Coalition Contemplates Two-Yearly MOTs

Following a Parliamentary question tabled in the House of Lords from a Lord Marlesford (who specialises in rural affairs), we understand that the Coalition Government have said they are considering changing the MOT Test so the first MOT is when a vehicle is four years old, and every other year thereafter (4-2-2). Yet this was seriously considered by the last Government in 2005 and after the Department for Transport carried out a three year long analysis of the implications of such a change, it was strongly rejected in November 2008 on the basis of road safety – that 400 more people would die each year, with 2,500 more being seriously injuried. Here are the gory details.


By any interpretation of DfT’s report any MOT change, either extending the first Test until a car is four years old, or extending the period between Tests, the result will be more people killed and seriously injured on the road.

4-2-2 kills people and costs money

When, in November 2008, the Department for Transport eventually published their findings following the most comprehensive analysis of the effect of Britain moving to two-yearly MOTs, the result was a ‘jaw dropping’ endorsement of Britain’s current annual MOT, and a dire warning of the road safety consequences of going to 4-2-2. That official Department for Transport report is still current and to be found on the MOT Testing website at this Evidence Based Report Page. Here are the key conclusions:

  • An additional 400 plus road deaths every year (with a minimum estimate of 177 a year)
  • Seriously injured road casualties would increase by 2,500 a year (with a very minimum of 1088)
  • Carrying out a car’s first MOT after four years (on its own) would cost society £67M
  • Reducing MOT frequency to every two years would cost society £887M
  • Combining the two to 4-2-2 would cost society £954M (almost £1B)
  • The current net annual benefit to society of the MOT scheme is £4.5B

Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. For what we can only speculate were political reasons at the time, no account at all was taken of the effect of redundancies amongst the 100,000 or so people employed at MOT Testing Stations, or in the commercial supply chain to them.

By any interpretation of this report (An official Department for Transport remember) any change in the MOT either by extending the first Test until a car is four years old, or by extending the period between Tests, will result in people killed and seriously injured on the road, and a serious loss of money from the country’s economy.

Despite their habitually cynical approach to politics, even the Government at the time concluded that on the basis of road safety (changing the law so more people get killed and injured being not a good idea), and on the net cost to society, that changing the MOT Testing frequency was not a good idea.

It seems, however, that our new Coalition Government have a different view. Clearly tempted by a policy they think will make them popular by making it look as if they are reducing motoring costs by about £25 a year, have decided two yearly Testing might be a good idea to provide some ‘good news’ to set against the gloom and doom of spending cuts they’re having to make, and the current recession.

Cynical, nonsensical, irrational and irresponsible

Everybody knows that politics can be a ‘dirty’ and cynical business. However, Prime Minister David Cameron and his Deputy Nick Clegg promised us honest and sensible politics. The gist of what they say is that they won’t try and gain popularity by bribing the electorate with their own money – they’ll be up front and honest. Yet given the likely outcome of going to 4-2-2 MOT Testing (as described in the Government’s own document), this looks very much like bribing the electorate, not only with their own money (because 4-2-2 will cost the country money), but also, alas, with their lives and personal safety!

This is a complete nonsense. Not only is it cynical politics at its worst, it is irrational, irresponsible and arguably immoral.

Failure rates – failing components

Last October, in response to a Freedom of Information request, VOSA reported that the current average MOT failure rate was 37.25% for 2009/10, almost 4% higher than that for 2006/07. They felt unable to offer any explanation for the increase. During the same period, the annual number of MOTs rose by 1.75M.

These figures explode the myth that MOTs need not be done so frequently because vehicles are now more reliable with extended warranties of up to five years – one of the fallacious factors put forward by advocates of moving to 4-2-2 MOT Testing. And these failure rates will get worse when the new EU ‘MOT’ comes in with more ‘reasons for refusal’.

Let’s crunch some numbers

Let’s take 1000 cars which have all just been MOT Tested (some having failed and been repaired). Scroll on another year, but without an MOT. On historical evidence, at least 35% would fail, that’s 350 failures which would now be on the road in an unroadworthy condition for another year. But by now 35% of those that passed last year would also fail the MOT, that’s a further 227 vehicles (actually 227.5!). Now scroll on to the second year to just before they are Tested. A further 35% of those would have passed in the middle year also now fail, that’s another 80 vehicles – 657 failures altogether by year 2, the next MOT. That’s 67.5% of vehicles on the road unworthy of an MOT (which is, in any case, a very minimalistic safety inspection).

Yet it is potentially worse even than that. Those vehicles which would previously have failed in the middle year will have further defects by year 2, and those already extant would have become worse.

Accumulating deterioration

How often do Testers say to motorists whose vehicles have failed the MOT something like, “you had better get those disc pads changed soon because they’re only just good enough for the MOT, or, they’ll wear down to the back-plate and damage the discs”? Or, those tyres are legal but worn on one side, its worth having the tracking checked”? Running a vehicle for two years without having it checked (which, like it or not Minister, many motorists will do), means that defects will accumulate, often causing accelerated wear and even earlier catastrophic failure than would otherwise have been the case.

Service, maintenance and repair

So, is there a flaw in this argument? Well, perhaps. It makes the assumption that motorists will not change their current habits regarding service and maintenance of their vehicles. It also doesn’t take into account the fact that some motorists will conscientiously have their cars serviced every year. So let’s take a close look at that too.

What’s a service? Well we in the trade know, but you’ve only got to take a few phone calls at an independent garage to realise that motorists are very confused regarding the difference between oil and filter changes and a ‘full service’. But will a full service substitute for an MOT? Not necessarily. There are two issues here.

Will the motorist actually get the jobs done which they are advised need doing – even when told they are safety-related?

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