Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mandatory display of MOT certificates - did I miss a letter in the post?

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.

sample MOT certificate

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. 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?

DVTA news release re mandatory display of MOT certificate discs

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.


Kate said...

First I heard about it was this morning on Newsline! You gotta love government money making schemes.

Grannymar said...

This is news to me.

My car went through MOT on 13th Feb 08, the back of the form says:

‘You must produce a valid test certificate if asked to do so by a police constable or authorised officer. If you do not produce your certificate within five days when asked to do so you are liable on conviction to a fine. A valid test certificate must be produced when applying for a Vehicle Excise licence at your local Vehicle Licensing Office. You are therefore advised to keep this certificate readily available while in force.’

Does ‘readily available’ mean on display?

Anonymous said...

When you get your car taxed, you have to have a valid test certificate. Your tax disk shows the car was validly MOT'd within the last year at latest.

Really not sure what extra purpose the Test certificate's display on the windscreen serves. A month or two of extra certainty... Especially since the test cert doesn't even guarantee roadworthiness...

Timothy Belmont said...

I've never displayed the MOT disc. I read about the mandatory display on the web a few days ago, and I've now got it stuck to the top L/H corner of the windscreen.


Brabazon said...

You've got to assume this is another revenue raising scheme, as there will be a lot of folks caught out - ignorance being no excuse and all that. Very sneaky. What also worries me is the new SPECS cameras on the A2 Bangor road - something sneaky afoot there too if this quote from the NewsLetter website is anything to go by...

"A PSNI spokesman said the exact way in which the cameras work was not being divulged..."

Alan in Belfast said...

Brabazon - wikipedia gives some clues about SPECS ... but my experience from Ipswich which had the cameras around the Orwell Bridge during construction work was that it was averaging the speed of motorists based on clocking them over the fixed distances between cameras. Sometimes they had cameras in the middle to catch people joining from sideroads or speeding over some sections before slowing down at the end.

John Self said...

Hm, my car doesn't need an MOT yet but when my last one did (and in its last couple of years they'd just introduced the new discs), I always thought they were mandatory even back then!

The lack of publicity is ridiculous, but I don't have any problem with the display being mandatory. I'd go one further and urge the introduction of a scheme like the one in the Republic of Ireland where a disc (or square actually) must be displayed showing your insurance details. Uninsured vehicles on the road are far more of a problem then untaxed or unMOTed ones.

Coke_Shy_Hero said...

Cameras. "Orwell" bridge. Enough said. Good to see "The Party" are taking what Basil Fawlty might describe as a "damn good thrashing" at the polls today.

My MOT was also renewed mid-Feb with nary a word on compulsion... I'd have thought that with government's love of a good TV ad spot, we'd have seen some dosh splashed around the media types. Something gory seems to be in fashion... I do like to see peoples innards squashed out of them by vehicles during half time in the Champions League. [For clarity's sake, that was sarcasm, and despite the value of the message intended, I think the ads are too often shown in positions where kids might be given a "pass" to stay up late, such as a football match.]

John Self said...

"the Agency has displayed posters and banners in a number of locations" - how many, I wonder: two? Reminds me of the dialogue in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy between Arthur Dent and Les Prosser:

Mr. Prosser said, "You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time, you know."

"Appropriate time?" hooted Arthur. "Appropriate time? The first I knew about it was when a workman arrived at my home yesterday. I asked him if he'd come to clean the windows and he said no, he'd come to demolish the house. He didn't tell me straight away of course. Oh no. First he wiped a couple of windows and charged me a fiver. Then he told me."

"But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."

"Oh yes, well, as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything."

"But the plans were on display..."

"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

"That's the display department."

"With a torch."

"Ah, well, the lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"But look, you found the notice, didn't you?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display on the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.'"

Alan in Belfast said...

And to continue the HHGTTG theme, I wonder whether like "the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation" they will "be the first against the wall when the revolution comes" ...

sunbeam said...

I recently heard of the need to display the MOT disc - and initially used a bit of clingfilm.

Today I purchased a plastic disc at the Post Office for 50p.

I am thinking of providing some free discs [with a small ad on the back]


Bill P.

sunbeam said...

Free vehicle test certificate disc holders

I have ordered some disc holders - and shortly they will be available, initially in the Whitehead Area.

e-mail me for sources.

There is a small ad on the back.


Bill P.

Try a test run at

sunbeam said...

FREE Vehicle Test Certificate Disc Holders - update.

I have provided some FREE Vehicle Test Certificate Disc Holders in the Carrickfergus and Whitehead areas - eg., the Victoria Dry Cleaners at Downshire near the Supervalu Store, and at Milebush Filling Station and Spar Shop, and the Car Wash on the Shore Road.

In Whitehead there are some in the 2 newsagents, and 2 local garages, and in Ballycarry at the Gun Shop,

Overall there are only about 250 FREE disc holders - so your listeners may need to be quick.

While 'free' there is a small ad on the back for Lower Phone Bills -

Anonymous said...

3 years in...

For those who purchase their cars from the "other island":

'This legislation only applies to vehicles that are tested in N Ireland.
Vehicles tested in GB are not required to display their discs.

I hope this is helpful,if you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.'

Though GB MOTs do have a sticker with the details on the inside, it may be worth sticking this up.