DVSA earned recognition: join the scheme

DVSA earned recognition: join the scheme

  • Time to read 11 minutes

How the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) earned recognition scheme works, how to apply, and what happens when you've joined.

What is DVSA earned recognition

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) earned recognition scheme is a new way to prove you meet driver and vehicle standards.

This means that you’re:

  • continuously monitoring your own compliance
  • using DVSA-validated IT systems
  • compliant with vehicle and road safety standards

It’s a voluntary scheme that’s designed to work for operators of all sizes.

How it works

dvsa system


You need to have a DVSA-validated IT system for vehicle maintenance and drivers’ hours. This will monitor whether you’re meeting a set of key performance indicators (KPIs).

Every 4 weeks, your system will tell DVSA if you’ve missed any of the KPIs by a set amount. If this happens, DVSA will work with you to fix any problems.

DVSA will not have direct access to any of your data or systems.

What are the benefits

As a DVSA earned recognition operator you’ll:

  • be an exemplary operator, and be able to prove this when you bid for contracts
  • be less likely to have your vehicles stopped at the roadside for inspections
  • be less likely to have DVSA enforcement staff visit your premises
  • be able to use the DVSA earned recognition marque on your website and other publicity materials (but not on your vehicles)
  • be recognised as a DVSA-accredited operator on GOV.UK
  • have direct access to a dedicated earned recognition team in DVSA


Before you apply you need to make sure that you meet the following criteria:

  • you’ve had a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) or public service vehicle (PSV) operator licence for at least 2 years
  • the Traffic Commissioner hasn’t taken any regulatory action (other than a formal warning) on any of your operator licences in the last 2 years
  • you have digital management systems for vehicle maintenance and drivers’ hours, which can track the KPIs and automatically report if they’re missed
  • you meet the earned recognition audit standards


If you have multiple operator licences

The application can only be made for the whole business - not individual licences. You must report the data for all your operator licences.

If your organisation contains multiple legal entities operating under one group - using the same management systems - you can make a single group application.

The audit standards and key performance indicators would apply and be measured over the group as a whole.

An individual legal entity cannot be removed from the group accreditation unless it changes ownership or no longer exists.

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How much it costs

There’s no application fee to join the scheme.



Your systems and processes must be audited by a DVSA-authorised audit provider:

  • once your application has been reviewed
  • every 2 years after you’ve joined the scheme

You might need to pay for this, depending on the provider you choose. The providers set their own fees.

If DVSA grants you a concession, you’ll need an audit covering the appropriate section every year, up to April 2021.

A List of DVSA earned recognition authorised audit providers can be viewed HERE

IT systems

You might need to pay to update your IT systems if they cannot measure and report on the KPIs.

The system suppliers set their own fees.

You’ll need fully electronic systems by April 2021.

A List of DVSA earned recognition validated IT suppliers can be viewed HERE

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Earned recognition terms and conditions

As an operator, you need to meet and agree the DVSA earned recognition terms and conditions.

DVSA earned recognition: terms and conditions (PDF, 1.39MB, 11 pages)

Apply to join the scheme

  1. Read the self-assessment checklist.

  2. Check if your IT system provider and audit provider have registered with DVSA. If they haven’t, tell them to email [email protected] to get the documents they need.

  3. Read the guidance notes on completing the application form.

  4. Download and complete the application form if you meet the eligibility criteria.

  5. DVSA will check your application and get back to you.


Arrange an audit

You can have an audit up to 3 months before or 3 months after DVSA receives your application.


After DVSA has your reviewed your application, they may ask for more checks to be carried out. Or, if the application fails to meet the necessary requirements, it may be rejected.


What the audit involves

The auditor will look at:

  • the processes involved in your transport management systems
  • how you manage them


You’ll be audited against the DVSA earned recognition standard for HGVs or PSVs, depending on which licences you have. There are different earned recognition audit standards for each.

You’ll be audited against both standards if you have both types of licence.

Each standard is split into 9 sections.

Section number Audit area
1 Operator’s licence
2 Transport manager
3 Vehicle standards
4 Drivers’ hours
5 Operational management
6 Driver management
7 Training and driver behaviour
8 Driver-related policies
9 Dangerous goods (HGV operators) or service work (PSV operators)

You will not be audited on section 9 if you do not do these activities.

The documents provided here will explain the:

  • standards you should achieve
  • level of performance needed to meet the standards

The audit might need to be done at one or more locations, depending on your operating systems, the number of operating centres you have, and your fleet size.


Audit process

On the day of the audit, you need to make sure that:

  • all the information the authorised audit provider needs is available
  • the transport manager or other responsible person is available
  • any questions the authorised audit provider asks can be answered
  • the completed audit document is signed

You’ll need to be able to:

  • show the systems you have in place to meet the standards
  • comply with any requests from the authorised audit provider


Audit sampling

As part of the audit, a sample of your vehicles and systems will be checked.

