IMI Magazine

IMI Magazine

Vehicle Testing - The Big Switch

To be fair, continuing delays over the introduction of new MoT processes are not just down to slothful government bureaucracy or bungling. All parties involved – from Siemens, the system provider, to the testers who will have to master the changes – acknowledge the importance of getting the system right before it is rolled out to every one of the 19,000 or so garages that conduct MoT tests. There’s no doubt it is a mammoth project that should deliver benefits in terms of security, consumer service and efficiency. But why is it taking so long?

According to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), the final date when all MoT stations should be operating the new set-up is still not fixed. “We’ve completed stage one in the trial process and we’re now well into stage two, carrying out detailed testing – which includes incorporating MoT ‘failures’ into the system,” said a spokesman. “There are now five HGV sites and around 50 MoT garages using the system. The next stage will be completed when we have 1,000 on-line.”

An insider from VOSA, who preferred not to be named, confirmed that there are three stages of ‘bench-testing’ the system and honing it accordingly. “There are around 30 million MoT tests carried out every year by 45-50,000 testers who must all be comfortable with the system.

“As we all know, computers can and do go wrong, so we have to test Siemens’ ‘back-up’ for the system too. About 1,000 garages will be needed to try the system to establish just how it performs in practice. Then the plan is to have more test centres joining the programme at the rate of 900 per week by late next year.

“The current system (introduced in 1963) generally worked well until it became too easily abused. Everyone supports change and there’s nothing quite like this new system anywhere else in the world.”

Ian Davies-Knight, operations manager of the Retail Motor Industry Federation and chairman of the Trade Liaison Group, says: “The introduction is taking longer than was initially expected, but I must say we have been fully consulted and kept fully up-to-date on progress by VOSA. It is better that we spend time getting the system right before it goes out to the whole national network of garages.”

He pointed out that a problem affecting the motor trade in general - the shortage of skilled technicians - also had a knock-on effect on the MoT testing scenario. “There is a general shortage of testers across the country, but the problem is ‘patchy’. It’s at its most acute in London and the South East.” He added: “We really need to raise the ‘status’ of the MoT test in the eyes of the public – and computerisation together with the increased security and efficiency of the new system will hopefully achieve that. If we raise its status in the eyes of the public, the status of the tester will rise in the eyes of the industry too.”

How it will work

All MoT testing stations will be provided with PCs, monitors and printers. They will be connected to a central database of vehicle information, test results and details of authorised examiners and testers. Access to the system will be for authorised users via electronic ‘smart cards’ and a password.

The tester will insert a smart card into the computer and enter a personal identification number, together with the vehicle VIN and registration numbers, for on-line authorisation by the DVLA through its database.

The card will be similar to those used for cash dispensers but in addition to the NT’s signature it will also feature his (or her) photograph. These identification measures are designed to clamp down on fraud.

Faults that cause a vehicle to fail the test will be logged by the DVLA. This is to highlight structural or mechanical weaknesses in a particular marque or model so that testers can pay them particular attention.

Following completion of the test, the system will issue a ‘receipt’ carrying the vehicle’s details, together with the time and date of the test and where it was carried out - information that can be checked by a prospective buyer through a call centre, or a website, when the vehicle is sold.

If you are an MoT testing station you will receive a PC, monitor, and printer free of charge. Training will be carried out by Siemens on the day your equipment is installed. Your gas analyser (not required for the motorcycle test) will also be fitted with a smart card reader.