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Parts and distribution: MoT switch set for April

We’ve been here before. The Vehicle Operator Services Agency is adamant that the national implementation of its computerised MoT system will happen in April. That’s after a three-year delay which has seen promises and glitches in equal measure, and some commentators remain sceptical that it will happen at all.

The 18,500 vehicle test stations in the UK were first told that the system would be in place in 2002, that quickly turned into 2003, then early 2004, then November 2004. And now April 2005. But will it be worth the wait?

“Garages are not the only ones who will see an improvement after computerisation is introduced, motorists too will see many benefits,” says Garry York, administration and customer services manager for MoT computerisation at VOSA.

“The main change for motorists will be that they now no longer need to rely on the certificate as proof of MoT status. The definitive proof of a vehicles’ MoT will be held on the secure central database and they will be able to check this on-line or over the phone.”

Once records have built up on the new system motorists will be able to obtain history and mileage checks which will, for example, be useful when buying a second hand car and should act as a major deterrent to clocking.

The computerisation process will ensure that each time a vehicle goes for its MoT, the mileage will be recorded on the database. This can’t be altered so motorists, interested in buying a second hand vehicle will be able to verify its recorded mileage.

For testing stations, it will mean an improvement in standards through the provision of accurate, up-to-date information. The system will provide vehicle specific information, such as items to look out for on the make and model being tested, or details of any recalls that have been issued for that specific vehicle. It should also lead to less paperwork as information will be passed to and from garages electronically.

The new receipt-style certificates that will be issued under the new system will incorporate a reminder sticker to let motorists know when their next test is due. The new receipt-style certificates will also indicate whether an ‘advisory form’ (VT32) was issued at the time of the test which will act as a useful reminder for the vehicle presenter of work that will need to be carried out in the future.

When buying a second hand car, it will also act as a warning flag for a potential purchaser to investigate further these ‘advisory items’ with the vendor.

The VOSA has been criticised for being too concerned with perfecting the system, rather than rolling it out and then ironing any problems as they arise. But it says that getting rid of teething problems is essential if the system is going to be successful in the long term.

“The third and final phase of trials is well underway and initial reports are very positive with installations and training running according to plan,” says York.

“The system has also performed well in the new sites with over 2,000 tests completed and entered into the new database in the first week of trials alone. There are currently many more thousands of tests on the system.”

The final trials also saw the introduction of a new ordering process for MoT Certificate pads and other related catalogue items. As with the introduction of any new system there were a few teething problems in the first week as the system bedded in, but any delays were quickly sorted as new telephony was installed and additional staff brought in to deal with an unexpectedly high number of orders.

This year will see more changes in MoT than just computerisation, however. After 40 years of needing two staff to carry out an MoT test, VOSA is considering a one man test which would bring enormous savings for test stations.

This follows VOSA investigations into Automated Test Lanes (ATL), already used in mainland Europe. They require additional equipment, such as a 2005 VOSA specification headlamp tester, a wheel play detector that is operated from under the vehicle to expose wear on steering joins and an auto-start brake tester.

Although for many garages, investment will be required, this would be compensated by extra profits, reduced labour costs along with simpler and safer testing – making MoT testing a much more financially attractive proposition.

“In conjunction with the manufacturers and the Garage Equipment Association we have agreed the new lane and equipment specification,” says John Stephenson, VOSA testing standards and strategy manager.

“This will exclude the suspension tester as a mandatory piece of equipment until an EU working party completes its findings on an acceptable principle and standard.”

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