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THE CHANGES TO THE MOT TEST

The forthcoming changes to the MOT rules is an issue that will impact on many of us and, as a recap, here is the announcement on https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mot-changes-20-may-2018:

Cars, vans, motorcycles and other light passenger vehicles won’t need to have an MOT if they’re over 40 years old and have not been substantially changed.

At the moment, only vehicles first built before 1960 are exempt from needing an MOT.

When the rules change on 20 May 2018, vehicles won’t need an MOT from the 40th anniversary of when they were registered. You can check the date the vehicle was registered online.

The MOT Test was a result of the Road Traffic Act of 1956 and first applied on 12th September 1960 to cars aged a decade or more; at that time, it was known as the “Ten Year Test”. In the words of Autocar magazine:

“The official scheme for testing cars, motorcycles, smaller goods vehicles and hackney carriages came into force when 12,500 garages throughout the country began to operate the scheme.”

58 years ago, this encompassed an annual examination of the steering, lighting & reflectors and brakes, all for a fee of 15 shillings (14/- for the test and an additional 1s for the certificate)- See video below. By the end of 1961 the fact that the eligibility for the test had been reduced to cars aged seven years reflected the necessity for ‘The MOT’. As David Williams pointed out in a 2010 Telegraph article ‘in 1960, 6,970 people died on British roads, compared with about 2,500 today. And there were only 9.4 million vehicles in use, compared with 34.2 million now’. If you look at footage of British roads of the 1950s it is far from uncommon to see elderly machines that even Albert Steptoe might have rejected on the grounds of lack of road worthiness.

 

The scope of the test has continually expanded - by 1967 cars three years old were subject to the MOT and 1978 saw a cars indicators, wipers, windscreen washers, exhaust, horn, and body structure and chassis being tested. HGVs became subject to an annual roadworthiness test in 1968 - See Video Below – and 12 years later the examiner would look at emissions and rear seat belts and in 1992 the government introduced a requirement for a minimum tyre tread. 1993 saw the MOT encompass mirrors, number plates and rear fog lamps. One minor point is that the Ministry of Transport officially ceased in 1970 but the test continues to bear its name.

From 18th November 2012, the MOT test was abolished for pre-1960 cars - although their owners were still obliged to keep their vehicles in a legally roadworthy condition. Sir Greg Knight of the All Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group was quoted as stating:

“I am delighted by this announcement. Accidents involving historic vehicles are extremely rare and the majority of owners are meticulous in keeping their vehicles in good condition. Having to have an annual MOT test for a vehicle which may only travel a few hundred miles in a year was costly and absurd.”

However, the move was not universally applauded, a Classic & Sports Car report considering that it was:

“sure to cause controversy because polls showed that many classic owners wanted to retain the MoT. Plus the move seems to solely shift the onus on to owners to make sure that their cars are safe, making the premise for dropping a legally enforced test redundant.”

This leads us to the most recent change in the law. There will still be an option for owners of pre-1978 cars to voluntarily submit classic vehicles for a MOT and some might argue that very senior vehicles often travel just a few hundred miles per year. Others may reflect on the fact that a pass certificate never absolved a motorist from ensuring their car was always in a safe state, regardless of its age, and that mandatory testing was to the benefit of all. So, in conclusion, here are the viewpoints of two of the most experienced classic car writers in the UK. The first is Nick Larkin, a figure who needs no introduction, and he believes that ‘any car of any age should be subject to an obligatory safety test’. The second is Iain Wakefield, the editor of Classics Monthly, and in his words:

“My worry is that it could be seen as a passport to cheap motoring. People who want to become involved with classics could acquire a cheapo barn find, polish it up and then run it – or sell it. Either way it could give our hobby a bad press. The majority of enthusiasts will look after their car either by themselves or with the aid of a specialist, but a small number could well find themselves in real difficulties. It would take just one serious accident…”

But what do you think?

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