An open letter to Greg Knight MP

Here is an open letter to Greg Knight MP, the man behind the MOT exemption for pre-1960 vehicles from us at Great Escape Classic Car Hire.
22nd May 2012

The Rt Hon Greg Knight MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear Mr Knight

I write with considerable concern regarding the introduction of the MOT exemption for pre-1960 vehicles, which you championed into being.

As you will see from my company’s website at www.greatescapecars.co.uk, I operate a fleet of 80 classic cars for hire in the UK.  I have to say that I am fundamentally opposed to your campaign, which I consider undermines the safety and roadworthiness of pre-1960s cars.  The legislation, far from cutting red tape, removes the only independent inspection of older vehicles that previously existed.

For the sake of clarity, I have set out my objections below:

1.       Safety.  The MOT test is conducted by trained inspectors who are monitored by VOSA.  To suggest that amateur owners could replace this procedure with their own checks is fundamentally flawed.  The test requires a ramp and specialist equipment which most people do not possess.  It is wrong to rely on owners to make the decision to have their cars checked voluntarily as issues of cost and convenience will inevitably blur their objectivity



2.       Lack of use.  I do not dispute your statistics regarding accidents and older cars.  However, take into account their relative lack of use, I suspect that pro rata to mileage the accident rate will be higher.  In any event, it takes one situation and one incident to cause an accident – one more accident because of poor vehicle maintenance arising from this legislation is one too many



3.       The validity of the MOT test.  Your campaign undermines the validity of the test by suggesting that some cars on the road, in particular those most vulnerable to deterioration, do not need to be tested.  What is to prevent other self-interested groups also chipping away at the basic rule, namely, if it is driven on the road, it should be independently safety tested?



4.       Vehicle longevity.  The MOT test is a useful independent test that ensures all old cars are maintained to a minimum standard.  Without it, the standard of older cars is likely to vary.  Without a legal requirement to make a vehicle roadworthy, the chance of owners allowing maintenance standards to slip is surely greatly increased.  The result will be, I suggest, a reduction in the number of roadworthy pre-1960s vehicles



5.       Insurance.  Insurance providers now have no independent verification that the vehicle under cover is roadworthy and suitable for use on the road.  I cannot see how, in the event of an accident, this situation would be clear in terms of a payment.  If owners want to avoid dispute, then they need a MOT.  This should not be voluntary, for the reasons outlined at 6.



6.       Voluntary testing.  Your argument against people like me is to state that owners can voluntarily test their cars.  This relies on them remaining objective about the timescale for regular testing and the necessity for it.  Factor in issues such as cost and convenience and it is not unreasonable to suggest that the reality is that some will fall behind in their well-meaning intentions, resulting in a deterioration in their vehicles’ safety and roadworthiness



7.       Classic car safety check.  You have suggested that garages would be prepared to conduct a simplified safety check “at a fraction of the time and cost of the current MOT.”  The current MOT varies in cost from £30-54, dependent on garage.  It typically takes 45 minutes.  I cannot see how any garage would charge less than this low sum or that it would take less time.  In any event, for pre-1960s owners you have taken away the legal cap on the amount they can charge for this annual inspection.



8.       Lack of use.  Old cars that are rarely use suffer as a result.  That is a simple fact that I can verify based on operating a fleet of 80 cars.  If they are not used   then components deteriorate or seize.  So the argument that relative lack of use means a MOT is less required, Is not supported by experience



9.       MOT relevance.  I accept that the MOT test contains many elements now that are irrelevant to older cars.  However, is this an argument to exempt them or an argument to ensure the MOT test is comprehensive?  Perhaps the cost of achieving this is the real reason for the Government’s decision…

I have no political or other axe to grind.  I am simply concerned about the safety of vehicles on the road.  A MOT is a simple, inexpensive and legally enforceable way to independently check that every car on the road should be there, irrespective of age or annual mileage.  To exempt some cars, in particular those most at risk of deterioration, is a fundamentally flawed decision.  The arguments for doing so, namely ‘cutting red tape’ and ‘cutting owner costs’ do not justify the extra risk caused by putting more unsafe vehicles on the road.

Since the announcement was made yesterday the issue has received considerable ventilation on the internet and Twitter.  Opinion from classic car enthusiasts is overwhelmingly against the decision.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you as I believe it is an issue worth further debate.

In the meantime, at Great Escape we will continue to maintain and test our cars to better than MOT standards. 

Yours sincerely



Graham Eason

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