One-year WOF raises spectre of unsafe cars

PALOMA MIGONE AND MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 06:23 20/09/2012
warrant of fitness
Under proposed new legislation, cars less than 12 years old will only need a new warrant of fitness once a year.
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Mechanics fear New Zealand roads could be flooded with unfit cars if the Government extends warrant-of-fitness inspections to one year.

Industry insiders also doubt the proposal will save motorists money, as yearly inspections will be likely to become tougher and result in more repair work.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges yesterday laid out options to reform the vehicle licensing system in a discussion paper, aimed at making it "simpler and more efficient".

Annual inspections for vehicles up to 12 years old and six-monthly thereafter, or first inspection at three years and annual thereafter were among the options up for public debate. Currently, a warrant of fitness is required every six months for vehicles older than six years.

If any of the test options were adopted, it could save drivers between $60 million and $240m in inspection fees and time lost obtaining a warrant.

But Dave Gibson, of Motor Doctors, said fewer inspections would mean more people driving around with bald tyres and unsafe brakes. "When you check for warrant of fitness a tyre can be legal, but in two months it can be unsafe."

Tidy Cars owner Steve Mellas said the proposed options could see his business take a financial hit, with the 500 inspections it performs each year cut in half.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the car review website dogandlemon.com, said the reform document was nothing more than the Government making life easier for the motor industry.

He doubted motorists would pay less in the long run, saying things like half- worn tyres, which often pass six-month inspections, would need replacing if inspections were yearly.

"So you're not actually saving much at all. What you're doing is you're saving a lot of used car dealers and other friends of the Government an inspection fee, that's all."

New Zealand has the highest number of inspections in the OECD: vehicles are typically inspected every 6000 kilometres; it's every 19,000km in Britain and 32,000km in Germany.

But Mr Matthew-Wilson said that was the way it should be, as New Zealand had one of the oldest vehicle fleets in the world, with an average age of about 13 years.

'It's particularly dangerous for the Government to lengthen the time between warrants without making provision for the distance a car may travel.

"A courier could easily do 40,000km in a single year. That's enough distance for a tyre to go from new to bald, yet that vehicle would have a legal warrant.'

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Currently, almost 10 per cent of the 4.2 million vehicles recorded on the motor vehicles register do not have a warrant, and making it harder to get one would see that number increase, Mr Matthew-Wilson said.

Mr Bridges said that though there was evidence that fewer inspections "slightly increased risk", it could be reduced with education and more stringent tests.

Submissions will be received until October 31, and a Government decision was expected in December. Any legislation would be introduced next year.

OTHER POSSIBLE CHANGES

Certificate of fitness
- Six-monthly inspections, though allowing good operators to have 12 months before inspections
- Twelve--monthly inspections, and allowing greater flexibility in services
- Introducing alternative accreditation

Annual vehicle licensing system
- Allowing fleet and multiple vehicle owners to manage all their vehicles through one account
- Removing some vehicles such as light trailers and caravans from the system that may not need to be licensed

Transport services licensing
- Remove transport services licence for commercial operators, thought taxis would still need to belong to approved taxi organisations
- Remove the licence, but keep a management regime for tow trucks and other operators that need help to reach levels of performance.

- The Dominion Post

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