Plans to extend the length of time before new vehicles are MOT tested from three to four years have been scrapped by the UK Government.

The decision comes after a consultation found that, despite prospective cost savings for car owners, respondents felt that the savings were outweighed by potential safety issues.

Although the proposal has now been ditched, other reforms to the test are set to be implemented later this year.

The four-year test window proposal was initially announced in 2017; at the time, members of the fleet industry were among those raising concerns.

Shaun Sadlier, head of consulting at vehicle leasing and fleet management company Arval, was one of them, and he welcomed the decision to think again.

He told BusinessCar, “Arval’s view was that no change should be made if the safety of our roads was in any way impacted by the extension to four years, and it seemed to us that the original proposal made this inevitable. 

“It was interesting to see that, in the public consultation that took place, over half voted against it, showing that, for interested parties, safety comes before cost savings.”

Also welcoming the announcement was Kit Wisdom, head of technical services at business mobility firm Alphabet, who told BusinessCar, “We believe that delaying the test could threaten driver safety and impact employers’ duty of care. The industry has seen a fall in accidents involving cars in their first four years of use, and it is our understanding that a robust MOT process after three years is a contributing factor to this.”

Announcing that the proposal had been abandoned, the government said it would be looking at further research to ensure the MOT test evolved to suit modern motoring.

Sadlier said he expected future changes to be concerned with new technology arriving on the market.

 “A whole range of changes are emerging, from alternative fuels to ADAS safety features to semi-autonomous driving capabilities,” he said.

“All of these have an impact on the safety of the vehicle, and we would anticipate  the MOT will be enhanced over time to remain fit for purpose by including these developments.”

Some changes are already on the way, with the government set to introduce reforms from May this year, in accordance with an EU directive.

These include new categorisations of ‘dangerous’, ‘major’ and ‘minor’ for defects, with ‘dangerous’ and ‘major’ defects meaning a failed test, while ‘minor’ defects will be recorded on the car’s MOT certificate.

Reacting to the categories, Sadlier said, “We welcome any changes that make UK roads safer, and that take vehicles with major or dangerous failures off the road until the issues are resolved. 

“In addition, as the ‘minor’ faults will be noted on the car’s MOT certificate, a person buying a car that is over three years old will have more information available to make an informed decision on the condition of the vehicle, instead of the current designation of ‘sold with one year’s MOT’. We see this transparency as a positive move.”

Wisdom said the new defect categories would make drivers more aware of the need to have repairs done, but added that any increase in costs would be a concern.

He said, “Making the testing more thorough could lengthen the duration of the test and consequently increase its cost. We have not seen an increase in the recommended retail price of the MOT test for seven years and any changes should consider any potential negative effects, such as discouraging drivers from getting the test done.”

The RAC, which also welcomed the abandonment of the proposed four-year test window, has said it is concerned about the coming changes.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said, “Rather than MOT failures simply being black and white, the new system creates the potential for confusion as testers will have to make a judgement as to whether faults are ‘dangerous’, ‘major’ or ‘minor’. 

“The current system ensures that any vehicle with a fault that doesn’t meet the MOT requirements is repaired appropriately before being allowed back on the road.

“We do not want to see a lowering of MOT standards and a reduction in the number of vehicles failing the test compared to current levels.”