More scaremongering

March 14th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

There is a Hands Off the WOF Facebook group set up by the MTA. They of course want to force people to keep getting six monthly WOFs, despite all the evidence being the costs massively outweigh the benefits. I’m surprised they don;t go the whole hog and advocate weekly WOF checks.

Anyway they posted this week about a worn brake rotor, and said this was proof you needed six monthly WOFs. They said:

This brake rotor has completely worn through one side and separated from the central hub, meaning the owner of this van had been driving around with brakes on one side only stopping his vehicle (the one shown intact in this image). 

The van owner only brought it in for a check up because he heard ‘a noise coming from the front’. Aside from the fact that this is a significant component failure, it still had 8 months left on its WoF.

First of all, it actually shows that drivers will get cars checked out when there are problems. But the more important point is made by a commenter:

Anyone with any commonsense is going to look at this wonder how it was allowed to get anywhere near this condition.

It is pretty obvious that the car shouldn’t have got anywhere near getting a clean WOF checks four months earlier. There is no way it goes from okay to the state displayed in four months. I think it actually shows that the current system is no guarantee of safety – it is just a guarantee of revenue.

Fewer WoF checks

January 27th, 2013 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

Simon Bridges has announced:

Changes to New Zealand’s warrant of fitness system, which will see annual inspections for cars registered after 2000, will save motorists time and money and will also focus on road safety, says Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

The key changes to the warrant of fitness system (WoF) include:

  • An initial inspection for new cars, followed by annual inspections once  vehicles are three years old

  • Annual inspections for vehicles three years and older and first registered on or after 1 January 2000

  • Six-monthly inspections for vehicles first registered before 1 January 2000

Excellent. I find the six month WOF checks on relatively new cars a silly hassle and a waste of time and money.

The Motor Trade Assn will of course be unhappy, because they own a chain of testing stations. But mechanical defects are implicated in only 2.5% of vehicle crashes and are the sole cause in only 0.4% – experts have said the impact on safety will be minimal.

Ministry of Transport research shows that the package of changes will benefit motorists and businesses by $159 million a year, and by at least $1.8 billion over 30 years.  This includes savings in inspection and compliance costs, justice and enforcement costs, and time spent by motorists getting their WoF.

Mr Bridges says these savings will have a flow-on benefit for the wider economy.

The MTA have also said there will be 2,000 jobs lost due to this decision. Now of course that is a nonsense figure, but even if it was true their argument is flawed. The purpose of WOF checks is not to create jobs for garages, If that was the purpose, we’d have monthly WOF checks.

An economy does better when people get to voluntarily choose what they spend their money on. The annual saving of $160 million will benefit other areas of the economy.

The debate should be about balancing risk and cost.  I think this new regime is a far better balance than the old one.

The AA (which unlike the MTA has no commercial interests involved in the decision) has pointed out:

New Zealand has the most frequent vehicle safety inspection in the world. No other country requires cars aged 6 years or older (most of our fleet) to be tested twice a year.

Some countries have an annual inspection, and many only every two years. Others, like much of Australia and the United States, have no regular inspection at all.

Most vehicles in New Zealand are tested every 6000km. In Britain they’re tested every 19,000km, and in Germany vehicles travel about 32,000km between inspections.

Yet despite these differences in inspection frequency the number of crashes caused by vehicle faults in New Zealand is about the same as other countries at about 2.5 per cent – or less than half a per cent where it is the sole cause.

This suggests that inspection frequency is not a silver bullet.

The question is, can we have a less-frequent test without increasing crash rates, and the international evidence suggests we can.

This is a good example of the Government acting in the public interest, and refusing to bow to a scare campaign by vested interests. We need more decisions like this.


December 7th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Mathew Dearnaley at NZ Herald reports:

Motor industry lobbyists are citing “huge” regional variations in the ages of vehicles on New Zealand roads in their campaign against any loosening of the existing warrant of fitness system.

Although the average age of the national fleet is 13.03 years, Government statistics reveal a wide range from 10.3 years in central Auckland to 16.8 years in Waimate in south Canterbury.

Which is a red herring.

That has prompted the Motor Trade Association, representing repair workshops and service stations, to warn policy-makers to think twice before changing the existing requirement for six-monthly warrants of fitness for any vehicle more than six years old to be allowed to stay on the road.

The MTA own VTNZ whose main source of income is WOF checks. I’m surprise they do not advocate the checks should be weekly.

The warning comes as the Government is expected to choose in the next fortnight from four potential alternatives, such as annual inspections for the first 12 years of a vehicle’s life, as favoured by the Automobile Association and about 70 per cent of its members.

