The Government has recently issued a consultative document suggesting a change for the first MOT Test to be at four years old and two-yearly thereafter. Yet data we have discovered shows that since the Government last made the same proposal in 2010/11 (which was rejected on road safety grounds), the number of cars with “dangerous” defects cited during an MOT examination has increased threefold – from about 800,000 then, to 2.4 million in 2020/21 (the latest available figures). This doesn’t mean that cars suddenly have more ‘Dangerous’ defects now, but that the numbers were seriously underestimated in the earlier figures, which only came to light because there was a significant improvement in how MOT results were recorded 2018 and MOT failures with dangerous defects were from that point more accurately recorded.
A misleading consultation and flawed research
Yet in their latest consultation document suggesting a dilution of MOT Testing, probably to try and persuade voters that they are on their side against higher inflation and increasing costs of living, the Government make no mention of to what extent previous figures they published for cars having dangerous defects were under-counted. And it gets worse. When the Government last suggested diluting the MOT, they commissioned a report from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to investigate the effect on road safety of reduced MOT Testing.
While the report seemed to give a green light to go ahead with watering down the MOT Test, suggesting there would be no significant threat to road safety. However, due to its limited scope and low budget it fell well short of what would be required to provide definitive evidence of a threat to road safety. This was discovered and published by our Editor Jim Punter in a critique of the report. Ironically, Richard Cuerden, the TRL author, did not disagree with Punter’s published critique (see pdf below), especially regarding dangerous defects, saying:
“…we broadly agree with your comments with respect to the number of defects and the number of dangerous defects which have not been accounted for in the first model; if they had been it is likely that more casualties would have been predicted, but this was beyond the scope of our programme of study.”
With our discovery that dangerous to drive defects were significantly under-counted at that time by a third makes that statement even more relevant to the current situation. Yet astonishingly the current Government consultation also cites that TRL report, but does not inform the general public that not only did that report NOT refer to the 800,000 vehicles per year cited by Testers at that time as having dangerous defects, nor does it note that the most recent figures published by the Government’s Agency running the MOT Scheme, shows that an increased number – nearly three times the original figure – almost two and half million vehicles, were found to have dangerous defects when MOT Tested in 2020/21.
This demonstrates that the Government’s consultation document was either purposely misleading for political purposes, or incompetently drafted. Whichever of these applies, it is a very serious matter; indeed it is a matter of life, injury and death for motorists and pedestrians on Britain’s roads.
Informed decisions need full information
It is entirely right that the MOT Test, which is a vital element in maintaining Britain’s roads as amongst the safest in the world should be regularly examined as to its effectiveness. But this very serious matter deserves to be discussed by the Government in a competent, and honest manner.
The general public, which relies on the accuracy, completeness and competence of the content of consultative documents published by the Government when suggesting changes to such a key road safety system as MOT Testing, should not be misled by errors, omissions or deliberate misinterpretation of MOT road safety data.
We urge the Government to withdraw the current document and remedy the errors and omissions it contains, as well as noting the oversights, omissions and restrictive nature of the old TRL report cited in the consultation. Otherwise, those responding to the consultation document will not be able to make fully informed decisions, rendering the consultation biased and seriously flawed.