Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from John Ball

1. I am the owner of a group of test stations based in the south east and carry out over 60,000 MOT’s a year. In addition I am the MOT Chairman for the Retail Motor Industry Federation and a member of Promote, who are opposed to plans to reduce the frequency of MOT testing.

They have made a separate submission to you covering the importance of the MOT’s contribution to road safety and the risk to increased death and serious injury if frequency is reduced.

2. My submission concerns the relationship between reducing frequency at the same time as proposing to raise the speed limit on motorways to 80 mph. I am not expressing any judgement on the speed limit proposal, but if the government does raise it, to make the MOT test mandatory at two years instead of annually is reckless and greatly endangers road safety.

3. One of the biggest dangers is tyres.

Statistically valid evidence from one of the leading tyre groups who monitor tyre tread depths on a weekly basis show the public are increasingly driving round on illegal tyres. The following extract from their tables records the tread depth of tyres they change. The legal minimum is 1.6mm of tread. A new tyre has a tread depth of 8mm.

Tread depth

June 2008

May 2009

April 2010

17 October 2011

Above 2mm

35.81%

27.46%

18.46%

4.84%

Under 2mm

48.91%

53.45%

30.62%

36.82%

Illegal (−1.6mm)

15.27%

19.09%

30.62%

58.33%

As the table indicates, the public is increasingly driving round on poor tyres, caused no doubt by the massive increases in motoring costs and tightening budget constraints. If nearly 60% of tyres changed are now below the legal limit, if you take the MOT away for another 12 months that figure will inevitably grow.

4. The biggest danger of worn tyres to road safety will be driving in the wet.

If the speed limit rises to 80 mph, you now have a lethal cocktail—more bald tyres, water and greater speed”.

Tyre testing consistently shows wet braking distances of a new tyre compared with a tyre with only 1.6mm of tread left on it are huge and can be the difference between life and death.

Wet weather tests at MIRA showed at 50 mph on 1.6mm tread (approx. 80% worn) a car took 37% greater distance to stop than a tyre 15% worn. Go under the legal limit and its well over 50%!

Continental tyres say the increase in wet stopping distance from 50 mph between a tyre at 1.6mm compared to a new tyre can be as much as 13 metres (42 feet)—that the length of three average hatchbacks. Travelling at 80 mph the risk would be much greater.

Without the annual MOT to check tyre condition when combined with a higher speed limit, ministers would be putting motorist’s lives at greater risk.

It is my belief that you cannot develop a strategy for road safety without giving due consideration to the appropriate level of vehicle safety. All the evidence points to a strong correlation between the frequency of vehicle testing and road casualties.

John Ball
Managing Director Motest UK Ltd

October 2011

Prepared 18th July 2012