Fleets to face big changes if MoT regulations are revised

The government is now considering responses to its proposal to extend the time when cars and vans require a first MoT from three to four years – although there are demands that large vans are tested annually.

Any changes could have far-reaching implications for fleets in terms of both operating costs and an even greater focus on ensuring vehicles are roadworthy.

Both the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) have called for the status quo to be maintained – an annual MoT when a vehicle is three years old.

However, while the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) supports the government’s MoT extension proposal for new cars from three to four years and some vans, it opposes the same move for class 7 vans (those weighing 3,000- 3,500kg).

The Association recommends that the date of the first MoT test for large vans should be cut to one year after first registration, in order to address any potential safety considerations. Such a move could significantly impact on fleet operating costs.

The Department for Transport has proposed three options:

  • No change, maintaining the current period for vehicles requiring a first MoT at three years
  • Extending the first MoT for all vehicles currently requiring one at three years, to four years
  • As option two, but excluding vans in classes 4 (up to 3000kg) and 7, where the current MoT three-year first test timing will be maintained

The government says its preference is for either the second or third options.

In making the proposal, the government has calculated that vehicle owners could collectively save more than £100 million every year.

The SMMT says extending the time when cars and vans require a first MoT from three to four years would have a significant impact on vehicle safety. It also suggested that new technology in cars such as tyre pressure monitoring systems, lane departure warning or wet weather tyre performance, was making cars safer.

Simultaneously, the SMMT suggested that delaying a vehicle’s first MoT could reduce road safety with almost 500,000 more cars potentially in an unfit condition driving freely and unchecked on UK roads as a total of 17% of all models taking their first MoT at three years old did not meet minimum safety requirements.

It pointed out that while new technology-based systems helped prevent or mitigate accidents, they did not change the fundamental underlying operation of wear and tear products such as tyres and brakes, which continued to require regular checks and maintenance.

The RMIF shares that view and, while it agreed that modern cars were better built than ever before, factors such as the condition of Britain’s roads combined with high mileages meant vehicles should be checked more by mechanics.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executiveconcluded: “The MoT is an essential check on the safety and roadworthiness of vehicles. Extending the first test for cars from three to four years poses a serious risk to road safety and vehicles’ environmental performance.”

Although the SMMT and RMIF highlight that safety should come ahead of deregulation, cost saving or convenience, the BVRLA has warned that, while supporting the extension proposal it should not apply to large vans.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “Modern cars are safer than ever. As such, we believe the proposed extension before the first MoT test is required can be implemented without risk to public safety.”

Nevertheless, with work-related road safety high up on fleet decision-makers’ agendas any move to a first MoT at four years would require an even greater focus on risk management, particularly in terms of vehicle service, maintenance and repair management.

However, Mr Keaney continued: “Van traffic is growing, and these vehicles’ average annual mileages are significantly higher than the average car on UK roads. At a time when the government’s own data shows large vans have appalling first time pass rates, the BVRLA believes these vehicles should be getting tested every year, not every three or four years.

“Many large vans fail their first MoT because they have not been well maintained and have substandard brakes, so they pose a real risk to road safety.”

If the BVRLA’s call wins government support it will undoubtedly increase operating costs for businesses running class 7 vans. That could mean that some organisations consider downsizing to class 4 vans, which are excluded from the organisation’s proposal.

The consultation has now closed and civil servants are studying responses. A decision on whether to retain the current MoT rules or change them will be one of the first considerations for the next Transport Secretary appointed following the June 8 general election.

The FSGB view

Whatever the government decides in respect of when vehicles should undergo an MoT, managing the roadworthiness of a vehicle comes down to influencing, measuring and improving driver performance. Drivers, whether at the wheel of a car or a van, are the single biggest influence on fleet operating costs. MoT failures for large vans are, according to data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency worryingly high, but that is down to a failure of fleets to have in place a daily regime of vehicle checks undertaken by drivers. What’s more, MoT pass rates for all cars and smaller vans are far from perfect. Efficiently and effectively managing drivers and vehicles on a daily basis means that not only will operating costs reduce, but the frequency of an MoT will simply result in the updating of a mandatory record as a ‘pass’ should be recorded every time.

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