When will MOTs return to normal?

Vehicle technician inspecting car from beneath

Since the beginning of April, MOT certificates were extended for six months after the current certificate expires. So when will MOTs return to normal?

From the beginning of April, for MOT certificates coming up to the end of their validity, the validity was extended for six months after the current certificate expires.

This was to enable those who need to use their vehicles but couldn’t renew their MOT because of garage closures, to drive on the road with an expired MOT, although it should be noted, there is still a requirement that the vehicle should be in a roadworthy condition.

The solution has been effective in terms of enabling key workers to keep driving. However, practical issues are starting to arise.

Many motorists were surprised to discover that the extension doesn’t mean that if they check online, their expired MOTs will have been given a six-month extension.

In fact, that’s not how it works, the extension only takes effect a week prior to the expiry date of the original MOT. This has led to some speculation that it has been set up like that to give DVSA the opportunity to, at short notice, withdraw the six-month extension.

This means that if your current MOT is due expire at the end of June for example, DVSA could cancel the extension at any time up to a week before your MOT expires, and you would then be obliged to renew as normal.

If that were to be the case it would be quite unreasonable for motorists to suddenly find that their expectation of having their MOT certificate extended upon its expiry, would be unfounded.

Nevertheless there has been an increasing clamour for the Government to withdraw that exemption as soon as possible, and not only by the MOT Trade, the reasons being twofold.

Firstly, the number of vehicles which are being driven on the road with ‘dangerous defects’ is certainly higher than it otherwise would be, as there will undoubtedly be vehicles which would have failed their MOT with dangerous defects had the extension not been introduced.

Secondly, the longer the exemption lasts, the greater the sudden demand will be on Testing Stations to cope with the volume which will arise when the lockdown and extension ends.

The latter would be especially problematic the longer the extension is allowed to continue as the normally expected annual surge in MOT Testing during September would be supplemented by even more vehicles requiring a new MOT because their six-month exemption has expired. This especially as the exemption took effect during the other annual busy March/April period. So this coming September there will be an even further increase in Testing volume beyond the normal September peak.

DVSA’s assurances

We raised these issues with the DVSA who assured us that when the extension is removed it will be done in a way which will be fully communicated to both Testing Stations and motorists, to ensure that the change is as well-informed and as smoothly achieved as possible.

But what about all those dangerous vehicles currently being used which would have failed the MOT had they been Tested when the then current certificate expired?

Dangerous to drive

Of course there will be many vehicles out there with the potential to suffer catastrophic failure if a dangerous defect remains undetected. However, when the MOT rules were last revised by the EU, for the first time there was a ‘formal definition’ of dangerous defects.

Because the condition of certain components could now be defined as ‘Dangerous’ on the MOT Test computer, this significantly increased the number of dangerous defects recorded by Testers, as compared with the previous situation where it was up to the Tester to reach that decision on his or her own assessment.

However, during lockdown with a significant reduction in vehicle usage, there would not have been a dramatic effect on road accidents caused by those defects.

Since the lockdown has been eased, however, traffic numbers are increasing daily and those fears of increased numbers of accidents due to undetected dangerous defects must now be a matter of some concern.

It should also be noted that in some cases the threat to road safety can be accumulative as one defective item could accelerate wear on another component resulting in a further dangerous defect.

Revised Testing Station procedure

So how are DVSA reacting to these quite reasonable increasing numbers of calls from the industry to revert to normal MOT Testing?

Well, as we’ve noted elsewhere, DVSA are keen to get back to normal, and are looking at ways to tweak the required Testing procedures to enable Testing with an assistant to be undertaken whilst keeping to the required two metres (or whatever distance will be specified in the future) distancing.

DVSA have also made clear, however, that the decision will be made by central Government, and not DVSA, so we will all have to wait and see if that is included in the next stage of the government’s easing of the lockdown measures.

As many will already be aware Testing Stations are still open for business albeit with special procedures to protect both their staff and customers from the Covid 19 virus. And those procedures are being formalised by some trade bodies. The IGA for instance have now published their code of practice for their member to safely repair, service and MOT Test vehicles in the light of the risks faced from Covid 19 infection. 

Update: Pressure to resume is increasing

Even over the past week there has been an increasingly frenetic call from the MOT industry to resume Testing. The focus is on road safety and the very obvious fact that thousands of vehicles which should have been MOT Tested by now have not had the inspection, but are now out there being driven on the road. Calls have come from the Independent Garage Association and the SMMT to retract the exemption ‘as soon as possible’.
Kwik-Fit, it is reported, believe that over a million vehicles are currently being driven in an unroadworthy condition. Yet as Boris Johnson has discovered, removing Covid 19 restrictions isn’t as easy as setting them up in the first place.
A sudden halt to the exemption would be disastrous. Testing Station would be overwhelmed, and many drivers would simply not be able to suddenly have their vehicles tested at such short notice.

A ‘tapered’ re-introduction?

At MOT Testing we believe that the best way forward is to taper the extension – so motorists have time to make the necessary arrangements to have their vehicles Tested. This would also give the Government the opportunity to see how well the MOT industry copes with the sudden increase in demand.
The way this would work would be to first set a period of time, perhaps a month, after which the six months extension will be reduced to three months, and then, say three months after that, MOT’s will return to normal. In this way the demand for MOTs would be spread over most of the year.
Motorists would always of course, have the option to MOT their vehicle at any time before its expiry, so MOT Testing Stations could profitably advertise available slots to enable motorists to take advantage and avoid waiting time.
At the same time the Government should launch a strong publicity campaign urging motorists to ensure their vehicles are safe, and to voluntarily book an MOT as soon as possible to ensure that they don’t fall foul of the law during the phased return to full Testing.
That way the condition of vehicles on the road will improve in phase with the increased mileage driven by motorists as the lockdown is eased.

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