Transport secretary hinting at MOT changes, associations hit back
There are signs that the government is moving closer to changing MOT frequency, despite the protests of industry experts and associations. Announcing a consultation on the proposed meaures, Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, said: “Car technology has come a long way since the 1960s, that’s why we think its right to look again to check whether we still have the right balance of MOT testing for modern vehicles. We want to work with the industry and motorists to get the decision absolutely right.”
There are basically three options being considered: Delay a car’s first MoT until its fourth year, then MoT annually; or delay the initial MoT until the car’s fourth year, then test two years after that and then annually; and finally – a first test after four years, three MoT tests at two year intervals then annual tests. Most observers suggest that the second option appeals most to decision makers.
RMIF hit back with open letter to government
In response industry associations representing the wider garage trade IAAF and RMIF countered the arguments for changing MOT frequency with open letters to Philip Hammond MP, Maria Eagle MP and Louise Ellman MP.
For its part the RMIF expresses “extreme disappointment” with a Sunday Times article published on 10 April by Marie Woolf proclaiming proposed changes to the current MOT system. One particular part of the article referred to the Transport Research Laboratory report titled “Effect of vehicle defects in road accidents.” The report showed only 30 additional deaths would occur annually if the system became 4-2-2. RMIF exclaimed that this is a “complete and alarming contradiction to the very comprehensive 2008 study by your Department titled MOT Scheme Evidence-base in which it concluded the figure would be in excess of 400 additional deaths annually.”
The Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents a significant proportion of the 22,000 MOT testing stations, also complained that the rationale for the decision is flawed. In the open letter RMI MOT chairman, John Ball wrote: “I personally had sight of the TRL report last month at DfT and supported its findings on accident causation. However I had concerns with the models outcomes because of invalid and high level assumptions. Indeed we were told by one of the authors subsequently that he believed that Ministers should not base frequency policy change on the numbers thrown up by this simple model.”
According the letter, the industry has provided a considerable weight of evidence with regard to reasons for MOT failures: “We have challenged some of the assertions made by your officials with regard to increased road casualties if a 4-2-2 system were to be introduced. Our members are in daily contact with the motoring public and continually report that there is no call for a change to the current system.”
The RMIF and other associations now fear that an objective review of MOT frequency cannot take place when because the DfT has already publicly promoted less frequent testing.
IAAF steps up lobbying efforts
On 25 March IAAF urged MoT station owners to support its work to counter “government threats to reduce the frequency of MoT tests.”
Since July 2010, when Earl Atlee let slip the government’s inclination to move from the present system of testing vehicles three years after registration and annually thereafter, to a fourth year initial test and every two years thereafter, the industry bodies including the IAAF have been pressing ministers and officials in the Department for Transport to allow the industry to present its case to retain the current format. However, despite the adverse affect on business investment and on VOSA’s roll-out of automated test lane facilities, the IAAF says the department had up till then dithered on issuing the necessary consultative papers.
The IAAF invited MoT station owners to join the federation’s lobbying effort, in preparation for what they describe as a ‘blitz’ of letters and emails when the consultation papers are released.
“For a £20 registration fee, MoT stations can become ‘lobbying support’ members of the IAAF,” explained chief executive Brian Spratt. “We will then keep them in touch with the progress of our lobbying on their behalf and, at the appropriate time, provide them with all the necessary tools to give their views. This will be through pre-prepared letters and emails, and web-based petitions,” he said.
“We know many motorists only have their vehicles serviced in preparation for the MoT,” said Brian Spratt. “How much extra pollution will be generated from vehicles that have not been checked and adjusted for two years? We’re happy to discuss improvements to the test with the Department for Transport, but reducing the frequency would be a retrograde step.”