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Northern Ireland taking ‘next steps’ on move to biennual MOT testing

Northern Ireland is set to take “the next steps” on a move to introduce biennial (every two years) MOT testing, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has said.

The current testing frequency in Northern Ireland is 4-1-1, with the first test for private cars and motorcycles at four years of age and then a test every year after.

Light commercial vehicles that weigh under 3,500kg are first tested from three years old – and annually thereafter.

According findings from a recent Call for Evidence published by NI’s Department for Infrastructure (DfI), 85 per cent of individual respondents are in favour of introducing biennial testing for cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles.

Minister Mallon said there is now “sufficient evidence to explore the next steps” on a move to a biennial testing regime in Northern Ireland.

“As anticipated, a variety of views were expressed through this consultation exercise and there is clear support for biennial testing for younger private cars,” she said.

“Given the high volume of interest and the support for biennial MOT testing, I believe there is sufficient evidence to explore the next steps on a move to a biennial testing regime.

“I have now asked my officials to engage with the main Civil Service Trade Unions and staff and with key stakeholders, including the PSNI, automotive industry and the insurance industry and to commence work for a public consultation.”

Minister Mallon added that the introduction of biennial testing would require new legislation in the new mandate.

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In Northern Ireland, the Department of Infrastructure’s Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) is responsible for conducting the roadworthiness testing of all vehicles which use public roads.

Unlike in Great Britain, the tests in Northern Ireland are conducted in dedicated MOT centres throughout Ulster.

Meanwhile, the Independent Garage Association (IGA) has warned that a move to testing every two years would “inevitably” leave more unsafe vehicle on the road.

Its chief executive, Stuart James said that while most backed a move to biennial testing, many did not understand the safety implications of such a change.

“It is interesting to read that while 85 per cent of individual respondents are in favour of introducing biennial testing for private cars, most did not provide a reason for this support and believe that it would have no impact on road safety,” he said.

“The UK government has proposed changing the period before a car’s first MOT test to four years on two previous occasions, and plans were scrapped both times for being too dangerous.

“Statistics show that around one in five vehicles currently do not meet minimum safety standards at any one time in NI.

“If the time between MOT tests was extended, more unsafe vehicles would inevitably be on the road.

“Safety should always come first and if biennial testing was approved in NI it would set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the UK,” James added.

Sue Robinson, chief executive of Northern Ireland’s National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) said that while the MOT backlog needs to be addressed “urgently”, a move away from the current 4-1-1 testing regime would “significantly undermine road safety”, causing “further issues in the long term”.

There were a total of 1,224 responses to the DfI’s Call for Evidence.