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Pro-MOTe, the lobby group set up last year to campaign for the maintenance of annual MOTs, has welcomed today’s announcement that Ministers have dropped plans to reduce testing frequency.
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The Government’s rationale for looking again at frequency despite overwhelming evidence regarding its road safety risks, is that to do so would “reduce the burden” on the motorist. With fuel prices high and incomes tight, Ministers are looking for ways to make life easier for car drivers.
Yet reducing frequency of MOT testing will have exactly the opposite effect. Far from reducing the burden it risks adding considerably to the financial costs that motorists must bear.
Replacing annual tests with two-yearly checks may reduce MOT fees motorists have to pay – currently £54.85, although discounting of the fee is widespread and free re-tests common. But these are likely to be far outweighed by the additional costs associated with repairs required and higher insurance premiums.
There is good evidence to show that the existing MOT test acts as stimulus for motorists to have the preventative regular maintenance and servicing carried out at the same time and many will pay to make necessary and often minor repairs to their cars. Yet extending the period between checks raises the likelihood that minor problems become more serious defects which require more significant and more costly repairs later.
Regularly inspecting a car means faults which could cause fatalities, such as this corroded brake disc are picked up.
Jim Punter, who owns a garage with four MOT testers, and has been in the MOT trade for 37 years explains:
“Even with annual MOTs, we often see significant problems such as excessively worn steering joints which result in unevenly worn tyres. If the joints had been fixed earlier it would have avoided the cost of replacing the tyres. All motorists should make regular checks on their cars to keep them roadworthy. Unfortunately, many don’t do so which ends up costing them more in the long run. An annual MOT is a key ‘trigger’ to pick up problems early.” (Jim Punter, October 2011)
Anything that risks increasing the number of road collisions is likely to have an impact on insurance costs – and it will be motorists that will have to bear that burden. As the Association of British Insurers says:
“Insurers have concerns about proposals to reduce the frequency of MOT testing. While not perfect, the current system is clearly more likely to pick up on faults than less frequent tests. Insurers are concerned that fewer tests could lead to more accidents, more injuries, more damage to cars, and therefore increased motor insurance premiums.” (ABI, August 2011)
As well as adding to motorists’ costs, reducing MOT frequency would also cost the country more too.
According to the 2008 DfT study, the cost to the taxpayer for every road death is estimated at £1.645m. It predicted that moving to a 4-2-2 system of MOT testing would cost almost £900 million a year (net of savings) more in terms of the cost of road collisions and environmental damage to the predicted increase in the number of unroadworthy vehicles.
This calculation does not, however, take into account the costs that would come from lost jobs in the MOT industry, as well as additional welfare payments, insurance premiums and repair costs. The overall net cost to the UK is likely to run into billions of pounds.
John Ball, MOT Chairman of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), the UK’s largest retail motor trade organisation, said:
“I’m not sure how much Ministers quite realise how expensive reducing MOT frequency would be. We understand the desire to reduce burdens on motorists. But the likely financial burden imposed by fewer tests far outweighs any savings - and the wider implications to the UK would be enormous.”