The future of the MOT

We take a look at how the humble test could evolve over the coming years

The future of the MOT
Photo: Bigstock

In April, Neil Barlow, head of vehicle policy and engineering at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), published a blog outlining the future of the MOT test. This followed the government’s announcement that the first MOT test would remain three years from registration and annually thereafter, following fierce opposition from within the industry. Indeed, an overwhelming 83.58 percent of the 4,489 people who responded to the consultation were in favour of the first MOT test remaining at three years.

Making the announcement in January, the government left the door open for more reforms, saying: “With the constantly improving technology of modern-day cars and electric vehicles (EVs), the Department for Transport (DfT) will continue to work closely with industry stakeholders and drivers to establish a programme of longer-term reform for MOTs.” But what does this mean and how could the MOT test evolve over the coming years? In his blog, Neil Barlow said: “Following the call for evidence closing DfT have had the huge task of collating all the feedback and make sense of it. Not surprisingly, there are lots of different views – often opposing. We now need to work with the garage industry, and other stakeholders to find a path through all the feedback to make sure future changes work for everyone.”

A month after the conclusion of the consultation, several online outlets ran stories warning drivers that the cost of an MOT test could rise to £372, although further reading revealed that this was a forecast based on current inflation rates for the year 2074. The prediction for 2034 was a less surprising – and significantly less sensationalist – £80.

At the time of writing, Neil Barlow’s blog post had generated 69 comments, several of which are focused on the issue of pricing. Colin argues that all MOT test stations should be forced to charge the same price, with Mike addingthat centres should say no to discounting. In response, Neil Barlow said: “I guess this is an area that could be looked at. However, I guess it will always be hard for government to ‘insist’ someone charges more – maybe not a good look. But I do get the point, and I think discounting has (rightly or wrongly) undermined some of the arguments for a fee increase.” Andy Grant mounts a strong case for a price increase, saying: “It’s now 14 years since a price increase. The test takes longer, we have had large increases in wages, rates, insurance, fees to attend MOT courses, etc. It’s not profitable anymore.

Many garage owners are very disappointed and not too interested in pursuing MOT business, causing distress to car owners in our city with long booking times.” The DVSA’s head of policy Chris Price points out that the test fee is set by the DfT, adding: “We have been open that we continue to work with the department on the subject of fees. We recognise that modernising the MOT will come at a cost, but we all want the MOT to continue to improve at pace with vehicles and we will try to keep any additional costs as low as possibly for you, we therefore make sure that the fee debate is being had with the department who can in turn engage with ministers. DVSA do not set the fee, it is set by government who have to consider the whole financial picture for motorists and the motor industry.”

Interestingly, a poll on the Garage Wire website reveals that 71 percent of technicians and garage owners would support a flat rate, with 15 percent preferring to give the garage the freedom to set the price. The remaining 13 percent say the government should set the fee.

In February, the DfT, DVSA and the Transport Research Laboratory hosted a workshop to discuss talk the main themes from the recent call for evidence. Neil Barlow says the “workshop has helped us do some very high prioritisation and work out what things might be feasible and desirable in the shorter term, and those that may take alittle longer”, adding that they “did touch on the contentious subject of fees! Not suggesting it is all solved – but talking openly about the challenges is a key step.”. It’s clear that pricing will dominate MOT discussions in the short to medium term.

Away from test fees, it’s likely that particulate number (PN) testing could be added to the MOT. This follows a trial involving 10 garages across the UK, which saw 1,800 vehicles tested with a fail rate of around 5 percent. Neil Barlow calls the data “really helpful”, adding that the DVSA will be discussing the next steps with the DfT.

The use of connected cameras in garages is less certain. The DVSA had hoped to allow testers to use a phone or tablet to take a photo of the vehicle’s number plate and upload it to MOT testing system (MTS) to prove that the car has been tested. In July 2023, the DVSA announced that it was pausing a trial of the technology to “do some enabling security work”, and Neil Barlow’s latest blog would suggest that the department is no closer to a resolution. He says: “A long-standing ‘man on the street’ view has been that surely we should just make sure the car has an MOT by having a photo of it. Over the last year, we have been trialling different ways of doing just that. And I think it’s fair to say that it is easier said than done to find something that will work easily across the 23,400 garages! We want to provide better security, but it’s also important not to slow things down for garages.

