Online Individual Vehicle Approval application launched

A new Technical Application Submission (TAS) service which allows you to apply for an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test online was launched earlier this year.

The vehicle type approval system is a mine field and not something that I would attempt to try to cover here, but I contacted the DVSA to find out more about how the online system works. To get an industry perspective from someone who uses IVA applications, Dave Wiggins, Production Manager at Stanford Coachworks was happy to oblige.


Individual Vehicle Approval is a UK National approval scheme for vehicles assembled or manufactured in very small numbers or as individual vehicles. It is designed to check that vehicles meet the technical requirements laid out in European legislation (Directive 2007/46/EC) and comply with UK law in terms of safety and environmental standards. Unlike ECWVTA (EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval) and NSSTA (National Small Series Type Approval), IVA does not require Conformity of Production, although most bodybuilders and converters will work with manufacturers to ensure there is no warranty compromise. It is also less costly. The current charge for a coach or bus under five tonnes is £250, rising to £350 for over five tonnes.  As these fees are subject to periodic revision, the DVSA recommends that customers check the website for the most up to date information first.

The Test

The vehicle will undergo a physical inspection at a Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) site in Great Britain or by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) if in Northern Ireland. There are currently seven approved DVSA sites in the UK that specialise in IVA certification for bus and coaches (categories M2 and M3) These are the DVSA sites in Gillingham, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Derby and two privately owned sites where examinations are conducted by DVSA staff. According to the DVSA, over 90% of applications are processed between Gillingham, Manchester, Derby and the two privately owned sites.

Once certified, it doesn’t automatically mean that it meets the requirements of every European country, but under the European ‘Mutual Recognition’ provisions, it may be accepted in other EC countries subject to confirmation by the authority of that country.

When might you need an IVA?

It is usually the responsibility of the manufacturer or importer of the vehicle to take care of vehicle approval. To clarify, an IVA is required if you’ve:

  • built a vehicle
  • rebuilt a vehicle
  • radically altered a vehicle
  • reconstructed a classic vehicle
  • imported a vehicle

I had expected in the bus and coach category that it would apply mainly to conversions but the DVSA informed me that the vehicles submitted for inspection cover the full spectrum, from van conversions to bespoke three axle vehicles.

About the changes

The DVSA say they have been working with their customers to introduce a more effective application scheme that will cut down the time of the current process for applying for an IVA test.  The new system means that you are now able to complete an online IVA application form, attach your supporting documents and send it directly to the DVSA. I asked them how long the process takes and was advised that last year they had calculated ‘based on paper submissions, an average end-to-end processing time of 20 working days on receipt of a correctly completed application form.’ Understandably, they are still measuring the average processing time for the new, online system, but are actively encouraging all customers to apply.

Although Dave accepted the DVSA had usually hit their waiting time target, he said the old paper system, ‘never seemed to work properly. It would often be two to three weeks before we would get some form of response and would often mean us having to chase them. Since the new system has been in place it’s more like one to two weeks. Plus there was the hassle of getting all the forms together, applying for the certificate of conformity and at this stage the vehicle would already be in build whilst constantly waiting for a test date.’

Once the application has been processed and approved, the DVSA will send it straight to the testing location that you requested on the form and you will be offered an appointment.
Dave explained that this usually meant a wait of another one to two weeks. ‘The problem is that you can’t book the test now until the paperwork has cleared whereas you could have previously, but you get the Z number (reference number) straight away. With the old system it went straight to the test centre.’

Stanford Coachwork’s nearest testing station is at Gillingham, 40 minutes away. He has used a DVSA approved independent testing facility in the past but his experience usually included a delay with the paperwork.

Stanford Coachworks 1 Stanford Coachworks 2

The DVSA have also responded to a number of complaints about the paper application process, which the new system should overcome. Previously, an applicant would not know the status of their application so to combat this, they have improved the way you can track and trace its progress. Now, when you submit IVA forms using TAS, the DVSA will send real time alerts to your email address, keeping you updated throughout. Dave thought this was a great improvement, he liked the fact that they send you an email to say when the application has been received at Swansea, in much the same way that the passport office do, however he would like clarification of where the paperwork is in the system. ‘We would prefer to also receive a progress email as well as the one to say it has been received and one to say it’s been done because at the moment, we still have to chase them.’

Security was another concern to many when submitting paper applications, as a card payment method had to be supplied along with the paperwork. With the TAS system, these do not need to be supplied at the time of submission, an automatic email alert will be sent to the applicant requesting that they contact the department for payment.

‘The old system was always a pain’, commented Dave. ‘They always seemed to lose our cheques. In the last three to four years, they seem to have lost one every two months or so, so we moved over to a pre-funded account. It’s so much more convenient.’ He explained that you decide how much you want to put in to the account and you set the notification limit. Once this limit has been met, they send you a warning to advise you that the funding is getting low, not dissimilar to how many of the high street banks work.

Regarding the future of online applications, the DVSA has released the following statement, ‘This is the first step in our online application process and it’s our aim to add more technical tests onto TAS in the future. We will continue to work with our customers as we develop our online services, to ensure we’re making the right improvements.’

Dave responded to this by saying, ‘The IVA test has been a bit of trial and error since it was introduced in 2011, and it was all a little bit new to us, but they seem to have the systems in place. It’s definitely a lot smoother and it’s getting quicker and better all the time.’

The Technical Application System went live on 9th Ferbruary this year and at the time of writing the DVSA had received over 1,500 IVA applications and processed 84 bus or coach applications which equates to twelve a week, far more than I had expected.and I was told that ‘in the year to the 31st January, a total of 1205 M2 and M3 (buses and coaches) vehicles were subject to an Individual Vehicle Approval examination.’

According to the DVSA, they have received some very positive feedback from users.

They are now keen to get more customers using the service as some people are still submitting applications by post. For those customers struggling to get the form to load, this may mean that your operating systems are out of date, the installation of a new browser may be a solution.

General information regarding the scheme is available at
or by contacting the Enquiry line on 0300 123 9000

Questions of a technical nature can be submitted by email to [email protected]

The Individual Vehicle Approval Scheme guide is available in PDF format to download, which should answer most questions

Stanford Coachworks have over 15 years experience in the custom built minibus and conversions market, including luxury mini coaches, wheelchair accessible vehicles and ambulances.

To find out more about their range of vehicles visit their website

or contact one of the sales team: Email [email protected] or call 01375 676 088





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