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Testing times: What the Government's MoT plans could mean for fleets

By / 5 years ago / Comment / No Comments

The Government has got itself hot under the collar about extending the first MoT for cars from three to four years. The move was announced last July as part of Chancellor George Osborne's Budget and is currently undergoing industry consultation.

If it passes into law, which could happen this year, it will have a duty of care impact on businesses running cars aged over three years and those that permit staff to use their private cars for business. Vans are excluded as they will continue under the current three year test regime.

The Government's argument is that cars are better built and more reliable than when test for cars aged over three years was introduced back in 1967 – something nobody would dispute. It also argues that by extending the first date to the fourth anniversary it will reduce costs.

Needless to say the automotive sector doesn't want the extension. Most fleets use main dealers for their MoTs and rely on these workshop visits as essential safety checks and an opportunity to immediately remedy any advisory notices. Also, with extended service intervals, the MoT is an ideal opportunity for a car's consumables – especially tyres – to be properly checked. How the Government thinks the cause of driver safety will benefit from a 12 month delay to these checks is unclear.

The cost saving argument is even more nebulous. Garages, fast fits or franchised workshops can charge up to £54.85 for MoTs, yet many will bundle this cost into a service or offer a reduced rate to win your business.

Research commissioned by Lex Autolease put the importance of MoTs for businesses into perspective as it highlighted the high rate of failures experienced by SMEs, the cost of having vehicles off the road and the failure of staff to carry our routine maintenance.

The survey of 500 SMEs found that 25% ran cars and vans that had failed their first MoT, which collectively had racked up £350 million in repair bills. Furthermore, the survey estimated that unplanned trips to the garage cost them an average of £4,300, based on an average repair charge of £564.91. The impact on downtime was an average of 1.4 lost working days each in the last year.

The research also highlighted how driver's failing to carry out simple maintenance had ramped up repair costs; a serious consideration if cars have to perform for an extra 12 months before having an MoT.

Furthermore, despite the risks, 40% of SME bosses admitted they regularly drove a vehicle that has a fault. In addition, half of the companies (51%) said their most recent trip to the garage was the result of their own poor maintenance and bad driving, with accidents and potholes counting for less than a fifth and just under a tenth of incidents respectively.

The findings also reveal that many drivers do not possess the basic knowledge required to detect problems or carry out straightforward checks.

“From making deliveries to driving to sales pitches and meetings, vehicles are essential to the successful day-to-day operations of many UK small businesses. It’s therefore surprising to see that so many fail to protect themselves from avoidable costs,” said Simon Barter, head of SME Direct at Lex Autolease.

“Our findings prove that vehicle maintenance isn’t considered a priority by many. By taking simple steps to ensure vehicles are routinely checked and drivers are able to spot the signs of disrepair, businesses could save themselves unnecessary downtime and expense.”

The suggested four-year MoT will clearly have unintended consequences as the number of cars on the road requiring some form of repair will increase significantly. Businesses will also need to address how they increase the basic maintenance skills set of their employees and how they ensure checks are carried out on a regular basis.

If the Government really wants to reduce motoring costs it could easily do so by lowering the rate of tax it levies on petrol and diesel at the pumps. That way everyone would benefit without compromising anyone's safety. Or, while we're in the realms of fantasy, how about releasing central funding to local authorities to help them better fund pothole repairs?

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.