Fleets could face a hike in MOT fees to help pay £2 million a year towards the cost of targeting unsafe vans by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
Currently, enforcement action is paid for out of general taxation, but the Department for Transport (DfT) has recommended that van operators should pick up the tab instead.
It wants the sector to cover the costs in the same way HGV operators do, with the cost of enforcement paid via its testing fee.
The DfT says that, while the details of how costs are recovered from the fee “would need to be determined”, this may include an increase in the MOT fee, which it said is likely to add £3.25 to a class seven test.
A class seven MOT, which is conducted on commercial goods vehicles weighing between 3,000-3,500kg, currently costs about £50.
James Firth, head of licensing policy and compliance information at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), believes it is unfair to ask fleet operators that comply with the law to “prop up” those businesses which do not.
He said: “We urge Government to take the opportunity to apply costs only to non-compliant operators whose vehicles do not pass the MOT at the first attempt.”
With 46.8% of vans failing their MOT at the first time of presenting, the FTA is also concerned about the practice of using the test as a diagnostic tool, rather than ensuring that regular maintenance programmes are upheld across the industry.
Firth continued: “Many of the vehicles which feature in the failure stats could have been given a temporary fix to pass the test, but could easily deteriorate to a dangerous level shortly thereafter, with no follow-up inspection.
“By ensuring that the enforcement levy falls on those requiring a retest, FTA is confident this would be an additional financial incentive for all van operators to maintain standards and strive for a first time pass, every time.”
The possible rise in the class seven fee was part of a wider package of measures from the Government about the future of the MOT.
They included allowing all vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes an additional year before they had to undergo official tests, extending the period before the first MOT from three to four years.
Official statistics suggest the average mileage for a car presented for its first MOT is 32,000 miles, compared to around 70,000 miles for vans. As a result, the failure rate for vans tends to be double that of cars.
Members of fleet operators’ association ACFO were unanimous in a survey on the issue, with 100% voting to keep the MOT for vans at three years. However, fleets were divided on the correct approach for cars, with 60% of ACFO members in favour of moving to four years.
More than 2.2 million cars each year undergo their first MOT test, according to Government figures, which also show that the number of three- or four-year-old cars involved in accidents where a vehicle defect was a contributory factor has fallen by almost two-thirds, from 155 in 2006 to 57 in 2015.
In a Fleet News poll readers were asked if they thought extending the first MOT for cars was good news for the fleet industry and opinion was divided, with 51% voting ‘yes’ and 49% voting ‘no’.
The Government argues the current three-year test, introduced in 1967, is out of step with most of Europe, including Northern Ireland, where four years tends to be the benchmark for cars.
In addition, it says vehicle components are more reliable and failures tend to be related to basic maintenance issues, such as lights, that could be dealt with by encouraging drivers to carry out regular checks themselves.
If the current administration forms the next Government after the general election on June 8, any changes would be expected to be introduced in 2018.