And the worst MOT tester in the UK is… YOU

Barry shows how the DVSA can see which testers present the most risk to the MOT scheme

Published:  30 March, 2019

To save money and raise efficiency, the DVSA has turned to automation. They no longer need an army of Vehicle Examiners wandering from MOT bay to MOT bay. Instead they are collecting data all the time.
    
Let’s say I am the boss and my business is low on revenue. I beat up the manager and he in turn influences the tester to fail everything coming through the door. The customer is now stuck with no MOT and I have some simple high yield repairs.
    
Here’s where it gets interesting. The DVSA computer is monitoring individual tester behaviour and looking at averages. The pattern is really easy for a computer at the DVSA to see because it’s just not possible that lots of cars fail on the same items every day.  The DVSA’s fix is to target garages where data shows they are hunting for work and send in a VE to crosscheck. He needs only to wait nearby until our tester issues his favourite fails and then arrive to retest the car.
    
We all, as testers, now have access to our TQI. Lots of testers that I speak to have the sentiment that this data is all rubbish but, here is the rub. The DVSA have a team of very capable data processors looking at this data and writing algorithms that alert them to trends that need investigation.

Take my example of one of my longest-serving testers and allow the DVSA computer to tell me every car that he has tested in the last two weeks of November for the last seven years and add in that we only want to know about cars tested after 4:30pm. We find only one car; a Y reg (2001) BMW 320i convertible, always tested after 5pm with a longest test time of thirty-two minutes and shortest of twenty-seven. Guess what, it’s my guy’s brother-in-law’s car!
    
For me the horror is that the car has never failed an MOT. It’s also never been in the workshop for any repairs. It looks absolutely dogged out and is on around 180,000 miles. Worst still my guy has never once even advised anything on this car. The VE would assume  Barry’s guy is prepared to let things slide at the end of the day, so maybe he plans to visit me after 5pm on a Thursday.

Conflicting vehicle locations
This is a fun story from a close and trusted friend. My guy is at a DVSA IVA check and overhears a conversation by a couple of Vehicle Examiners. It goes like this; VE no.1 is suspicious of an MOT bay offering fraudulent MOT tests. He parks down the road from an MOT bay in Kent and checks which vehicle is logged on and being tested. He takes the registration number of the vehicle in question and calls the DVLA, identifies himself and asks if the vehicle has been seen on the DVLA camera system anywhere in the last half hour. The car was last seen on the M25 twelve minutes ago near Watford in Hertfordshire over 70 miles away.
  
So, our VE is in Kent and the car is in Hertfordshire. If this works today in a manual sense how long will it be before computers can do this to every single test? Talk about an easy way to stop fraudulent MOTs, just using computers that the government already own.



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    The UK Ministry of Transport Roadworthiness test (MOT test to you and I) has been in place since 1960 and has withstood some serious challenges in recent years – both from changes in European legislation that wanted to only allow dedicated test centres that were not directly connected to the repair of a vehicle to conduct the roadworthiness testing, but also from within the UK to try and change the frequency of the existing 3-1-1 test frequency.
        
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    There are now discussions to formalise the improvement needed to suit modern complex electronic systems and provide a solid health check for PTI. This may include how a system conducts functional plausibility, performance monitoring and self-healing abilities. This is a long way from today’s visual check of a vehicle! However, for the UK MOT there is also a timing issue to all of this. Although we know that automated systems are being introduced, there are many electronic systems which have been mandatorily fitted to vehicles for many years (e.g. ABS) and have yet to be included in the MOT test as an independent electronic check or functional test. This was the subject of a recent DVSA meeting which questioned what should be included in the future MOT test for systems that are already fitted to today’s vehicles, including how these electronically controlled systems should be tested, but also to consider the cost- benefit analysis to evaluate if there is a greater benefit than the costs involved to implement a specific test requirement. The simple proposal is to use a PTI scan tool connected via the OBD port and communicate with the vehicle and its safety related systems to detect if any faults have been detected. Is this going to provide a better test method and result than observing the malfunction indicator light (MIL) on the vehicle’s dashboard? The answer may be either a ‘yes’, but probably only if a deeper assessment of the system is made, bringing in the ‘cost-benefit’ question of the development of the PTI scan tool software, but also a ‘no’ if it can be shown that the vehicle is effective and accurate in identifying problems itself. However, this is also part of the problem. Where is the independence of the MOT if the vehicle manufacturers can create their own test methods? There is currently an ISO standard being developed that seeks to define what access to what data will be provided by the vehicle during a PTI test and from this, what test method will be possible. However, the data access is controlled through the use of a vehicle manufacturer’s electronic certificate and their intention is to provide the minimum data, probably related to the MIL activation, so this may restrict what test methods can be implemented unless legislation forces greater data access/functional control, which will also be subject to the cost/benefit analysis.

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