HOTA isn’t working

Max Sugarman
Max Sugarman
Chief Executive

Intelligent transport systems provide a number of benefits to the UK and its populace, whether that’s through a more effective and efficient transport network, helping people and businesses travel in a more environmentally-friendly way, or through the economic growth the industry provides.

However, one of the most fundamental and important benefits that ITS provides is safety. Through state-of-the-art enforcement technology, the ITS sector helps national transport authorities and police forces in keeping our roads safe. Increasingly, the better use of data and AI are allowing us to do so even more effectively, in ways that predict and prevent road collisions from happening.

The Government’s approach for approving enforcement technology, though, is now acting as a blocker, instead of an enabler, in getting new equipment onto the network. Home Office Type Approval (HOTA) is a testing and certification process by the Home Office that enforcement technology must pass before evidence from enforcement devices can be admissible in UK courts. If a device does not have HOTA, then the evidence from the device is not able to be certified but must be adduced by a witness for its accuracy.

In recent years the process for getting HOTA approval has become slower and slower, with manufacturers now reporting delays of between three and five years to get products approved. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that even minor changes to current equipment on the network need HOTA approval, meaning even changing a small widget within a piece of equipment can take a significant period of time to approve.

The delays are also having an impact on the health of the sector. The intelligent transport industry generates £1.5bn a year in economic value for the UK, yet suppliers are now informing us that they may halt investment in the enforcement sector, reduce their spending in R&D, reduce jobs or even pull out of the UK market altogether due to the issues around approval. With a globally recognised and well-regarded enforcement industry, the UK is at risk of losing its place as an international leader in enforcement technology.

That is why Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK) is today calling for changes to the process. Our asks are simple, we’d like to see:

  1. Regular dialogue between DSTL, the body that administer HOTA on behalf of the Home Office, and manufacturers.
  2. Timelines for approval: Sensible timelines to be agreed for a project at the application stage and assets within DSTL can be allocated to manage the application to its conclusion.
  3. Fasttrack process for new modifications: That a new modification process for the approval of already approved equipment could be quickly agreed.
  4. Update SpeedMeter Handbooks: There are concerns that information to suppliers is outdated and incorrect. The Home Office should change the guidance to align to existing standards and to concentrate on the requirements for the record produced by the equipment rather than how the equipment operates. 

We look forward to working with the Government and industry to get the process right, ultimately to support the safety of road users and the growth of the sector.

To find out more about the HOTA Campaign, read our Briefing Note here