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MoT Tale….

May 1, 2011


Shepton Mallet, England – It would be so nice if something made sense for a change….

Take the mandatory UK vehicle road worthiness test (MoT) as an instance. The good old MoT has chugged away for just on 50 years making the vehicles on UK roads among the safest, if not the safest, in the world. Seems to make sense i.e. having the safest vehicles in the world from the viewpoint of condition and maintenance.

But now in what now seems its current “if it ain’t broke do fix it mode” the UK Government intends to radically alter the MoT procedure, after a consultation of course.

Is this a sensible move? Read on and see what you think.

What’s being proposed? In the last couple of weeks Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, has announced that the government will  be consulting on proposals to adopt either a first vehicle test from new after 4 years then a yearly test (4-1-1), a  first vehicle test from new after 4 years followed by a test 2 years later and then a yearly test (4-2-1), or a first vehicle test from new after 4 years followed by a test every 2 years  (4-2-2). It appears that retention of the current first vehicle test from new after 3 years followed by a yearly test (3-1-1) is not being considered at all.

It’s not clear from the documents that BRR has seen if Hammonds proposal includes motorcycles, scooters and mopeds and perhaps we should not make the assumption that it does. Only the publication of the consultation document will confirm if we are in or out of the new proposals and that , the publication, is not expected until after the UK local elections and AV referendum on May 5.

We seem, on safety at least, to have mixed messages here. Hammonds main thrust appears to based on the fact that the technology in vehicles has advanced to such a state that periodical technical inspections (PTI), for that’s what the MoT is, can be stretched to longer and longer periods without impinging on safety. Yet in 2008 the then (Labour) government made an extensive review of MoT frequency and concluded that the increase in road deaths and casualties which would result from moving from the current 3-1-1 regime to a proposed 4-2-2 option was unacceptable. Indeed new research, carried out by the Transport Road Laboratory (TRL), mentioned by Hammond in recent weeks as a justification for change concludes that the changes would lead to around 30 additional deaths each year.

Hammonds second strand argument for change, that of reduced costs, is certainly justifiable in the current financial climate and a clever give away from a government unwilling to take a hit on the revenues raised from petrol sales. A new MoT regime could half the costs (over a five-year period) currently paid by vehicle owners for tests. Hammond is apparently willing to lose a substantial amount of the around £2.00 slot fee paid to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) by the independently owned testing stations for each test they carry out. While taking the heat from the same testing stations over the loss of revenue from a reducing number of tests and from the money made in fixing the failures.

Where does this leave the financially hard pressed motorcycle, scooter or moped owner?

On the assumption that powered two-wheel vehicles are in a new MoT testing regime better off. With the proviso that VOSA will be out and about doing more roadside checks in the hopes of raking in a few extra quid in fines to make up for the loss in slot fees.

On the assumption that  powered two-wheel vehicles are out a new MoT testing regime and subject to the current 3-1-1 regime. No worse off financially, but subject to the possibility of more VOSA checks and exposed to higher risks from badly maintained vehicles that use the roads around them.

Oh and the riders rights groups? They seem to keeping a “watching brief” emphasis on the “watch” on this one. That’s the problem of being in the “industries” pocket. OK when we can pal up on the training and testing not so clever when the riders would benefit, as on reduced MoT costs, and the industry does not, as in reduced income from MoT’s and fixing failures.

Then of course there is the Federation European Motorcycle Associations (FEMA) “Hands Off” Campaign that is fighting the introduction of a pan Europe harmonised PTI. Supported of course on banjo and harmonica by the UK Motorcycle Action Group( MAG) the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF).

Bit confused here. MAG and the BMF by default seem to support a PTI regime in the UK but not in parts of Europe. While FEMA happily take hundreds of thousands of Euros from the EU to do a supporting act on safety, things like RiderSafe, 2BeSafe and RiderScan, while fighting PTI which could actually improve it.

I may be in a minority of one but I’d like to know that wherever I choose to ride in European the bike coming the other way has passed an MoT test as good as the one that the bike I’m on has, call it peace of mind.

Ride safe, have fun!!

© Back Roads Rider 2011

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2011 7:27 am

    Firstly re your coment about travelling in Europe, I presume you don’t ride in France as there is no MOT for bikes equivelent there! And as for the UK test being one of the best in Europe all I can say you don’t get out much.

    I was, in a previous life, involved in the car repair trade. The thought of extending the MOT intervals scares the hell out of me. I ran my repair business is a relatively affluent area but I can tell you that many people only had repairs carried out in order to pass the MOT test. Tell a car owner that his brake discs are below minumum thickness and need to be replaced for instance then see if he reaches for his wallet. I often resorted to a printed warning on the service invoice to the effect that I considered the vehicle unroadworthy. When the man, and it was almost always men who “knew best”, asked why I had done that my usual reply was “It’s for your widow”. Only when faced with an MOT fail sheet can we be sure that the repairs are carried out. The UK test is very basic but does cover most safety issues. It would be interesting to have figures for the percentage of vehicles that fail the test. Presumably this percentage would, under a two year test scheme, continue on the road with potentially dangerous faults.

    I suppose, given the havoc this goverment is spreading throughout Britain with it’s vicious cuts to essential services, this is but a minor issue. Strange how saftey takes a back seat though.

    John- glad to be out of the UK

    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      May 1, 2011 8:33 pm

      Thanks for commenting.

      The point I’m making is that all European counties should have PTI’s for motorcycles. scooters and mopeds, yes I do ride all over Europe and some of the machines I’ve seen are a disgrace. Hence the comment.

