Whilst the Government have made it clear that Testing Stations have not been compelled to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they have provided motorists with a six-month extension to their vehicles’ MOT certificates provided the expiry date is on or after March 30th this year.
This has, however, provided some difficulty for motorists as DVLA (as distinct from the DVSA), only applies that MOT extension administratively on-line when there is only a week left on a vehicle’s tax. So, for example, if a motorist with a vehicle on which the MOT expired after 30th March decides to re-tax a vehicle, say three weeks before expiry of the vehicle’s tax date, DVLA’s website will reject the application because the vehicle has not got a valid MOT – because the 6 month extension is only added by DVLA to the website a few days prior to the tax expiry date – this is surely an unnecessary inconvenience to motorists!
Testing Station operations
On the other hand, DVSA have offered operational advice to Testing Station owners who are keeping their businesses open during the Coronavirus lock-down, here’s a summary of what is covered:
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COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
The symptoms are:
a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
Find out what to do if you have these symptoms on the NHS website.
Refuse to carry out a test if the customer is displaying symptoms and should be in self-isolation.
Rules on opening
You’re still allowed to open your garage or MOT centre and carry out MOT tests.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published guidance for vehicle owners that says:
…they should still get an MOT if it expires before 30 March 2020
if their MOT due date expires from 30 March 2020 it will be extended by 6 months
Your MOT centre can stay open after 30 March 2020 to carry out MOTs if you need to. This could include retests or tests of a vehicle that had an MOT due before 30 March.
Garages can also stay open to carry out essential repairs or services as well.
What to do if someone becomes unwell in your MOT centre
If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the workplace they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance.
For more full information read guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID 19)
Limiting the spread of coronavirus at your centre
– follow social distancing advice and keep at least 2 metres between customers and members of staff at all times
– remind employees and customers to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal
– frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
– use seat covers and new disposable gloves for every test
You can download posters, leaflets and other materials to display at your MOT centre.
You can close viewing areas if you want to.
Do not print MOT certificates unless the customer needs it for a specific reason.
Tell customers they can download and print the certificate when they get home and check their MOT history.
Avoid handling cash and use mobile or contactless card payments where possible. The contactless payment limit in UK increased from £30 to £45 from 1 April 2020.
Note: All the above is direct advice from DVSA’s own website here.
So what is the situation for MOT Testing businesses?
Testing Stations which remain open
As far as we can tell some Testing Stations are remaining open providing a service for key workers as well as the general public, whereas others have been forced to close for various reasons – perhaps too many Testing staff being forced to self-isolate due to family members showing symptoms of the virus, or maybe have key members of staff who are especially vulnerable to the virus due to underlying health problems.
It is essential that the MOT Test and associated procedures are conducted as safely as possible with regard to the dangers of spreading the virus (as per DVSA’s instructions above).
We have been informed that many Testing Stations are offering a collection and delivery service and are fully sanitizing vehicles before returning them to their owners, as well as welcoming motorists who prefer to bring their vehicles to the premises, and observing appropriate distancing procedures whilst at the Test Station.
Observing strict hygiene measures
It should also be noted that fully sanitizing the vehicle must include any areas that the Tester may have touched (even when wearing protective gloves), like the under-bonnet stay and the bonnet release lever, and including inside the boot and any interior parts of the vehicle which will have been touched during the inspection, seat belt latches for example, and all other vehicle controls which the Tester will have touched or held while completing the MOT inspection.
Government financial support
We have also heard that those Test Stations which have opted to close due to issues regarding the virus have been able to furlough their staff and obtain financial support available both regarding staff remuneration, relief from rates payments, and other benefits provided by the government for businesses affected by the virus and consequently forced to close or operate at much reduced levels.
As far as we can tell financial support is also available to those businesses operating at a reduced level, resulting in covid-related financial difficulties.
This support is of course vital, as even those Testing Stations remaining open will have experienced significantly reduced direct MOT revenue (and attendant repair revenue) due to all vehicles with MOTs expiring after 30th March now having a six months extension to their certificates’ validity.
Link to .gov website on how to claim employees’ wages through the covid job retention scheme here.
(Note: The scheme will be launched on 20th April 2020).
We have heard from a reliable source that one group with multiple Testing Stations nationwide has experienced a two thirds drop in the MOT Testing volume they would expect at this time of the year.
Getting back to normal
Another matter of concern will be how the Department for Transport (which we understand instigated that 6-month extension) will deal with the situation as the lock-down is relaxed.
It seems unrealistic to suddenly announce that all vehicles will suddenly have to have a valid MOT. Testing Stations would almost certainly not be able to cope with the sudden surge in demand – to get back to normal there will probably be a tapering of the requirement by gradually reducing the extension period.
We have tried to obtain some official comment on the situation from DVSA and have placed queries with their offices. Although we have had acknowledgement of receipt of our queries, we have yet to receive any formal response.
At MOT Testing we intend to bring timely and useful information to the industry as it becomes available, so check back on this website for further updates.
We hope all our readers and followers are keeping safe and look forward to a more certain future as these troubling and difficult times in due course, return to normal.
Keep safe – keep your distance, and keep your spirits up.
Updated 16th April 2020 to include link to government coronavirus job retention scheme.