OCRS — the changes

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has recently announced that it will make some changes to the way in which the Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS) system operates. These changes do not affect the fundamental operation of the system but have been introduced in response to feedback from operators and DVSA examiners. In this article, Richard Smith gives a short description of the system and explains the changes that have been effected.

Background

OCRS was introduced by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), as then was, in 2006 as a tool to help its examiners in targeting the operators and vehicles most likely to be committing infringements of the rules on drivers’ hours and records, and vehicle roadworthiness. This saves time and money and prevents operators who have a history of good compliance from being unnecessarily inconvenienced by roadside checks or inspections at their premises. Changes were made in 2012 following concerns from the industry.

Directive 2006/22/EC required Member States to introduce an operator risk rating scheme in terms of drivers’ hours and records offences by 1 April 2007. Directive 2014/47/EU, which is one element of the EU “Roadworthiness Package”, goes further by obliging Member States to include in this scheme risk rating for infringements noted on technical inspections. Member States must have a specification for such a system in place by 20 May 2017 and begin implementing it by 20 May 2018. With the recent changes, OCRS is exactly what is required by the directive and the basic system has already been in operation for 10 years so the directive is simply the EU catching up with what is already UK best practice.

How OCRS works

OCRS uses a traffic light system to place operators in risk bands, with the least compliant operators with high numbers of infringements falling in the red band as “high-risk operators” and those who are most compliant with few or no infringements in the green “low-risk operator band”. There is also a grey band in which will fall those operators for whom there is no information, such as new licence holders.

The risk band is allocated based on a numerical score, with points awarded for every infringement noted during “encounters” with DVSA examiners. Encounters are those occasions when vehicles are inspected, either at the annual test or on a roadside inspection by vehicle examiners, and when drivers’ hours records are checked by traffic examiners. Two separate scores are calculated.

  1. A roadworthiness score based on vehicle defects noted during the annual roadworthiness test and roadside inspections.

  2. A traffic score from infringements against the drivers’ hours and records regulations, and overloading.

The number of points awarded for an infringement depends on its seriousness and can vary from 400 for a Category 1, S-marked, immediate prohibition for defective brakes, tyres or steering to 25 for a delayed prohibition or an annual test failure for defects other than tyres, brakes and steering. Points are also awarded for traffic offences (between 0 for Band 0 least serious offences and 300 for Band 5 offences), DVSA prosecutions (between 50 and 300) and breaches of ADR regulations (between 0 and 50). Details of the points in the various bands, which are subject to change, can be found at www.gov.uk.

The scores are calculated over a three-year rolling period and in order not to penalise improving operators excessively, the scores are weighted by year. Scores from encounters between 12 and 24 months ago are weighted by a factor of 0.75 and those from between 25 and 36 months ago by a factor of 0.5. The score drops off completely after 36 months.

Operators with a high OCRS are most likely to find their vehicles are the subject of roadside checks and can keep a track of their OCRS online after registering at www.gov.uk.

What has changed?

The most significant change is the addition of a combined score. The combined score is formed by adding together the two separate scores for roadworthiness and traffic enforcement (after weighting) and then dividing by the total number of encounters that led to the scores. The points range for the respective bands have not been changed but it is the combined score that will now be used to target inspections.

Band

Roadworthiness

Traffic

Combined

Risk rating

Green

10 points or below

5 points or below

10 points or below

Low risk

Amber

11–25 points

6–30 points

11–25 points

Medium risk

Red

26 or over

31 or over

26 or over

High risk

Grey

No score

No score

No score

Unknown operator

Other changes reflect a slightly more lenient treatment of operators in certain circumstances. Previously, operators who were found guilty of an offence and those who committed what is called a “most serious infringement” were put straight into the red band irrespective of their record up to that point. Thus, it was possible for an operator to jump immediately from low risk to high risk on the basis of a single isolated occurrence. This will no longer happen and the appropriate number of points for the infringement will simply be added.

Also, it used to be the case that where there was a serious defect found and a fixed penalty issued, points were added for each of the two occurrences — effectively a “double whammy”. From now on, only the points for the roadworthiness defect will be added. Additionally, whereas points used to be given for the least serious infringements that merely merited a verbal warning, this will no longer be the case and such an encounter will show on the record as a clear inspection unless other more serious faults requiring a prohibition or fixed penalty are found at the same time.

Finally, the number of points given for the most serious traffic offences in Band 5, where prosecution results, has been reduced from 500 to 300. All other points remain the same for the time being.

OCRS and Brexit

While the UK could choose to ignore Directive 2014/47/EU and cease to operate OCRS after leaving the EU, that is a most unlikely scenario since the scheme was developed in the UK and will have already been in operation here for 12 years by the time it becomes mandatory across the rest of the EU. Furthermore, since OCRS is merely an algorithm used by DVSA for efficient targeting of inspections, no national legislation is involved and there will be no impact from the repeal of the European Communities Act.

Conclusion

OCRS is a proportionate and evidence-led system designed to target the highest risk operators least likely to adhere to the safety rules. It allows greater efficiency in the use of DVSA resources and gives the least inconvenience to compliant operators. The system is already compliant with EU requirements coming into force in 2018 and will not be affected by the UK withdrawing from the EU.