12-month WoFs could save drivers up to $240m

PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 14:58 19/09/2012

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Extending warrant of fitness inspections to one year for vehicles under 12 years old is among the changes proposed by the Government.

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

"The current systems have been in place for decades and affects every vehicle owner and driver so we need to be sure the rationale for all of these are still clear and justified,'' he said.

Bridges, alongside Transport Ministry chief executive Martin Matthews and Transport Agency access and use group manager Celia Patrick, proposed changes to the warrant of fitness, certificate of fitness, and transport services licensing, and annual vehicle licensing systems.

Currently, a warrant of fitness is required every 12 months for vehicles less than six years old, and every six months for any vehicle older than that.

Under the possible changes put forward, people would inspect their cars annually if under 12 years old and six-monthly thereafter, or have the first inspection at three years and annually thereafter.
 
Inspections could also be based on distance travelled or when there is a change of ownership.

There are currently 4.2 million vehicles recorded in the motor vehicles database - one of the oldest fleets in the world with the average age of about 13 years.

New Zealanders generate more than 14m vehicles certification and licensing transactions every year, which includes 5.5m warrants of fitness inspections, costing about $245m in paid fees.

If any of the warrant of fitness options were adopted, it could save drivers between $60m to $240m in inspections and time spent.

Independent vehicle safety expert VTNZ said the plans to save drivers money could have the opposite effect and see the number of road accidents increase.

"Efficiency gains and short-term cost reductions need to be weighed up against the potential impact on safety," VTNZ chief executive Mike Walsh said. 

"On the face of it, the potential risks are too high and could lead to a significant increase in road accidents."

International research into links between vehicle defects and crashes varied greatly, but it's ironic that while New Zealand was looking to relax our inspection system, Europe and the US were looking to tighten theirs, Walsh said.

However, Bridges said research showed that less inspections ''slightly increased risk,'' but it could be reduced with education and more stringent tests.

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Bridges said the country had the highest number of vehicle checks in the OECD, and about 0.4 per cent of all fatal and injury crashes have vehicle factors cited as the sole cause.

The system was nearly 70 years old and needed a revamp, he said.

"A huge amount has changed and there is a small argument that we can do things better.''

The Government was also looking at catching up with new technology for annual vehicle licensing including different payment options such as direct debit.

Sending email and text payment reminders to drivers, introducing payment discounts and late payment penalties and changing or removing the licensing label were also among the proposals.

"These are the preferred options; there may be others,'' Bridges said.

"The views and knowledge of vehicles owners and drivers and the transport sector will be an important part of any final recommendations to help the government make a fair and considered choices.

"So I encourage people to let us know what they support, and whether there's anything we've missed," he said.
 
Submissions can be filed until October 31, and a Government decision was expected in December.

OTHER POSSIBLE CHANGES

Certificate of fitness
- Six-monthly inspections, though allowing good operators to have 12 months before inspections
- 12-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.

- Stuff

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