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5th October 2005

Computerised MoTs

There is rising concern among classic bike owners about the new system which processes the UK's MoT test. From 2006, all MoT stations will use the computerised system. How is this going to affect owners of older motorcycles?

As the UK's methods of vehicle testing become more rigorous and refined, so owners of older vehicles - classic motorcycles, cars, trucks, even fire engines (!) - tend to fret about whether their machines will pass the annual MoT inspection. There's been quite a bit of kerfuffle in the press about this issue, and there are frequent queries on the message board asking how the new systems affect old bikes.

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs is on the case. This umbrella organisation, formed to protect the interests of older vintage, veteran and classic vehicle users, is extremely active. The FBHVC aims to uphold the freedom to use old vehicles on the roads without any undue restriction, and to support its member organisations in whatever way it can. On the subject of the MoT test, the FBVHC has been dealing direct with the authorities, and this is their report:-

'Widespread worries that computerisation of the MoT testing system was leading to a stricter testing regime caused the legislation committee (of the FBHVC) to invite the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) to come to the AGM to answer questions. VOSA not only agreed, but also sent two senior officials to reassure those present that the standards for the test are unchanged.

Visual estimation of weight is no longer sufficient.

'VOSA also answered several specific queries that had been raised by members of subscriber clubs as well as discussing issues such as the costs of re-tests, a subject on which there may be some good news in the not too distant future. Computerisation should be completed by early 2006.

'The problems raised related to three areas: loss of tester discretion; apparent changes of standards, particularly for brake tests; and problems arising from incomplete or mismatched DVLA records.

'The men from VOSA showed that the computerised system had an answer for each one: the system is capable of coping. The difficulties stem from testers who are not sufficiently familiar with the system to know what to do with the unusual. As such, the problems are likely to be transitional as testers get used to the new regime. The message for those who suffer during this period is to persuade testers to use the help lines, and if that fails to make use of the public lines themselves. Please also report the problem to us.

'The weight of vehicle being tested was a frequent theme in complaints from owners, summarised in the question: if the test has not changed, why has weight suddenly become critical?

'If the vehicle is not common, or is old' - Ken checks the Klaxon regulations.'The weight of a vehicle is essential information for the proper function of a roller brake test. Weights for common modern vehicles (including a notional amount for driver, tools, fuel etc) have previously been provided by charts available to testers - that information is now on computer.

'If the vehicle is not common, or is old, the tester needs to key in the weight. In the past, a tester may have simply used his experience to make a reasonable estimate: now he has to be more accurate. Once a weight is recorded for a particular vehicle, the figure will appear automatically for future tests.

'If the weight is not known, the vehicle should still be tested on the roller tester for out of balance, grab, judder etc, but the overall efficiency should be established by using a decelerometer You should have one of these by now. Check the details.(often referred to as a Tapley meter). Lack of known vehicle weight is neither a reason to refuse a test, nor a reason for a fail.

'Another common theme was dealing with vehicles that have incomplete or incorrect records. The first thing the new system prompts the tester for is the registration number, followed by the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN - a chassis or frame number) so that it can check the MoT database which is linked to DVLA's records.

'Absence of one or other of these numbers has (incorrectly) caused more than one refusal to test. The system allows a test to take place provided there is at least one unique number with which to identify the vehicle.

'If there is no match with the records on the DVLA database, as would be the case with a freshly imported vehicle, a new record is automatically set up based on the VIN. Lack of a VIN is a cause for failure only on a vehicle first used after 1 August 1980, but two conflicting VIN numbers are a cause for failure on any vehicle - a potential trap for older cars that have separate car/body and chassis numbers.

'If the VIN on the vehicle presented for test differs from that on the official record, the test should continue on the basis of the number physically on the vehicle being tested and an automated system will alert DVLA to a mis-match between the records and the vehicle. The mis-match itself should not be a cause of failure, and action will be taken by DVLA to ensure the problem is rectified before the next test. This might involve a vehicle inspection if there is a radical difference, for instance if a car has been re-shelled but DVLA not notified. Owners can save themselves hassle by checking that the numbers showing on their V5C registration documents match those on their vehicles and - if necessary - getting the records put right before their next MoT test.

'As an aside, FBHVC sees many copies of registration documents. It is not exaggerating to say that one in four is incorrect in some way or another, usually as a result of the owner not telling DVLA of changes of engine or colour.'

So in summary, you might run into trouble at MoT time if your classic bike's VIN (its frame or engine number) is different to the one recorded on the V5C. If you have any other trouble with getting an old motorcycle through the computerised system, then bribe your MoT tester with a foaming cup of frothy coffee to endure the recorded announcement on the helpline, and ask him to make a call to VOSA to check what to do. If you still get no joy then let us know the basics of the situation and we will pass the info onto the FBHVC, who are compiling data in order to assess the impact of the new system on older vehicles.
Historic (?) bikes on

The FBHVC is a grouping of some 370 clubs and museums together with over 1500 trade and individual supporters. RealClassic is a paid-up supporter of the FBHVC, and we encourage all marque and enthusiast clubs to join the scheme. You can also take out individual membership. See


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