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UK Government is about to take a wrong turn on MOT tests

Published to the CV Show website on
15/07/2011

UK Government Ministers are considering reducing the frequency of MOT tests, which, they claim, would reduce costs for motorists. Is this just going to move essential repair work back a year and result in unsafe vehicles on UK roads? The Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, has ordered a review of the test to ensure it reflects the requirements of modern vehicle technology and manufacturing. A consultation will examine whether the first MOT test can be pushed back from three to four years, and the second test after another two years. Is this move really aimed at helping motorists or deflecting anger at artificially high fuel prices being used to prop up government spending in other areas?

These are the questions the motor trade as a whole should be asking the public, and also publicising a reaction to. As a manufacturer and distributor of replacement auto spares for 98% of the cars on the road, the Klarius Group believes it will suffer a reduction in trade during the first period, but then as parts need to be replaced then the business will return. The effect on small traders however and public safety for that matter could well be more profound.

The changes will apparently be discussed with motoring groups, UK road safety organisations and the MOT trade, the reaction to this consultation has to be unanimous and final.

Speaking out on the subject, Klarius Group Chairman and CEO Tony Wilson is forthright in his opinion on the subject. 'Every garage in the UK is likely to see its revenue from MOT work reduced by 50%. The same will apply to parts suppliers and manufacturers. Some garages will not survive and those that do will be forced to make mechanics redundant.'

'Motorists without any mechanical car knowledge might see this as a 'good news' story, which is what the government wants. What they have failed to tell the motorists is that the cost of MOT's is likely to be forced up accordingly. How many of us have had items on our cars highlighted as a possible issue before they break or become dangerous - yes this means potentially more cost, but, what price a major failure on a motorway journey, our life and those of others?'

'Anyone who works in this industry or recognises the flawed thinking behind the policy needs to lobby government on this matter as a matter of urgency. Failure to respond will allow this government to bring in the revised testing standards with little resistance.'

This is not a new idea, and the government stands to waste time and tax payers' money investigating it again; as recently as 2008, after a high-profile plan announced by Gordon Brown to 'ease the burden on motorists' by making MOT tests less frequent, plans were shelved after a Department for Transport report concluded that changing to a two-year system would "increase deaths and serious injuries ­significantly".

Other reactions form leading figures and spokespeople include:

Quentin Wilson writing in The Mirror called it "insanity". He goes on to say, 'It's insane, and a misguided political gesture to "help the motorist". Most car owners don't even check the oil, let alone tyres or brakes, so such a folly would store up problems.'

AA President Edmund King has also spoken out, saying: 'Even if you have a new car that is three years old, it can still have bald tyres and failing lights. We have surveyed 60,000 drivers and most of them think we should stick with the current regime. Rather than being a burden on the driver, we think it's a good safety reminder for once a year.'

David Evans, Senior Motoring Research at Which?, said: 'Increasing the period between MoTs is unwise and will, in my view, lead to poorer safety on UK roads. Which? believes the extension of time between MoT tests will have serious safety implications, and will mean more unroadworthy cars on UK roads than ever before. 'We know from our research that many owners neglect their cars as it is. For example, fewer than half those questioned in our last tyre survey knew the legal minimum tread depth, and more than a quarter relied on the garage to check tyre condition and tread depth at the annual MoT and service.'

In 2008 a written ministerial statement sent out by Jim Fitzpatrick, the then Transport Minister, said that an analysis of the proposal had found a significant cost in human terms. "Our analysis suggests that a significant number of additional road traffic accidents would be likely if MOT test frequency was reduced. This is primarily because the annual MOT failure rate is already high (around 35 per cent) and if we were to reduce frequency, there is a very real risk that the number of unroadworthy cars would increase significantly. In turn, the number of road casualties would inevitably increase.

Clearly any significant increase in road traffic accidents or in the number of road casualties would be a wholly unacceptable outcome, and for that reason, our view is that the MOT test frequency should remain unchanged."

Note: How can this argument, by a government department suddenly not be accurate or relevant, just three years after it was released?

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