The audit sampling will be based on these 3 areas of your business:

  • vehicles
  • drivers
  • operating centres

It will take into consideration:

  • the type of management system and the area of responsibility
  • whether DVSA wants to direct the audit, or ask for specific measures to be checked
  • that audits should only be carried out at operating centres that have an administrative or management function
  • that where the main site is non-operational, an additional operating centre should be included in the audit
  • that the auditor check should include a minimum of one month’s operator analysis and subsequent actions
  • that, in addition to the audit at the main operating centre, any audit checks at other operating centres must be rotated at the periodic audit
  • that maintenance records should conform with the DVSA Guide to maintaining roadworthiness
  • that the sample must be representative of your fleet and include all types of vehicles and trailers across your vehicle age range
  • that audit checks must be sampled across all types of maintenance providers: for example, manufacturers, independents and in-house providers
  • sampling from each operator licence


Vehicle fleet size and driver record sampling table

Fleet size Vehicle/trailer record Driver records
1 to 5 all all
6 to 100 2 checks per operator licence (minimum 5 checks in total) 2 checks per operator licence (minimum 5 checks in total)
101+ 5 checks per operator licence (minimum 10 checks in total) 5 checks per operator licence (minimum 10 checks in total)


Operating centres sampling table

Number of operating centres Operating centres
1 to 5 the main/controlling centre
6 to 20 main centre + 1
20+ main centre + 2


After the audit

  1. Make sure you’ve signed the completed report

  2. The auditor will send you the results of the audit, and send a copy to DVSA.

  3. DVSA will decide whether you’ve met the standard to join the scheme and will tell you its decision.

  4. If there are issues that can be put right within a month, you’ll be given the opportunity to do so.

  5. If you cannot deal with any issues in that timeframe, DVSA will reject your application and tell you the reasons why. You may reapply in the future and DVSA will reconsider their initial decision.

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How to appeal

You can appeal an application and audit outcome by emailing:

[email protected]


You need to make the appeal within 14 days of the original decision.

When making the appeal you must include:

  • detailed reasons for the appeal
  • any documentary evidence that backs up your appeal

Any decision to refuse or remove earned recognition accreditation will be put on hold once DVSA have received your appeal.


Appeal review

DVSA will use all the information you provide when considering the appeal.

DVSA can:

  • request additional information
  • ask you for clarify information
  • ask you to complete certain actions

As an operator, you must cooperate with any requests made.


Your appeal outcome

DVSA will make a decision on your appeal within 28 days of receiving it. The appeal can take longer if there has been a delay in:

  • providing additional information
  • providing clarifications
  • completion of required actions

You’ll be told the appeal outcome in writing within 7 days of DVSA making the final decision.

You cannot make any further appeals.

When you’ve joined the scheme

Marketing and publicity

As an earned recognition operator you’ll:

  • be able to use the marque for marketing and publicity purposes
  • appear on a list of approved operators on GOV.UK

Read the guidelines on the use of the marque to find out more

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Monitor your performance

Your IT system will automatically measure and monitor the KPIs, which will help you manage your business.

All KPIs are measured over 4-week periods, which start on a Monday and end on a Sunday. This is known as a ‘KPI measurement period’.

The KPIs are reported at the end of the period and are sent to DVSA 4 weeks later.

Example A measurement period runs from Monday 8 October 2018 to Sunday 4 November 2018. The KPIs are measured on Monday 5 November 2018 and are reported to DVSA on Monday 3 December 2018.


About the KPIs

You should be able to achieve the KPIs, no matter what size your fleet is.

To be sure that the KPIs are realistic, DVSA analysed over 1.5 million historical records on vehicle test results drivers’ hours infringements fleet size.

There are 2 sets of KPIs - maintenance and driving activity.


Maintenance KPIs

Number Measure KPI
1 Complete set of safety inspection records 100%
2 Safety inspection records are completed correctly. This includes all relevant sections being signed off as roadworthy 100%
3 Safety inspections are completed within the stated frequency 100%
4 Where there’s been a report of a road safety-related incident, driver defect reports are actioned 100%
5 Vehicle and trailer MOT initial pass rates 95% (if you only have up to 20 vehicles in your fleet, the KPI is no more than one failure in 13 rolling measurement periods)


Driving activity KPIs

Number Measure KPI (total number of infringements as a percentage of the total number of tachograph days)
1 Band 1
An infringement recorded on the tachograph analysis that would attract a band 1 fixed penalty under current legislation
2 Band 2
An infringement recorded on the tachograph analysis that would attract a band 2 fixed penalty under current legislation
3 Band 3
An infringement recorded on the tachograph analysis that would attract a band 3 fixed penalty under current legislation
4 Band 4
An infringement recorded on the tachograph analysis that would attract a band 4 fixed penalty under current legislation
5 Overall infringements
- total number of infringements found
6 Working time
- any infringement identified under current legislation

If you report less than 25 tachograph days in a measurement period, the KPI will be no more than one offence in the period.


