WoF and CoF changes won’t deliver promised benefits
WoF and CoF changes won’t deliver promised
Changes announced today for car and truck inspections won’t deliver the promised benefits, says Vehicle Testing New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Walsh.
Savings from changes to Warrant of Fitness (WoF) and Certificate of Fitness (CoF) are likely to shift costs and will see safety eroded.
“Relaxing the rules around inspections will require huge investment in other areas, including policing, auditing to maintain standards, and driver education. They’ve hugely underestimated the additional costs,” says Walsh.
“The Ministry of Transport’s own figures predict an increase in injury accidents and even deaths, but we believe these figures have also been greatly underestimated. Some estimates predict an extra 10 deaths and 100 injuries on our roads each year.
“It’s easy to dismiss our comments as self-interest or even scaremongering, but VTNZ is appointed by the NZ Transport Agency to provide a nationwide service and carries out about 230,000 truck and trailer inspections each year – 86% of all heavy vehicle safety inspections, and nearly a million WoFs a year. Our people are concerned about any lowering of safety standards given what they see in our testing stations every day.”
These changes are likely to see some VTNZ testing stations close and others reduce services – which will limit motorists’ choice.
“The biggest risk is likely to be safety standards that will slide unless there is a considerable investment and effort spent on offsetting the impacts,” says Walsh.
CoF changes could be another ‘leaky homes’
New Zealand’s heavy vehicle inspection system is currently based on the independence of inspectors – VTNZ has no interest in repairs and there’s never a question that standards or safety will be compromised by commercial pressure.
Removing that independence means a lot more emphasis on self-regulation and a big investment in auditing, compliance and enforcement – without those safeguards, it can be very hard to protect the integrity of inspections.
Leaky buildings and taxi deregulation are examples of what happens when the balance is wrong – it may not happen immediately, but experience shows us what does happen when you don’t have proper checks and balances on industry operators.
Most operators with good safety practices will take the same professional approach to fleet safety they do now, but it’s naïve to think everyone will do the right thing.
Studies by industry experts and NZTA confirm the current inspection system is accessible, value for money and maintains a high standard of vehicle safety – over time, these changes could see prices rise and the services reduced – particularly in rural and provincial areas.
These changes will turn the inspection industry upside down, all for the sake of around $26 million dollars – you really have to ask if it’s worth the increased risk and the disruption to a system that already works very well.
WoF changes too far for older cars
The Government will need stricter rules and enforcement to maintain safety levels.
VTNZ had suggested reducing inspections on newer vehicles, but had made a strong submission for keeping six-monthly checks for cars over 8 years old. This change means that cars that are already 13 years old will only be inspected once a year and each year older and older cars will be inspected less and less.
Age and mileage are the biggest cause of safety defects and, with a vehicle fleet that’s an average of 13 years old, the facts speak for themselves.
If cars are inspected less frequently, the tests will have to be tougher and there’ll need to be a lot more roadside enforcement to make sure people keep cars safe in between annual WoFs – especially older cars. We think this is an area where the costs have been greatly underestimated.
Half of all cars going for WoFs now will not pass without some repairs – doubling the time between inspections means the number of cars driving round with defects will also increase, quite likely at a faster rate if you think of the compounding or snowballing effect.
Walsh says most people use their WoF as their regular safety and maintenance check. People are used to paying a little regularly to keep their care safe – moving to annual checks is also likely to see the average repair bill increase and outweigh any savings. We know how hard it is to change driver behaviour and we’re concerned about what will happen to road safety during the transition.
The detail of these plans will be crucial to keeping people safe on our roads.