That sounds more reasonable.

Although Australian university researchers believe that could save motorists up to $250 million a year, the MTA warns it could be at the cost of 80 more annual road deaths.

Oh, absolute bullshit.

The road toll last year was 282, so the MTA is claiming the number of road deaths will increase 28% if cars between six and twelve years old are checked annually instead of every six months.

That is strongly disputed by the AA, which says mechanical defects are implicated in only 2.5 per cent of vehicle crashes and are the sole cause of just 0.4 per cent.

So of 282 deaths, around seven are due to mechanical defects in part and one in full.

So in fact the MTA is claiming the number of crashes causing deaths from mechanical defects will increase by over 1000% due to going from six monthly to twelve monthly WOF checks.

I don’t mind industry groups trying to do what is good for their industry. But when they resort to such unadulterated bullshit, and scare-mongering, they do their industry a dis-service. It also means they will have diminished credibility on any other issues going forward.

Profits not safety

October 12th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

A campaign against warrant of fitness changes fronted by motor racing star Greg Murphy is under attack from the AA, which says it is about profit rather than safety.

The Government is considering whether to change the frequency of warrant checks from six-monthly to annually for cars up to 12 years old.

The Motor Trade Association has launched a highly visible campaign against the plan, fronted by Murphy, a four-time Bathurst 1000 winner. He urges people to lobby the Government against the plan.

Automobile Association spokesman Mark Stockdale said that could be seen as “scaremongering” and was influenced by motor trade commercial interests.

The Motor Trade Association members include hundreds of garages offering warrant checks, and the organisation owns Vehicle Testing NZ, the largest warrant provider.

“Clearly they have a vested interest in the status quo, so they’re more concerned about their bottom line than they are about road safety,” Mr Stockdale said.


The maths is simple. We have four million cars in NZ. Let’s assume 75% are over five years old (prob more than that). So three million cars. If WOF checks go from six months to annually and cost $45 then that is $135 million less revenue for the MTA and its members.

That is $135 million saved by motorists.

The AA said more than half of all accidents blamed on car defects were caused by worn tyres, and in 40 per cent of fatal accidents involving car faults, the vehicle had no warrant. The AA was “likely” to support the Government’s plans.

“There’s no evidence whatsoever . . . that frequency of inspection has any bearing on vehicle safety.”

Some countries have no mandated inspection period. Others range from one to two years generally. Six months is very uncommon.

Motor trade spokesman Ian Stronach insisted its interest was safety.

Yeah, right.

One can argue for monthly inspections, based on safety. The question for Government is do six monthly inspections make a noticeable difference to the safety of vehicles compared to 12 monthly ones. Based on my experience, I’d say no. Most six monthly checks find no issues at all.

If the MTA wanted to persuade people, they’d be better to drop the silly scare campaign, and produce some hard data. How many cars at each WOF check get a clean bill of health, and how many have issues to be fixed – and what are those issues.

The MTA poll

August 20th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Government is considering changing the requirement for WOF checks from six monthly to annually for some vehicles. Only vehicles less than six year olds do annual checks. Most countries only require a WOF every two years or so.

The WOF checks costs $250m a year, so obviously the garages represented by the Motor Trade Association (MTA) are not keen on reducing the frequency. They’d probably like monthly checks.

Now the MTA has announced:

 A recent telephone survey of 1,000 drivers, completed by the Motor Trade Association (MTA), showed that 63 percent were concerned to some degree about the possibility of fewer WoF inspections as a result of the current Vehicle Licensing Reform process.

This raises so many questions. It appears the poll was done by the MTA itself, rather than by a research agency that follows the international and national code of practice ofr market research and polling.

Also the statement “some degree” conceals more than it reveals. This may be 60% were “a tiny bit concerned” and 3% “very concerned”. The MTA has not made available the actual results – just some cherry picked numbers.

The survey showed 98 percent of drivers agreed that WoFs are a valuable safety check, and an important part of road safety. More than half (56 percent) agreed that they would not feel safe on the road if WoF inspections were to become less frequent, emphasising the role that the current system plays in reassuring motorists.

New Zealand’s current vehicle inspection regime means vehicles less than six years old are required to undergo a WoF inspection every 12 months, with vehicles older than this being inspected every six months. The survey also showed there was clear support (67 percent) for retaining the frequency of WoFs as is.

Again we are not shown the actual question asked, or what questions were asked before this question.

The MTA has sent this release to all MPs, as I understand it. I hope they will now release the full poll report showing who conducted it, how the sample was selected, what exact questions were asked, and the full results. Then MPs and the public can draw their own conclusions on it.