The current debate around proposed changes to the Warrant of Fitness scheme seems to be getting out of hand. Submissions for or against the proposal closed on October 31, that date being preceded by some pretty desperate advertising from the motor industry – not the least being the Motor Trade Association (MTA) adverts fronted by Greg Murphy. Murphy has been the public face of the MTA for some time, but I seriously wonder if he knew he was fronting a very misleading advertisement – “Hands off the WoF!”
MTA also paid for a full-page spread in a Sunday newspaper. The first obvious flaw was that the car depicted was an obviously clapped-out wreck, missing its grille, front bumper, left-hand headlight and who knows what on the side unseen by the camera. The implication is that such a car could be on our roads if Warrants of Fitness are not six-monthly! From where I sit, no one in their right minds would attempt to take the featured car for a warrant check, even at a dodgy issuer! That car is more likely to be one of those 500,000 or so vehicles that never get registered or warranted – if, in fact, the photo was actually of a drivable car. From the background it would seem the photo was taken at a wrecker’s yard. For Greg Murphy to be involved in such scare-mongering is disappointing to say the least, and it does the MTA no credit at all.
Experts & Statistics
Now, let’s look at the statistics the advert quotes. For example, the Government says 2.5 per cent of crashes are currently attributed to mechanical failure or roadworthiness issues. Never mind the MTA saying that ‘other experts’ say it is more like eight to 10 per cent. The NZTA keeps the statistics and so the 2.5 per cent figure is the one to rely on. But that means that 97.5 per cent of crashes are not attributed to mechanical failure or roadworthiness issues, doesn’t it? In my mind that statistic on its own means we collectively spend $22 million annually just to prevent 2.5 per cent of crashes! If that is correct, then that’s where the argument should stop. The current WoF frequency is hopelessly wrong and must be changed.
The advert says our road safety record is worse than any other country that has fewer road safety checks. Oh really? So if 2.5 per cent is really bad, those countries with less frequent safety checks have an even lower rate of crashes attributable to mechanical failure or roadworthiness issues?
The advert also goes on to say that old cars will be especially affected – that means our cars.
The Federation of Motoring Clubs (FOMC) had a very good survey on its website. I hope everyone completed it because it posed some very good points. For example, it asked how long it took to get a WoF, inclusive of travel time. Assuming for the moment that my experiences are typical, each warrant check for me takes up about two hours of my time. Multiplied by 21 (the number of vehicles in our museum) that amounts to some 84 hours per year – that’s two weeks of down time, and for what? Helping keep the statistics for unroadworthy vehicle crashes to 2.5 per cent? With 5.5 million warrants issued each year, that amounts to 275,000 days, or 753 years of non-productive time for the country.
Incidentally, the United Kingdom has decided to exempt cars manufactured prior to 1960 from a warrant of fitness (known over there as the MoT). Hopefully New Zealand will follow suit – but I doubt it, especially if the propaganda-type adverts unduly influence the policy makers. By the time you read this, I will have had plenty to say on the topic via submissions.
Good For a Day
I still take issue with the claim that a motorist only finds out his or her car is faulty at warrant time. And that, of course, assumes the warrant of fitness tester actually knows their stuff. In the old Ministry of Transport days, the common accusation was that those who worked at a Testing Station weren’t able to get a proper mechanic job!
Another argument is that a warrant only says the car is ‘safe’ on the day of the inspection. So, the only real difference between shifting from a six to 12-monthly WoF checks is that the car in question would be ‘safe’ for one day a year rather than two.
Anyway, going back to Greg Murphy’s concerns in that MTA advert. Now, as I understand it, he lives in Australia – where, in many states, there is only a warrant check at the time a vehicle changes hands, right? So, have I missed the campaign over in Australia about the dangerous state of Aussie vehicles generally, because they don’t have our system of six-monthly checks? How come it’s only a problem in New Zealand?
Australians seem to get by very well with police roadside checks. If they pull you over and find you are driving an unlicensed vehicle, they seize your registration plate! If New Zealand had that system, wouldn’t that see the demise of most of the 500,000 unlicensed/ unwarranted vehicles currently using our roads?
As I have said in earlier articles, I am the best judge of the mechanical road-worthiness of my vehicles. I am not stupid enough to take one for a warrant if there is something wrong with it. Having said that, however, when I took my Mustang for a warrant recently, I got failed because both headlight bulbs were out. I bought two new ones, only to find the existing bulbs were not blown at all. Seems the tester did not know where the light switch was! So I wasted $58 and another two hours for an unnecessary re-check! I won’t be going there again.
For my part, vehicles earlier than 1960 should be exempt, with a warrant only required at the time of sale. In all other instances, 12-monthly checks should be appropriate – assuming there are competent testers. Methinks industry sources (the most powerful lobby group ever) will win on the day and the status quo will remain. However, I would love to be proven wrong!
I also want to talk about the nonsensical re–certification process, but that’s for another article.
This article is from NZ Classic Car issue 264. Get your copy here.
Words: Greg Price Illustration: Steve Richards