With a ten year old Polo in the family, I’ve been used to taking it every summer for its annual
medical MOT at the test centre in Lisburn or Boucher Road. The exhilaration of being confident that the car has recently been serviced balanced against the possibility that the garage missed something or the chance that the DVTA guys are more thorough.
They’ve been handing out certificates - the size of a tax disc that can be cut out from the printed sheet - for the last six years or so. And the certificate makes clear that while you might want to display the MOT pass certificate, it’s not mandatory.
Quite randomly, I read a news story online saying that the certificates had to be displayed by law from 1 May. What? Hadn’t heard that before.
4NI.co.uk fills in the detail
As if drivers haven’t enough of a ‘taxing time’ already, with a much more aggressive approach by the authorities targeting those who fail to pay their road fund licences, drivers in Northern Ireland will soon be facing a fine of £200 if they fail to display an MOT disc on windscreens.
The Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) is making it a legal requirement from 1 May to remind motorists when their vehicle is due for a test.
Brendan Magee, Chief Executive, DVA said: “Compliance with the vehicle test system is a major factor in ensuring that the vehicles used on Northern Ireland’s roads are roadworthy. The introduction of the mandatory display of the MoT disc will not only act as a reminder to vehicle users that their vehicle is due a test but it will aid enforcement by the DVA.”
Sure enough, there’s a news release on the DVTA website (dated 25 April 2008). But why haven’t I heard about this before?
A bit of googling shows that DVTA ran a public consultation back in October 2002 (five and a half years ago) around the mandatory display of MOT discs. No sign of any formal response to the consultation.
Under the Implementation and Publicity section of the consultation, it explains
As part of introducing mandatory display of the disc, the Department intends to promote a publicity campaign to give customers information and advice about the new system.
Umm ... think I missed the billboard posters. And didn’t listen when I took the car through the MOT test last July. And threw out the letter from the Driver & Vehicle Agency reminding me about the new legal requirement.
Did anyone else ignore all the warnings over the last twelve months? Or am I unique in not knowing that our car is crying out for a £200 fine? (I've emailed DVTA to ask about the publicity. Update - Friday 7pm - no response yet from DVTA, but their head of compliance was on the Nolan radio show on Thursday morning and confirmed that there would be a 12-18 month grace period where drivers not displaying the disc (but with a valid MOT) would be reminded about the need to display one, but not fined. Interesting to hear one caller who went through the MOT test in March but was neither told verbally about the 1 May legislation change, nor given any paperwork to explain what would soon be necessary! Apparently, sending out 600,000 letters would have been too costly.)
Update - Wednesday 7 May - DVTA Customer Services responded to my email. In terms of publicity:
"The Agency introduced voluntary display of MOT discs from 2002 and encouraged vehicle owners to display their MOT discs as a reminder that their vehicle test was due. The outcome of the consultation exercise you refer to was that respondents agreed that mandatory display of discs should be introduced. In order to do this, changes had to be made to primary legislation and these were completed in late 2007.
From late March/early April, the Agency has displayed posters and banners in a number of locations in advance of the implementation of mandatory display. Flyers informing customers of the need to display their MOT disc are being handed out to customers when they pass their test - this will continue for at least the next year.
Changes are also being made to the reminder and appointment notifications to inform owners of the need to display. We also engaged in a widespread television and radio campaign to inform customers of the change."
And in response to the question of whether there is "a year long grace period before people will actually be fined for non-display?" DVTA replied:
"Enforcement of mandatory display will be led by PSNI officers. They have indicated that a light touch enforcement regime will be applied and that for the introduction of the legislation advice and warning where necessary will be given."
Some other quotes from the consultation document:
4.3 The only additional cost which vehicle owners would have to bear would be the cost of displaying the disc. For cars this would involve the use of a plastic disc holder on the windscreen. For the first year of the new system the Agency will supply a free plastic holder to customers. For customers who need to display a disc on part of a vehicle other than the windscreen eg on motorcycles, disc holders can be purchased from about £10 upwards depending on style and colour.
4.7 ... the level of non-compliance for MOT is considered to be higher than for motor tax, and this represents a significant loss of revenue to the Agency. Each 1% increase in compliance would result in approximately 4,000 additional vehicles being tested and additional income of about £100,000. This would allow fixed overheads, such as the cost of buildings, to be spread over more tests, thus keeping fees down for all customers.
5.2 However, there is no provision to create an offence of failure to display a disc, and without such a provision the effectiveness of mandatory display might be questionable. It is proposed, therefore, to insert a new Article into the 1995 Order to make non-display of the MOT disc an offence. This would be introduced as part of a Road Traffic Amendment Bill (primary legislation) in 2003/04.
5.3 This approach would allow a period of grace before anybody could be prosecuted for failure to display the disc.