Alerts you’ll get

When you’ve missed a KPI, but not by enough to send a trigger to DVSA, your systems will alert you. This will let you take action to stop it happening again.

There are 3 levels of alerts.

Type of alert Level When it’s triggered
Yellow Minor Missing a KPI by less than 1% point
Amber Moderate Missing a KPI by 1% point or more
Grey Major Missing a KPI by 2% points or more


Automatic triggers to DVSA

Grey alerts will automatically be reported to DVSA at the end of the measurement period.


KPI automated trigger to DVSA

DVSA will be automatically alerted when an operator:

  • consistently fails to meet a KPI
  • exceeds the KPI tolerance

DVSA will be alerted if any of the criteria for both maintenance and drivers’ hours are not met:

  • over three rolling KPI measurement periods, the operator fails to meet any one of the key performance indicators three times by less than one percentage point
  • over three rolling KPI measurement periods, the operator fails to meet any one of the key performance indicators twice by one percentage point or more
  • during any KPI measurement period, any key performance indicator is exceeded by two percentage points or more
  • over 13 rolling KPI measurement periods, any key performance indicator is exceeded more than four times
  • a driver has infringed in three consecutive KPI measurement periods

Keeping your earned recognition operator status


The key performance indicators are used to measure your ongoing compliance.

The trigger points are used to indicate when you’re not meeting the key performance indicators.

The key performance indicators and trigger points are set by DVSA.

The system will notify DVSA when you miss a KPI by more than the acceptable amount.

The key performance indicators are measured on a 4 weekly basis.


Periodic audit

As an earned recognition operator, your business must be audited every 2 years. This must be done by a DVSA authorised audit provider. But, if there are any issues with your performance, DVSA may ask you to arrange one sooner.

The DVSA authorised audit provider may charge for this service.

If you have a concession, you’ll need a partial audit every year.

As an operator, you need to make sure that the audit is carried out to the agreed timescales. It must be completed:

  • no more than three months before the 2nd anniversary date of entry into the scheme
  • no later than 2 years after the anniversary date of entry into the scheme

Example If you were accredited as an earned recognition operator on the 15 September 2018, the:

  • earliest you can do the audit is the 15 June 2020
  • latest you can do the audit is the 15 September 2020
  • latest you can do the audit is the 15 September 2020


Audit outcome

The outcome of your audit will be either:

  • standards met
  • standards not met


Standards met

This means that you remain in the scheme as you’ve met all the standards set out in the audit and DVSA have agreed with the audit.


Standards not met

This means that you’ve not met all the standards set out in the audit and DVSA have agreed with the audit.

What action DVSA takes next will depend on how far you’ve failed to meet the standards.

When you do not meet earned recognition standards

When you are not meeting the standards, such as:

  • a key performance indicator has not been met and an alert is triggered
  • compliance issues have been identified
  • standards not met at periodic audit

DVSA will discuss the issues with you and consider all the known circumstances. They can use discretion when deciding what to do next. The action they take will depend on the seriousness of the issues.

In most cases, you’ll be given the opportunity to resolve any issues. The action taken may be:

  • a desk-based assessment that may include a request for information
  • a discussion at the operator’s request
  • a discussion started at DVSA’s request - they will ask for more information, data and explanations
  • an improvement action plan which may include a further audit
  • removal from the scheme

Leaving the scheme

If you leave voluntarily

Membership of the DVSA earned recognition scheme is completely voluntary. You can leave at any time. All you have to do is give at least 7 days’ notice.

But, it does mean you’ll:

  • be removed from the published list of accredited operators
  • no longer be entitled to the benefits of being an earned recognition operator


If you’re refused entry to or removed from the scheme

Operator behaviour

DVSA can refuse entry to the scheme or remove membership if it thinks the scheme’s credibility could be damaged by:

  • an operator
  • anyone working for or on their behalf


Failure to meet the scheme standards

You may be removed from the scheme if you fail to meet standards. For example, if you:

  • fail to complete a periodic audit within the timeframe
  • do not provide access to your maintenance systems and data
  • are not able to achieve the KPIs
  • are continually non-compliant and do not improve


The removal process

If you’re removed from the scheme, DVSA will: give you 28 days’ notice and tell you the reasons why.

DVSA will not be liable for any of your costs resulting from your removal from the scheme.

You can appeal against the decision if you want to.

Source: Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

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