Opinion: Why blanket industry licensing isn’t the answer, says Graham Stoakes

Industry author, lecturer and GW columnist suggests gradual regulation is "more manageable and affordable"

Opinion: Why blanket industry licensing isn’t the answer, says Graham Stoakes
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A recent campaign, highlighted through social media, has once again reignited the debate about the licensing of technicians.

Graham Stoakes: Industry author, lecturer and GW columnist.

This is a contentious issue and has always caused disagreement within the trade.

It seems to be a recurring theme every few years, which never appears to be fully resolved or come to fruition.

I fully back proposals for some sort of regulation of technicians in the motor industry, especially when it comes to the maintenance and repair of safety critical systems.

Currently, anyone can set themselves up as a business, and offer to maintain and repair vehicles for the general public without any training or formal qualifications.

“No guarantee of quality”

As an automotive college lecturer I’m in the profession of training, and I understand that certificates may be no guarantee of quality.

I also know that there are experienced technicians with no formal qualifications to their name who are very good at what they do.

However, some form of periodical competence testing, leading to a type of licensing for practising vehicle technicians may not only improve safety standards, but could also the raise the image of the industry.

In 2005 the motor industry was under threat of a “super complaint”, citing poor automotive service standards, and was told that funding should be made available to agree a new set of professional standards.

Had the “super complaint” proceeded, this would have immediately placed mandatory legislation on all forms of vehicle repairs in the UK.

The big problem with mandatory regulation would then be how quickly compliance with the legislation had to be implemented, and the potential interruption to the service industry this would cause.

Related: Industry licensing debate gets reignited but who’s listening? 


The logistics of how to get the entire country up to speed, with licensed technicians, would not only be financially crippling, but may also be beyond the means of many legitimate businesses.

The introduction of a voluntary competence assessment by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) known as Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA), now IMI Accreditation, opened up an opportunity for this type of regulation to be adopted nationally.

Although still an option for technicians to prove current competence of their automotive abilities, it has never become a mandatory requirement and has remained a method for individuals to demonstrate their personal professionalism.

With legislation, the shake-up in MOT regulations and requirements for annual CPD and assessment for testers shows that such schemes can be implemented, but are difficult to administer and are seen as inconvenient by some.

The reason why it succeeds as a regulatory process is that it is only concerned with a specific activity (i.e. MOT testing) for which you have to be initially approved and licensed.

Regardless of legislation, there would be loopholes and those who continue unregulated as they do now, either because of unawareness or indifference.

For example, it is possible that some organisations are already breaking the law without even realising it.

This may not be done on purpose, however not being fully aware of the regulations should not be seen as an excuse.

Graham Stoakes

With a long history working in an independent garage, Graham now teaches motor vehicle technology at Chichester College.

He’s a renowned author too, with ten books and three CD ROMS to his name so far, covering a range of vehicle technology topics from levels one to four.

To find out more about Graham Stoakes and his automotive books, visit his website.

F-gas regulation

The regulation of F-gas for those that work in the mobile air-conditioning (MAC) sector has required that a minimum of a recognised gas handling qualification has been needed since the 4th of July 2010.

However, many organisations are still working on the systems without the required certification and training and even potential fines of up to £200,000 (civil penalties) do not seem to be a deterrent.

My feeling is that although in principle many would like a blanket license for those repairing and maintaining vehicles, it would not be reasonably practicable.

It is more likely that a scheme such as the proposed license to practice for technicians working on hybrid and electric vehicles, could be adopted and then steadily amended to cover systems such as ADAS, autonomy and other safety critical systems.

This way legislation can be gradually introduced at a more manageable and affordable pace, and may eventually mean that all technicians are able to work competently on high-voltage vehicles as well.

