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The Great MOT Debate

The Great MOT Debate
Mike Penning at the Department for Transport made a controversial announcement last year; that vehicles manufactured and registered prior to January 1st, 1960 would be exempt from compulsory MOT testing.  This piece of legislation came into force on November 18th 2012.  The decision has apparently been taken to save motorists from unnecessary ‘red tape.’ Those owners who prefer to test of course able to continue, and all owners will still have a responsibility to ensure their vehicle is safe and roadworthy.
The 1988 Road Traffic Act laid down the basis for current MOT requirement, and was of course put into place to ensure that cars and similar light vehicles (heavy vehicles are subject to their own regulations) over a certain age are checked annually to see that they are in compliance with some basic safety and environmental standards.
The Government quite rightly suggest that this exemption will reduce financial burdens on those owning, restoring and preserving historic vehicles, with the change saving up to £54.85 annually on testing.  There is strong evidence to suggest that many classic cars are among the best maintained motors in the UK, and that as a rule these cars are not subject to everyday use, many doing less than 500 miles a year, a rather large amount less than the current UK average, which is 9,000 annually.  As Transport Minister Mike Penning said, “Historic vehicles are treasured by their owners who want to ensure they are well maintained, and in most cases they use them irregularly.”
In current figures, some 30% of post 1960 vehicles fail their initial MOT, while this figure drops to less than 10% of vehicles registered prior to 1960.
Figures also suggest that in terms of safety, classic cars have a proportionally reduced amount of accidents on the road.  Classic ownership makes up just 0.6% of current road vehicles in the UK at present, but statistics show that they were involved in 0.03% of road traffic accidents and casualties during 2010.  The modern MOT is also becoming increasingly irrelevant to classic cars which simply do not have the components being tested, such as catalytic converters or ABS brake systems.
Despite this saving, there are those in the community who have been less than pleased by the proposal.  A major fear has been that of increased insurance premiums, and the removal of a compulsory safety check on older vehicles.  Critics suggest that without a legally recognise standard safety check, there is a real risk that some owners may not be aware of the risks they are taking.
It stands to reason that while these cars may not do a lot of mileage and therefore suffer less wear and tear, a motor which rarely runs is in fact probably more likely to develop faults than one which is.  Regular use keeps a motor in better condition, and those who rarely drive their cars will have less opportunity to detect and deal with any major issues, a factor which could lead to more, rather than less, unsafe vehicles on our roads.  We’d also question then who decides if a car is roadworthy or not? If you are stopped, is the police officer doing the stopping qualified to say whether the car is safe to drive? Will you be able to dispute such a decision? If so, what will you base an appeal on?
It has also been suggested that the legislation will have an unwelcome affect on businesses reliant on classic and vintage vehicles.  It may also mean that the market suffers as a consequence, as potential buyers may be put off by the lack of an MOT certificate.
There is also the insurance question.  Whether or not less mileage is undertaken, underwriters will still be looking at risks involved, and removing standardised safety checks could well have an effect on premiums as underwriters will assume the risks to be higher in untested cars.  With no standard to adhere to, underwriters will be forced to rely on individual drivers for vehicle assessment, and this will no doubt have a major impact on prices.  The major players don’t seem to have clarified their position at the time of writing on the changes, but it seems likely that the effects will be more than noticeable.
This also has a bearing on the events we all attend.  Public liability insurance has always been a major cost as these events, and is crucial to ensure visitor and exhibitor safety.  If, however, the vehicles on display have not had to go through any routine safety check, there is a real chance that liability insurance underwriters will demand premiums which make hosting and organising these shows prohibitively expensive and possibly put paid to so many of the wonderful events we enjoy.
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