History of the MOT test

Figures released last month by the department for Transport reinforce a very impressive trend. While road traffic has steadily increased over the last fifty years, road deaths have plummeted. According to these figures, in the mid-60s, there were around twelve million cars on British roads. Of these twelve million, around 300,000 a year were involved in accidents, which resulted, per year, in around 8,000 deaths. By comparison, in 2013 there were thirty-five million cars on the road – a more than threefold increase. However, of this number, only 139,000 were involved in fatal accidents; and from these resulted a mere 1,713 deaths. Today we cover here brief information about History of the MOT test.

What helped bring this change about? Undoubtedly, a myriad of factors are at play. It is easy to forget that it was once legal to drive around without a seat belt, or, worse, while drunk. Not only was it legal, it was socially acceptable! Attitudes toward road safety have undoubtedly changed. Manufacturers, too, must take a share of the credit for the declining death toll – their ingenuity brought about a raft of safety features which no government department mandated: crumple zones, airbags and ABS, to name a few.

history of the MOT test
MOT test

But the change is most obviously attributable to a change in car safety standards. In the 1960s, something changed which would revolutionise British transport: the first standardised safety tests for cars were introduced. These tests were those which we know now as the MOT test.

The Introduction of the Test

Following the Second World War, it became clear that many of the cars on British roads were unsafe. Drivers would frequently lose control of their aging vehicles, whose tyres were, by modern standards, scarily thin and utterly bald. It was clear that a change had to be made, but it was not until 1960 that this change came about.

Under the administration of Harold McMillan, a decision was reached: a thorough overhaul of the road safety standards was required. This duty fell to the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, after whose ministry the test is named.

Marples’ tenure in government saw an unprecedented expansion of the road system, while the rail system was heavily downsized. It was clear at the time that large sections of British railways were hardly being used and so the rail network was heavily downsized in order to finance an expansion of the roads. Shortly after assuming office, Marples oversaw the opening of the M1 and before his tenure was done he had brought about the M4, the M5 and the M6.

The M1 on its grand opening – www.dailymail.co.uk

It is from here that much of the controversy surrounding Marples emanates. Much of this early work on the motorway system was performed by Marples-Ridgeway, a road construction business which Marples had co-founded. He continued to own a sizeable share in the business even while in office, which was a flagrant violation of the government’s rules governing conflicts of interest. He is also the man responsible for the introduction of parking meters, yellow lines and tickets from traffic wardens. In his later years, he would flee the country in order to avoid a series of awkward questions from the taxman and live out the rest of his life in Monaco.

The Test Evolves

When the test was first introduced, it was an annual requirement for cars which were more than nine years old. At this early stage, the test was very basic, requiring only that the brakes, lights and steering were tested. Even so, many of the cars tested could not meet even this meagre examination; when the test was first implemented, failure rates were astonishingly high. It quickly became clear that ten years was too long a time to wait before testing and so, only a year after the test was first introduced, the law was tightened so that seven-year old cars were required to take the test every year. Later, in 1967, this would be further reduced to three.

A raft of additional checks have also been brought in over the years, in keeping with advances in car manufacture. Gradually, tests to the tyres, windscreen wipers, indicators, horns and exhausts were introduced. Over the years, as standards in the industry improved, so too did the stringency of the test.

The Modern MOT Test

Since the inception of the test, a great deal has changed in the motor industry. The number of MOT and Service providers has skyrocketed, while the internet has afforded the creation of comparison sites like mycarneedsa.com in order to compare them all. The modern MOT test is an exhaustive procedure which involves the checking of over sixty items, spanning every detail of the vehicle, from brake lights to bonnet. It is often performed using sophisticated diagnostics hardware used by a specialist.

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