Horsebox owners are being advised to plan MOTs well ahead by horsebox repair specialists as the number of test centres has been reduced.

Clive Chellingworth’s Amersham-based company specialises in repairing older horseboxes. The family-run business gets around 60 lorries a year ready for MOTs, does any repairs and books them in at the nearest Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) centre.

Mr Chellingworth described the situation as “diabolical” this year following the decision by DVSA to reduce the number of test centres and send HGV testers to private test centres.

“DVSA at Swansea are telling us it’s a 90-day wait. They then give us a list of all the private stations carrying out MOTs and they’re all fully booked,” he told H&H.

“The DVSA needs to do something about it otherwise there will be hundreds of lorries driving around without an MOT.”

Customers going to a private station face an additional £48 lane fee charge to take a horsebox in, on top of the £93 for the MOT certificate.

Thamesdown Transport in Swindon has two DVSA testers working Monday to Friday.

“We were fully booked in June, but have available MOT slots at the end of July. Our advice is to plan well in advance. We take bookings one year ahead,” said Bob Gillespie, a supervisor at the company.

In other areas, horsebox repair specialists are not reporting MOT backlogs, but all are warning customers to book 3 months ahead, even if it means losing a few months off the annual due date.

A spokesman for DVSA admits that “in a small number of cases waiting times for annual tests are longer than we would like,” but said: “We are working hard with ATFs [Authorised Testing Facilities] to make sure that the use of their test lanes is maximised and our examiners are being fully utilised in order to minimise waiting times.”

All horsebox drivers are being encouraged by the DVSA to book their tests in good time.

The spokesperson added: “By delivering statutory testing from privately owned ATFs, DVSA is taking testing closer to where vehicles are maintained and repaired. This reduces the overall cost to customers by allowing for savings on fuel and vehicle downtime.”

The DVSA warns horsebox owners that driving a vehicle without an annual test puts the driver “at risk of prosecution and in the event of an accident vehicle insurance is likely to be invalidated, putting third parties at risk”.

The DVSA was previously VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency)

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (10 July, 2014)