Guest Article: By Darren Finley

Ever wondered what an Authorised Examiner Consultant does? And has not knowing stopped you taking advantage of the service they offer? This might change your mind!

I recently experienced a snapshot of a ‘Day in the life of” Karena Hill, owner and AEC at Chiltern MOT Consultants (CMC).

It was a fascinating look behind the scenes of a role that, unless you’re familiar with it, falls into the category of “She does what?!” The day with Karena allowed me to see first-hand what’s involved, and how using Karena’s undoubted expertise could improve your business – and even save you time, money and stress.

Here’s what Karena gets up to on a typical client visit.

On this occasion, it was with the great guys at Carshop. They were a pleasure to meet and kindly permitted me to share what happened on the visit.

Karena was quick to point out to me: nothing that was discussed or discovered on the visit to Carshop is untypical of what happens in a busy working environment. It’s entirely ’the norm’ for things to get forgotten or missed – and that’s why DVSA introduced the role of an AEC. They fully appreciated that things can often fall through the cracks. It’s the role of the AEC to take the stress away and help find those things – and to help put systems and processes in place that may stop them happening in the future.

Takeaway: An Authorised Examiner Consultant is there to help and support, not to catch you out!

The Day Begins

It’s always an early start as CMC cover a wide area geographically. But with the radio on and a ‘coffee to go’ Karena assured me she never minds travelling and enjoys meeting people from as far across the UK as is necessary.

Before arriving at the premises, Karena showed me how she takes time to look through all relevant files and previous reports from the garage or MOT Station thoroughly. She explained how this ensures both parties get the most from the planned visit. And remember, the visit aims to make the team aware of what a DVSA inspector will look for to determine either a red, amber or green status for the premises. Then to suggest improvements and procedures to make sure they are addressed.

So, let’s officially begin the site visit!

When arriving on the forecourt, the first red flag Karena noticed was the lack of visible notice of certification stating the garage is an authorised MOT Testing Station. On closer inspection, it was not visible in the reception area either.

It was discovered the likely scenario was someone from another department had unwittingly replaced the sign with one of their own. So it was necessary to reorder the misplaced sign as a matter of priority.

Takeaway: It can often be a good idea to give your entire team an overview of what’s involved in a visit from DVSA. Because if they aren’t made aware of the criteria, how can they help ensure the business is compliant? The example above is one that could happen easily, but with all parties informed of requirements, it’s less likely.

The Manager’s Office

Next was a discussion in the manager’s office where he was able to highlight any areas of concern he had that Karena could help with.

In particular, they discussed members of staff who had been categorised as either red, amber or green so training methods could be addressed and put in place to support them.

Training as a general topic was discussed in detail too – when it took place, who took part, who facilitated the sessions. These are all areas checked by DVSA.

Takeaway: There are so many choices for training opportunities and companies that offer training – there really is no excuse to not book in your team well in advance. It helps them improve in ability and confidence. And above all, many courses are mandatory so mustn’t be ignored.

The Testing Bays

Next was a walk through the testing bays. This garage has a total of three bays, and what Karena was able to identify immediately was that some of the tools were missing from the tool board. This board is essential as it ensures all the tools necessary for an MOT test are in one place – a DVSA requirement is that a tester must not be interrupted or distracted throughout a test. Therefore it’s unacceptable to have to go ‘hunting’ for a missing tool.

On this occasion, the tyre pressure and depth gauges were not noticeable on the board in a couple of the bays – which is, according to Karena, a common occurrence and a negative point on a DVSA inspection, but so easily avoided. In this circumstance, it was explained that each tester has their own. However, the DVSA state that these items must be visible so they must be located on the board at all times.

This particular garage has recently opened a brand new bay, so Karena was especially interested to see how they had set it up. She wasn’t disappointed! All the equipment was brand new and in the right place – and all machinery was calibrated and in date.

Takeaway: Even when you find a way that works better for you or your team, the criteria laid out by DVSA must be adhered to as it’s those points they will mark against. They’ve been included for a reason and are updated regularly to adapt to new situations and health and safety guidelines.