      We could have a discussion as to the UK MoT being the best. Its obviously only a safety check and simple not as comprehensive as the German requirement, for instance. But frankly I’ve got better things to do and, I bet you have, than to enter into a discussion on the merits of European PTI’s various.

  2. Elaine Hardy permalink
    May 1, 2011 8:19 am

    Hi BRR, I’ve posted your blog on the “No Periodical Technical Inspections for Motorcycles” Facebook page set up by FEMA. Everybody on the that page seems against PTI – including the UK contingent, as I mention below – the EU Commission hasn’t proposed anything yet, so I’m quite sure why they are all so angry.

    I wrote: In Nthn Ireland the majority of riders here want the MoT system, because it ensures that sub-standard bikes are kept off the road. Our govt is now considering changing the system from 3-1-1 (first inspection year three followed by annual inspection) to 4-2-2 and will hold a consultation about it. I don’t understand …- the EU hasn’t proposed anything yet. Wouldn’t it be better if you knew what they wanted first?

    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      May 1, 2011 9:00 pm

      Thanks for the comment.

      I simple cannot understand why the EU “riders rights” groups are against an EU wide standard for a PTI and its introduction into all EU countries. There appears to be enough research evidence that this would save lives. They appear to talk the talk on safety but not walk the walk, except of course when it pays the wages.

      The worrying thing, as you point out re the EU Commission, is that the UK government is preparing to consult on UK MoT changes before the EU Commission has formulated and announced its proposals. Would it not be better if the UK waited and then consulted on what the Commission proposes. Otherwise it appears we are heading for another episode of the UK introducing a revised MoT and a year latter introducing the EU model PTI.

      As for FEMA and PTI – Struggling too hard to be “controversial” perhaps!

  3. Ian Cook permalink
    May 1, 2011 4:28 pm

    What evidence have you for the accusation: “riders rights groups …seem to keeping a “watching brief” …on this one. That’s the problem of being in the “industries” pocket”

    Some kind of unspecified axe to grind, methinks!

    And “MAG and the BMF by default seem to support a PTI regime in the UK but not in parts of Europe” So why would MAG wish to influence this policy in countries which do not concern it? That’s a common failing of FEMA, which you then go on to criticise for the reverse…

    Distracted by the Royal Wedding, were we? 😉

    Struggling too hard to be ‘controversial’ perhaps?


    • Back Roads Rider permalink*
      May 1, 2011 8:39 pm

      Thanks for commenting.

      Struggling too hard to be ‘controversial’ – perhaps?

      But more likely we know the “personalities” inside the UK “riders rights” movement.

  4. Elaine Hardy permalink
    May 2, 2011 10:18 am

    Enough with the handbags at dawn.

    The fact is that FEMA and MAG and the BMF are against EU wide PTI. In the statements here “EU Super MoT” – we must fight this – yada yada…

    Good for them you could say. However, the EU Commission has not put forward any proposal for an EU wide PTI – so I need to understand why so much energy has been spent with everybody getting their knickers in a twist? There was a consultation a few months ago to ask for people’s opinions – that’s all folks!

    So with the Dutch gathering 18,000 odd signatures to make a statement that they don’t want PTI is, in my view, a complete waste of energy. Not only it is a huge deception on the part of MAG NL (equally FFMC etc etc) because they appear to have convinced their members and beyond, that the Commission has already made its mind up. But it hasn’t. That, my friends, is what really pisses me off.

    In fact if you go to the consultation website it states: “this document (objectives of the consultation) has been drafted for information and consultation purposes only. It has not been adopted or in any way approved by the European Commission and should not be regarded as representing the view of the Commission. It does not prejudge, or constitute the announcement of any position on the part of the Commission on the issues covered.”

    So let’s go back to the MoT here in the UK. Failure rates for GB are 21% annually, in Northern Ireland they are 7%. Why the difference you may ask? Simple! In Northern Ireland the MoT is carried out by a Govt Agency – the DVA at government test centres. It costs £22, you can book online. (The only difference to the outcome is that here you have to display an MoT disc). So because it’s not done by the private sector, there is less chance (in this case 66% less) of the MoT operator getting money on the side to repair your bike.

    BRR you state that the DfT aims to put out a consultation on MoT. I know that there have been rumblings about changing it to every 2 years for a while now. My guess is that they (DfT) want to be prepared as and when the EU puts forward its proposals and I can’t see anything wrong with that. Considering that most member states have derogations of some sort or another.

    What I consider the most important issue – irrespective of personalities, axes to grind or whatever other comments regarding the orthodoxy (or not) of riders’ groups throughout Europe, is that the overwhelming majority of motorcyclists here and in the rest of Europe have never heard of these organisations and yet may be subject to the litany of cock ups that FEMA is famous for, starting with the 2nd and 3rd DLD.

    So, do we want an MoT system? yes – I think is the answer. Will this include emissions in the future? probably, but is that a problem? Not really – as it may well reduce our road tax.

    But in the end folks – all this crap isn’t the issue. The issue is simply – why are we funding a corrupt and rotten bunch of bureacrats and why are we kowtowing to the hysterics of other countries that really don’t give a shit about our interests. Sign the referendum – leave the EU.

    We’ve got a small fishing port down the road that has had to shut down because the scampis were the wrong size – even the boats were the wrong size – so a whole community has no employment and will die! that is the future of motorcycling – wrong size, wrong colour, whatever…..

  5. May 4, 2011 3:07 pm

    From an industry perspective, the changes to MOTs will be unlikely to be welcomed. It seems that motorists will not save that much money, and also should we ever really compromise on safety? Regular MOTs are a must in that respect.


  1. El Camino – The Road

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