It’s also clear that taking photos isn’t the only answer to improving the security of the MOT – although it may be a part of the answer. It might be some of other work on ‘plugging’ into vehicles is also what helps here. We have conducted some trials already and are now working on different ways of doing it – based on all the feedback we have had.”

There are unlikely to be any signification changes to the test to reflect the increase in the number of electric vehicles on the road. According to latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), pure-electric vehicles account for 2.7 percent of the 35.7 million cars in the UK, and that percentage is likely to increase as we head towards the 2035 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Indeed, in the first quarter of 2024, sales of pure-electric cars totalled 84,314 – more than double the numberof diesel cars (37,655). That’s an increase of 10.6 percent year on year, and a market share of 15.5 percent.

Neil Barlow says: “Whilst there has been some suggestion that these vehicles should have a very different type of MOT, the reality is that the vast majority of the existing MOT works for these vehicles. Looking ahead there may be areas that make sense to add to the test for these vehicles – such as the function of Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems [AVAS] (the noise the cars make) or Battery Health Status – but any such changes will need careful work with the industry to make sure what we propose is feasible and affordable.”

Ralph Hosier, engineer and owner of Motor Skills Training, says there should be “a few small adjustments for electric vehicles”, but believes the bulk of the current MOT is fit for purpose. He’d welcome the introduction of more safety checks, such as checking for exposed cables, damaged connectors, damaged charging ports and ensuring the AVAS is operating correctly. He adds: “This does mean a small addition to MOT tester training, equivalent to the Level 2 EV repair and maintenance award. It’s not a huge change, but it’s important.”

Neil Barlow leaves the door open for Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) becoming part of the MOT test, saying: “Inevitably as these become more common, drivers become more dependent upon them – so the question arises as to whether they should be in the MOT. As with all such the things, the answer is not straightforward – and the answer will not be immediate. It is likely that any trial will be along the lines of checks we already have for emissions control systems or ABS – where we check the vehicles own diagnostic information rather than actually check the system itself.”

Five years ago, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) made five predictions about the MOT test of 2030. Looking into its crystal ball, it said:

1. Monitoring systems will be the focus of MOTs.
2. Emissions tests will disappear.
3. Testing electric systems will be fundamental.
4. Virtual MOTs will be standard.
5. MOT tests won’t be annual – they’ll be real-time.

Six years closer to 2030, these predictions are more ‘Tomorrow’s World’ than reality, but we could see a future without emissions testing and with tests conducted remotely using a connected service. For now, it looks like a fee increase and small changes to reflect a rise in the number of electric vehicles are likely to dominate discussions over the coming months and years.

Source: Garage Wire Aftermarket Magazine

3 Comments

  1. Wow, that is a lot of content to take in at once.
    I feel there should be a set price for MOTs, it needed to happen years back.
    There’s a lot of talk about technology within the test cropping up, technology that not all can accommodate right now but will have to. A standard rate higher than the now maximum will help slightly, so long as it is a standard rate.

    I’ve had people asking ‘can you MOT an electric car as no other garage locally says they can?’

    I thought DVSA said ‘you cannot refuse to test because the car is electric, though you may have to ask the presenter of some operating quirks to be able to perform the test legitimately’

    Newer cars, newer technology, newer rates in the future, surely?
    But let’s not forget the cars of the 2000s which we all know inside out.

    It becomes a minefield of fairness but the end result at the moment is unfairness towards the garage owners and maybe more the testers that can’t be paid fairly for the work they do.?

    Reply
  2. Virtual and real time mots lol what planet do you live on ffs.A thousand years from now maybe.Lets keep it real.

    Reply
  3. we need set prices i will be putting in a new brake tester next years £12k for a new one a lot off mots to get your money back we need a price increase and fixed prices it long over due but we have no one too talk for us as a industry

    Reply

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