After being switched off for a day of ‘maintenance’ on Sunday16th August, DVSA’s own new MOT computer catastrophically failed when it was switched back on on Monday 17th August. But it wasn’t really ‘maintenance’, it was a software upgrade – which had bugs in it which hadn’t been sorted out beforehand. The problem continued into Tuesday until the evening, until about 5.00pm when the system started working again, and is OK now at 6pm.
Yet what will happen in the morning when the 15,000 Testing Stations now online start to register new MOT Tests, and importantly play ‘catch up’ after a day of contingency testing is anybody’s guess. Under even more than the usual stress, we shouldn’t be at all surprised if the system crashes again.
And that is the point. The DVSA should have known, or at least have considered the likelihood that installing new software at such a critical stage was a ‘high risk’ decision. Not their ‘risk’, of course, but ours, you and me, owners of cars and the owners of Testing Stations who lost customers because it took so long to e-mail us the Contingency Testing Code, and will now waste time playing ‘catch-up’ by registering all those tests onto the computer which have only been given a ‘contingency’ certificate, and then sending them to customers.
What is mind bogglingly astonishing is that the help line so quickly became overwhelmed – exactly the same as it did in 2005. Surely it was obvious that with a widespread catastrophic outage, that was bound to happen – they knew that from 2005. Yet they put the contingency code at the front of the helpline message – which or course you won’t ever hear if all you’re getting is the engaged tone! All of which was totally predictable!
As a result thousands of Testing Stations had to wait for over an hour until they received the e-mail with that contingency code. Why did it take so long? Why couldn’t it have been put up on DVSA’s website? Why not send it to the trade bodies who could forward it to their Testing Station members? They could have sent it to our publication, MOT Testing Magazine, to put on our website. So, so much more could and should have been done – they’ve had ten years to get it right, and still they got it wrong!
I have been assured by a very Senior member of staff at the DVSA that the following will happen in the near future:
- Software updates will not be installed until the system is stable and any updates have been much more thoroughly ‘stress tested’.
- The Contingency code will be sent much sooner by e-mail, will be on DVSA’s website as soon as it is raised, and will be sent to trade bodies and trade publications for quick and widespread promulgation.
- That there will be significantly more bums on seats at the help desks, and a lot more telephone lines in the near future.
It’s all a bit late, but we are helpless and in the hands of DVSA staff – I only hope they are as good as their word and this debacle ends sooner rather than later.