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Home Page Forums Graham Stoakes opinion: Why blanket industry licensing isn't the answer

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  • #169902 Reply

    Industry author, lecturer and GW columnist Graham Stoakes suggests gradual regulation is “more manageable and affordable” in his latest column…

    [See the full post at: Opinion: Why blanket industry licensing isn’t the answer]

    #170088 Reply
    DS Vickers AAE MIMI

    I agree with what you say but as you know my views are that rather than starting regulating with F gas which is an important environmental issue, the focus should have been put into safety critical systems. How hard would it actually be to design and implement a system whereby MOT repairs can only be carried out by competent repairers? It could be a requirement that when a vehicle is presented for retest a certificate of competence (available online as a template) is provided before retesting the vehicle? Most of us testers deal with a fairly regular group of repairers in the main and as such we could have their certificates of competence on portfolio. This would also raise customer awareness when returning their car and being asked for a certificate of competence as most people believe anyone who runs a garage is qualified and licensed. The infrastructure already exists and deals mainly with safety critical systems and whilst being a bit of a pain for us testers, would hopefully raise standards and shift responsibility to some degree for vehicles that we’ve retested that were repaired well enough to pass at the time of retest but later fail on the road.

    #171245 Reply

    I think DS Vickers has come up with a workable way to start the ball rolling.
    Presumably competences would be for different categories of repair, mechanical, electrical, body etc.
    But how and by whom is the competence of a repairer to be judged ?
    As an M.O.T. tester I would be delighted to have some reassurance that the fault has been repaired not just covered up.

    #171246 Reply
    Graham Patterson

    We have had licensing in Australia for some time, initially for all the right reasons, that has been degraded gradually over the years to recently be dumbed down in an obvious cost cutting exercise that is likely to see less monitoring and at the same time implementing individual license fees as well as the licenced premises fee. A pro active group here has just trialled the American ASE accreditation in an effort to recognise excellence in the industry. The system we have at the moment is just another Gov. cash cow.

    #171392 Reply

    What could actually happen in reality is this. The vehicle manufacturers are under increased pressures, therefore it is entirely possible that with the advent of EV vehicles, ADAS etc that as I have recently experienced, the car manufacturer will just stop producing parts for older vehicles outside of warranty and then the customer will end up buying/leasing new EV vehicles. Limited, and I do mean limited members of the current Motor Trade who have invested in time and training in the vehicle manufacturing design principles at degree level and above will to some extent be in a position to manufacture some car parts themselves, thus keep trading for a while longer, but this is a specialist area of expertise not open to the everyday shop floor trade, who have not invested in these higher end training and qualifications. The IMI as previously mentioned above came along with the aTa accreditation to redress problems in the garage trade at a very basic level, which to some members of the trade have blown it all out of proportion putting the views across that unless everyone has the master tech grade then the garage mechanic is of low importance! I’ve seen many trying to get into the IMI accreditation just purely to get their MOT license. The Government were never any help in the past producing the NTTA assessment that many took advantage of just to try and get into the mot scheme. The mot forums were rife with people asking for the answers to the NTTA questions in its time.

    So as I see the trade moving forwards, the manufacturing industry could continue to stop supplying parts for older vehicles, they could then move onto the EV type vehicles and then when those cars start to show problems and enter the garages left trading, the cost of repairs could prohibit the repair and the customer not bothering. What then for the remaining garages?

    While this will not be seen in the short term, in the long term the think tanks could have other agendas not being disclosed and the trade really could end up being something entirely different in the longer term future.

    #171432 Reply

    Further to David’s predictions which I totally agree with the trade will face a problem with accessing the info which we currently obtain from the OBD port.
    The data which manufacturers harvest from the vehicle is increasing exponentially and in due course the data recorded will fall within GDPR limits.
    At that point allowing anybody with a fault code reader to access it will not be possible.

    #171457 Reply

    I was on a ADAS training course last night and based on the costs of repairs and parts not including equipment, many garages are not going to get over this one hurdle. Example if a customer wants a new door mirror supplied and fitted, the mirror with its built in radar etc will probably cost a few hundred pounds, then it requires fitting, and then it must be calibrated to the car to work. This price alone starts from 250 pound if you can find somebody tooled up to do the job. The idea at the moment is that only insurance companies are being worked with for this service. The trade will not even be in a position to remove and fit a bumper without calibrations being required. The modern vehicle is now equipped and tooled up to communicate directly with the vehicle manufacturer and their agents, the after market garages have major problems/hurdles in front of them to stay in business. Licensing, not required by any stretch of the imagination.

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