actually getting the job done). But they haven’t got a hope in hell. So those ATFs who coughed up for TCM two or three years ago, believing the Government officials who said that yards would be closed if they didn’t have a competent person, are now naturally not keen to dip their hand in their pockets again, when all those who haven’t bothered are better off because of it. And I can’t blame them.

And it’s not just technical competence. Look at any of the waste legislation that’s come out since the late 80’s. All it has done is create a broad chasm between the legal and illegal operator when it comes to profitability. Chas Ambrose does ask those who had achieved the certificate to consider the potential threat to your business if this is ever policed. We cannot recommend non-compliance of the laws To resit the test and renew for a further 2 years will cost £100. If you let it lapse and down the line they do decide to police this legislation then you will have to pay the full £3000 again. Chas also added that due to the fact that only 10% of sites now have a technically competent person and the legislation has been in place since 2009, then things really aren’t working an MVDA are pushing for the whole idea to be scrapped.

Just to clarify the situation from WAMITAB, the cut -off dates are:
Period 1
If you achieved your continuing competence certificate between 1st March 2009 and 29 February 2012 the certificate needs to be renewed between 1st March 2012 and 28th February 2014.

Period 2
if you achieved your continuing competence certificate between 1st March 2012 and 28th February 2014 the certificate needs to be renewed between 1st March 2014 and 29th February 2016.

The recently announced changes mean that after February 2014, anybody taking the test for the first time, their new Certificate will be valid for 2 years from the date they took the test.

If you have never taken a WAMITAB TCM course or assessment you are operating illegally. If you took an assessment prior to 1st March 2012, after 28th February 2014 you will not be able to take the £100 multiple choice continuing competence test until you have completed a full £2,000 - £3,000 course.

If you need help with Technical Competence contact MVDA on (01543) 254 254 – your views always welcome

December 2013

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