Changes to the MOT test from January 2012 are good news for safety but could end up landing fleets with hefty repair bills for equipment such as electric seat adjustment motors and electronic stability control (ESC) if they fall outside the manufacturer warranty.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is adding a number of new mandatory test items to comply with tougher rules from the European Union. The aim is to harmonise the minimum test requirement across Europe and ensure it covers the latest technological innovations.
New rules, affecting cars, vans and HGVs/PSVs include additional safety checks for some vehicle systems already examined such as brakes, steering, suspension and lighting.
There will also be new safety checks on the increasing number of on-board electric safety systems, including ESC and, for cars registered after January 1, 2012, factory-fitted tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).
ESC became compulsory on new cars and vans launched in the EU from November 1; it will become compulsory on all new EU vehicles sold after October 31, 2014.
However, fleets will be given a period of grace to make any necessary repairs after the Vehicle and Operators Services Agency (VOSA) – the Government agency responsible for the MOT – said ‘failures’ relating to the new test items will be treated as ‘advisories’ in the first three months.
This means vehicles will still be issued with a MOT certificate and fleets will have until the first MOT renewal date after April 1, 2012, to get them fixed.
VOSA chief executive Alastair Peoples said: “The MOT test is designed to make sure that a vehicle is fit to be on the road and so it needs to be updated to reflect new technology.
“We have worked with the industry to prepare them for these changes to make sure that the measures are introduced in the least burdensome way possible.”
The changes could cost fleets dear as replacing an electric seat adjustment motor out of warranty could set them back £1,500, while a TPMS system could cost as much as £500.
With 27% of cars and 45% of vans (3-3.5t) already failing their first MOT, it makes it even more important for fleets to have a robust vehicle checking policy in place to identify any issues as they arise. Critics have also raised concerns over the cost of the test.
The new checks will lengthen the time it takes to complete the MOT by around five minutes and the MOT Trade Forum is calling for an increase to the fee charged, although the DfT said it had no plans to change the pricing next year.
AA president Edmund King thinks that applying the rules retrospectively is unfair. He said: “We think it’s right that the MOT test keeps up with technology – that’s a move in the right direction. But if you look at technology legislation, you are normally given a date from which it applies.”
Fleets could also find they are hit in the pocket if the changes have an effect on residual values.
CAP editor Mark Bulmer told Fleet News: “That will depend on whether people’s desire for the safety benefits outweighs the potential extra costs.”
Bulmer also highlighted how the layout to the MOT certificate will change, with more detail provided through a list of advisory notes on any issues discovered during the test.
For the first time, this will reveal to a potential buyer an area of concern, which hasn’t resulted in a failure, but could deter them from buying the vehicle.
“It will be advantageous to have this level of detail, but it could result in some unscrupulous operators flagging something up to generate more business,” added Bulmer.
The new MOT rules come in the wake of Government proposals to reduce the frequency of MOT tests, citing its desire to “reduce the burden on motorists”.
Currently, new cars and vans are subject to a MOT test after three years and then at annual intervals thereafter.
However, Transport Secretary Justine Green’s predecessor Philip Hammond suggested reducing the frequency to four years for a new vehicle and every two years thereafter.
This was despite a DfT study which found that moving to a 4-2-2 system more commonly used elsewhere in Europe could increase road deaths and serious injuries by almost 3,000 – 408 fatalities and 2,504 serious injuries.
The DfT has yet to launch its formal review or its subsequent timescale.