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Editorial: Ready or MOT - the mistake of scrapping tests for pre-1960 vehicles

July, 26 2012

DVLA Editorial

It was recently announced that pre-1960 vehicles would no longer require an MOT as of November 18th this year. The changes in rules have been brought in to the benefit of classic car owners, including Roads Minister Mike Penning. However, we at National Numbers feel this decision has more downfalls than benefits.

The glaring issue we have with the rule changes is of course with safety, an issue that the pushing parties are keen to downplay. It is claimed that two-thirds of these classic cars travel less than 500 miles a year and have a lower accident rate than modern cars. Furthermore, they suggest that classic car owners take better care of their cars in the first place. We’ll quote Mike Penning on this:

“Owners of classic cars and motorbikes tend to be enthusiasts who maintain their vehicles well. They don't need to be told to look after them, they're out there in all weathers checking the condition of the engine, tyres and bodywork.”

We don’t like speaking in Maybes when the issue is public safety. What classic vehicle owners tend to do does not really fill us with confidence that they will do. I am happy that two-thirds of these cars do not travel more than 500 miles, but what of that other third? Only one car needs to fail to cause a serious accident, and while we are not into scaremongering it is the responsibility of the Government to reduce every risk to the public, scrapping MOTs is not doing that.

To quote Nigel Case, owner of the Classic Car Club, on this issue: “Scrapping the MoT on any car is pretty daft.”

MP Mike Penning (passenger seat) with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (driver) and Rt Hon Greg Knight MP (backseat).

But maybe I’m being too harsh. Mike Penning emphasises that owners will be individually responsible for their car’s roadworthiness. By which he means each individual will be expected to make a personal declaration of the vehicles condition and be able to prove this if an accident occurs. I cannot see how this helps anyone but insurance companies who want to avoid paying out.

Think of it this way, recent statistics show that road accidents are on the increase. If and when a classic car is involved in an accident it doesn’t matter how well kept the car is, unless it has documentation from a private roadworthiness inspection any assessor will challenge the word of the person who said their car was fine. This means only the driver will be liable.

As soon as situations like these occur you can expect the law to change again, this time to make private inspections compulsory for drivers and this will cost a fair bit more than MOT tests would work out. It will probably affect insurance premiums also. Anyway you look at it there is going to be financial pitfalls for classic vehicle owners in this rule change.

Of course, there are sections of the classic car fraternity that look down at National Numbers Ltd for the business we are in. Under current rules number plate transfers are only allowed on vehicles subject to an MOT or HGV test at sometime in their lives, this would of course make number plates on pre-1960 vehicles non-transferable. While we doubt this will be the case when the law comes into effect, as we know how much money the DVLA makes from the industry, we do not support the idea of taking away an individual’s right to transfer.

We have always considered it unfair practice for the DVLA to restrict the sale of registrations. After all, we have dealt with customers in the past that have used the sale of their registration marks to actually keep the vehicle on the road. By all means have inspection procedure in place to spot potential fraud but don’t use the MOT as a blunt instrument to curtail legitimate transfers. We also maintain that it is entirely wrong for one group to force their views onto others, in this case the classic vehicle owners who believe number plates should not be transferred.

It is not something we at National Numbers are worried about. In the past we have carried out successful transfers on a fleet of hearses that would be MOT exempt if not for voluntary MOTs. It is possible to opt-in, despite what some publications have claimed. We are also pretty sure that the DVLA will change rules to make this even easier due to the money they would be losing otherwise. When they issue a statement on the matter we will know.

For the time being though, we at National Numbers Ltd believe that the changes are a mistake and that the party that will truly pay for it are the owners of classic cars that Mike Penning MP claims to be helping. I strongly advise that any driver, classic or otherwise, registers his or her concern to better protect everyone on the road. After all, when plans go belly up it will not be the politicians that pay the consequences.

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