The Customer Journey and Team Credentials

Next Karena invited everyone to join her on a simulated ‘Customer Journey’ through from Reception to the bays so we could experience the route through the customers’ eyes. We looked for rubbish, hazards, distractions etc.

Access to equipment and logins were next on the list and were discussed at length.  Also, the testers were spoken to individually and asked to produce the security card they’re required to use to login to the MOT system. Each of them was able to do so and were also given the opportunity to raise any issues or concerns they have. This is not to catch anyone out – it’s an opportunity to share ideas and concerns, and ensure any issues are addressed as quickly as possible and training needs identified. The goal is that the testers can focus on their work without worry.

On this visit, there were no significant concerns, and the conversation focussed on the imminent changes in DVSA guidelines. This section of the visit is deliberately kept informal and friendly, so all teams feel confident in speaking out and asking for support and advice if they need it.

Takeaway: A visit from an AEC can be an ideal way to identify areas of concern or allow a team member the opportunity to raise a query in a non-hostile, friendly and supportive environment so the right supportive measures can be put in place.

The Testing Office and Paperwork

This is where the paperwork is (or should!) be held. So at this point, Karena was able to go through the files in detail.

It was especially reassuring to Karena that the garage was using one of CMC’s specially designed folders to keep all their paperwork in one place. The garage team confirmed – keeping everything in that folder is an easy, stress-free way to lay your hands on everything quickly when a visit from DVSA is imminent.

At the time of Karena’s visit, there were a couple of forms that were out of date, so she was able to highlight where she had discovered them and recommend how they address the situation. She was able to share her expertise and experience with tips and hints to make the paperwork process more efficient and less time-consuming. For example, much of the necessary paperwork need only be kept on file for a set period, so being aware of this will keep your filing more up to date, relevant and easier to manage.

Incidentally, appropriate storage of paperwork is also one of the criteria the DVSA Inspector will be checking so a definite reason to use a ‘fit for purpose’ folder!

MOT failure rates were discussed at this point too. The MOT testers and manager were also asked their thoughts on the expectation levels of DVSA in relation to their garage – which demonstrated to me Karena had done her research on what would be expected of this particular garage as she was able to answer all queries with confidence and fill in any gaps the team left.

She also demonstrated her knowledge and authority on what would happen if a team member failed an exam – new rules have been put in place to determine when the test can be retaken. The garage was unaware so welcomed her expertise.  

Takeaway: Being able to lay your hands on all the necessary paperwork for a DVSA visit is essential as it forms part of the criteria they look for. It also means the AEC can be more thorough and give you in-depth advice because they can use the time you’ve booked more efficiently if they don’t have to wait for you to find what’s needed.

The Final Discussion

The final part of the visit is where Karena went through her findings of the previous few hours in detail.

She readdressed issues she had found to make sure the team knew what actions needed to be taken and checked if they required further explanations. For example, she went through in more detail what signage should be displayed, where and why.

They then went through various legislation and talked through any changes the team should be aware of. If I’m honest, this part went straight over my head! But without exception, I could see everyone else was engrossed in the conversation and getting lots of benefit from it.

Karena spent time with the person who takes care of the admin. She was able to address and explain any anomalies and questions he had so he could fix them and feel more confident in future situations. He was also able to demonstrate his ability to Karena, and she expressed how impressed she was in his obvious competence.

It was also discussed how DVSA inspections could be welcomed and planned for with minimum stress, by making sure everything was in place as a matter of course – becoming part of regular practice and procedure, not last-minute panicked situations.

Conclusion

It was clear to me, a ‘roving reporter’ for a while, that the onsite team took a lot of value from Karena’s visit. It was constructive, organised, and made relevant for them with ideas and helpful advice on how to make their test station compliant at all times.

Karena has expert knowledge in her field and the ability to share that in a friendly and non-judgemental way. It was clear they welcomed this advice and took it all on board. She was very impressed with the standards of the garage overall – and she made sure to tell them so. It was a very relaxed but professional environment, and I could see they held Karena and her opinion in high regard.

Likewise, she showed respect for the work they do and their achievements.  

It was also extremely apparent she loves her work and takes great pleasure in helping people – a winning combination!

Thank you to the guys at Carshop for making me so welcome.