SMMT: Motorists want MOT first test after 3 years

It isn’t just the trade that opposes potential changes to current MOT legislation. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has published the results of a YouGov survey, and these results indicate that a large majority of car owners want the MOT first test to continue taking place when their vehicle reaches three years of age.

Of the 2,036 adults (including 1,266 vehicle owners/registered keepers) who participated in the online survey in March, 76 per cent stated a preference for retaining the status quo of testing when a vehicle is three years old.

Arguing in favour of delaying the first test date for 12 months, the government suggests in a DfT consultation that motorists would save £45 (an amount the DfT considers the typical cost of an MOT) over the vehicle’s lifetime if it first underwent an MOT test at four years of age. But would motorists view these extra pounds in their pockets to be money wisely saved? According to the SMMT survey, they wouldn’t: 83 per cent of respondents consider £45 worth paying in order to gain peace of mind that their car is safe, roadworthy and legal.

A total of 68 per cent also expressed concern that delaying the car’s first MOT could put themselves and other road users in danger, and the industry shares this concern. In its consultation, government suggests that new technology in cars, such as tyre pressure monitoring systems, lane departure warning or wet weather tyre performance, is making cars safer. However, while such systems may help prevent or mitigate accidents, they do not change the fundamental underlying operation of wear and tear on products such as tyres and brakes, which continue to require regular checks and maintenance.

According to DVSA data published in the DfT’s MOT consultation in January 2017, 17 per cent of all cars taking their first MOT at three years do not meet minimum safety requirements. Postponing the first MOT for a further 12 months could, therefore, result in almost half a million more cars in unfit condition driving freely and unchecked on UK roads.

“The MOT is an essential check on the safety and roadworthiness of vehicles,” says Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “Extending the first test for cars from three to four years is not what consumers or industry want given the serious risk posed to road safety and vehicles’ environmental performance. The latest vehicles are equipped with advanced safety systems but it is still critical that wear and tear items such as tyres and brakes are checked regularly and replaced. We urge government to scrap its plans to change a test system that has played a vital role in making the UK’s roads among the safest in the world.”

The most common reasons for three-year-old cars failing the test include essential lights and indicators, tyres, brakes and suspension, and the MOT is a critical intervention that ensures worn components are replaced before the car is allowed back onto the road. An investigation conducted by TyreSafe in partnership with Highways England last year found that 27.3 per cent of car tyres checked were below the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. In addition, 70.4 per cent of the tyres examined were worn below the recommended 2mm minimum and would be unlikely to last another year before reaching the legal minimum through typical use. Extending the period before a car’s first MOT inspection places greater responsibility for checking wear and tear upon car owners themselves, and this isn’t a good idea – 56 per cent of car owners responding to the SMMT survey said they didn’t examine their tyres frequently, and 18 per cent check them just once a year or less, or not at all.

MOT first test - survey results

To what extent do you agree that the typical £45 cost of an MOT (according to the DfT) is worth the peace of mind that the car is safe, roadworthy and legal?
Strongly agree: 39.7%
Tend to agree: 43.6%
Tend to disagree: 10.6%
Strongly disagree: 3.8%
Don’t know: 2.3%

How often, if at all, do you or someone else responsible for your car personally check tyre condition and tread depth?
At least once a week: 11%
At least once a month: 27.7%
At least once every three months: 22.4%
At least once every six months: 14.9%
Once a year (not including the annual MOT): 11%
Less often than once a year: 3.3%
Never: 3.9%
Don’t know/ can’t recall: 5.7%

How likely, if at all, would you be to consider purchasing a car over three years old that did not have a valid MOT certificate at the time of purchase?
Very likely: 2.1%
Fairly likely: 4.7%
Not very likely: 19.3%
Not at all likely: 69.7%
Don’t know: 4.2%

In the UK, passenger cars must undergo a safety check called the MOT test to make sure they meet road safety and environmental requirements. Currently, a car is first tested when it is three years old and annually thereafter. The Government is suggesting that new technology in modern cars means they don’t need to have their first test until they are four years old, and, to save motorists a one-off payment of the fee (typically £45), it is considering extending the time before a car’s first MOT test to four years. However, new technology has not changed the fundamental way in which safety critical components such as tyres and brakes operate. Brakes and tyres will always wear through normal everyday use due to the high levels of friction they rely on to work, and regular checks are therefore essential. Around 1 in 5 (17%) passenger cars fail their first MOT at three years old (according to the Department for Transport) and some of the most common items to fail are critical wear and tear safety components such as brakes and tyres.

To what extent do you agree with extending the length of time before a car has to go for its first MOT will put drivers, passengers, pedestrians and other road uses in danger?
Strongly agree: 25.9%
Tend to agree: 42.2%
Tend to disagree: 18.6%
Strongly disagree: 7%
Don’t know: 6.3%

To what extent do you agree that a car’s first MOT should continue to take place when it is three years old?
Strongly agree: 41.8%
Tend to agree: 34.7%
Tend to disagree: 13.7%
Strongly disagree: 4.8%
Don’t know: 5%

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,036 adults, including 1,266 vehicle owners/ registered keepers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22-23 March 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

The consensus within the automotive industry is that safety should come ahead of deregulation, cost saving or convenience, and many want the test to go further. Calls have been made for additional checks such as allowing diesel particulate filters to be properly tested; introducing vehicle safety recall checks to remind motorists of outstanding recall work and ensure it is carried out; tightening the check on mileage to aid the fight against clocking; and ensuring the test and testing stations are sufficiently equipped for checking emerging technologies such as automated safety systems.

This isn’t the first time that government has proposed changing the frequency of the test. Similar consultations were issued in 2008 and 2011. In its preparation for the then consultation in 2008, Department for Transport data estimated that up to 71 additional road deaths could result from moving the first test from year three to year four. The SMMT comments that making the change would thus undermine the hard work and investment that has gone into reducing road accidents in the UK, which have fallen 77 per cent since 1970. “This is tremendous progress, partly due to investment in ever more advanced vehicle technology, partly due to tougher driving regulations and stricter enforcement, and partly due to the MOT test.”                 sg

Comments closed