Yet another misselling scandal brewing? Part One

During last year the performance specification for brake testing was changed, twice! And various special notices were used to relay the information to the testing stations across the country…

Special Notice 3-2013

Those with an ATL RBT should continue to follow the RBT prompts but be aware that the service brake effort will be used by the VTS Device to calculate imbalance. Therefore, any imbalance calculations made by the RBT must be ignored. We will advise of any requirement for an ATL software upgrade sometime in the future

>> In other words continue to test in ATL mode and ignore the automated prompts. THIS IS THE DECLARATION THAT A NEW SPECIFICATION IS ACTIVE

Special Notice 6-2013

The brake tester manufacturers have been informed of this change and are working on new software for computerised RBTs. Once this software has been approved it will be made available to VTS as an upgrade. Until you receive a further special notice telling you the date of the change, carry on using SN 3-2013.

>> In other words continue to test in ATL mode and ignore the results (as the specification has changed – NOTE nothing mandatory about implementation on new products moving forwards)

Special Notice 8-2013

Further to SN 6-2013 we can confirm that MOT Computerisation will have the brake imbalance calculation amended on the 15 December. From that date imbalance will be calculated on the system using the maximum service brake efforts, unless the lowest effort locks the wheel. In this case imbalance will be ignored.

The Inspection Manual will be updated at the same time. Bind, rate of increase, fluctuation, rate of decrease and maximum efforts must still be checked. Where it is not possible to run both wheels together to check maximum brake effort the rollers should be run individually.

 >> No mention of ATL but ANOTHER DECLARATION OF A NEW SPECIFICATION!

With the release, unofficially or officially to manufacturers a straightforward business decision could be made and whilst some manufacturers decided that it was a worthwhile investment – others did not. As can be seen from the special notices above however, this lack of continuity was not in itself a particular problem as under the new regime the physical result generation was completed by the governments own VTS device rather than the brake testing equipment itself.

For standard roller brake testers the above situation is fine and will continue to remain so as the operator controls the unit with a remote, but for an automated product this was a problem. After all a fixed test routine cannot be altered or overridden by the operator. This is a MASSIVE problem for ATL brake testers moving forward as in order to test correctly it is IMPOSSIBLE to test to the published testing procedure with the OBSERVE phase which was now required…

Now we are in Q4 – 2014 and all automated products test in line with the new regulation right? Wrong!

The Garage Equipment Association maintain a list published in the public domain which shows equipment that is approved for use within the MoT scheme – in truth it isn’t the definitive list as DVSA / VOSA maintain the master version – however one would expect this to be fairly accurate since the GEA are responsible for the physical approval to specification. So why is it that there are 2 lists showing “ATL Approved Brake Testers”?

This first list shows brake testers which were tested and approved against the latest specification issued to equipment manufacturers in September 2013: THIS SPECIFICATION IS OFFICIALLY UNPUBLISHED ACCORDING TO BOTH VOSA AND THE GEA, ALTHOUGH OUR PRODUCTS AND THOSE OF 17 OTHER MANUFACTURERS ARE APPROVED AGAINST IT!

http://gea.co.uk/doc.asp?723

Here is a video of our own ATL brake tester testing a Class 4 M1 to the correct procedure;

The second list shows those that have not been approved to the latest regulations but are still rather confusingly termed ATL brake testers by the GEA:

http://gea.co.uk/doc.asp?589 (Remember a product on this list tests to the old procedure)

Here is a video of our own ATL brake tester testing to the old routine:

So why maintain 2 lists? Are the DVSA sanctioning the sale of “old specification” equipment for use in MoT bays as an automated product? Surely not – after all we are talking about vehicle safety. Are the GEA at fault for publishing two lists? Is the latest approval specification being withheld for some other reason? There was only one way to find out… Ask the question to the DVSA. So we did…

They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question  but I am wondering if Automated Brake Testers not approved to the 2013 specification can be used in automated mode in 2014?

All we got back in return was notification that the email had been passed to another individual to deal with which of course caused the alarm bells to start ringing. However, we decided not to jump to conclusions and await the formal response…

As time ticked, and as we awaited a reply, we looked back through our own paper records on the re-approval project we had undertaken, and there we came across an record of the manufacturers meeting held with VOSA…

VOSA have asked RBT manufacturers to make the software upgrade available to VTSs as soon as possible. From the 23 June (2013), VTSs who have not received a software update to their ATL RBTs must stop using the ALT mode and test manually. However, VOSA will not mandate the software update, if a VTS wants to continue testing without an update they can but only in manual RBT mode. ATL software updates must be approved by the GEA and when approved a new approval certificate for the RBT will be issued sowing the new SW number.

New Approval of ATL RBTs – All applicants for ATL RBT approval will be inspected to the new software as from the 1 June 2013. The GEA will create a list showing all RBTs with 2013 approved ATL software. Equipment companies can continue to sell ATLs that use the old software, but the VTS must stop testing in ATL mode from the 23 June.

So this is the first clue as to the actual situation from within these minutes:

From the 23 June, VTS’ who have not received a software update to their ATL RBTs must stop using the ALT mode and test manually.

this seems very clear. If you are not on the 2013-ATL annex list your product cannot be used in automated mode moving forward… So who can supply an ATL in October 2014? According to the GEA, as the new specification has not been released then all products that have passed the published Annex can be listed as Automated – EVEN THOUGH THEY DO NOT TEST TO THE CORRECT ROUTINE! It is therefore fairly easy to see why such confusion reigns and also why some manufacturers are still (in our opinion) selling obsolete products into MoT stations.

So to conclude Part One, we give a list of who, in engineering terms, meets the current criteria for their products to be used in ATL mode:

http://gea.co.uk/doc.asp?723

and hence it is from one of these manufacturers whom you should approach to supply your ATL bay. Failure to do this leaves you wide open…

  • Firstly you are not able to test in automated mode so the additional investment made in the integrated weighing facility in order to test under “as presented” rather than tabular weight conditions is wasted.
  • Secondly an “Upgrade” is required in order to bring the product sold into line with the testing procedure – or in other words you are likely looking at an additional cost in order to gain the full functionality that actually you originally bought into when the salesman arrived at your door and told you that they have an ATL product!

So over to you…

Have you bought an “ATL” from a supplier or manufacturer not on this list?? Let us know…. We will be applying under “Freedom of Information” for a list of those ATL’s approved after 23rd June 2013 and whilst some of these products will legitimately have been sold as ATL’s at point of sale, they cannot be used now in that mode. Our special concern now is with respect to bays which are approved after June 23rd 2014 – From this date at the latest, the previously held approval will have had to have been re-applied for in order for the product to remain on “the list”.

Here we leave part one of this blog article and in Part two we will concentrate on how, moving forwards, this situation can be rectified to ensure that end users do not pick up the tab for the update requirement…

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