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.

Herald on WOF changes

January 29th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The reaction of motor industry lobbyists suggests the Government’s changes to the warrant of fitness system are as radical as they are ill-considered. Far from it. The new rules are the least extreme of the options that were considered, and remain more stringent than those in many comparable countries. They also represent a reasonable balance between safety, the prime consideration, and cost savings. In sum, the Government has acted appropriately in responding to the great improvements in vehicle safety since six-monthly inspections were introduced in the 1930s.

It is a good point that the rules actually remain more stringent than most countries.

Change, however, is necessary. There is no reason New Zealand motorists should have to endure more frequent warrant of fitness checks than their counterparts overseas. Once, in the days of high import costs, this country’s car fleet was noticeably aged and, therefore, more prone to defects that could result in serious accidents. But two things have happened. First, our fleet now bears a far greater resemblance to those overseas in terms of age. Second, cars have become far more reliable. Frequent inspections are not a panacea. The number of accidents linked to vehicle faults here is the same as in other countries at about 2.5 per cent – or 0.5 per cent where they are the only cause. Liquor and speed are far greater factors.

This is the key point. Our problems are that NZ roads are generally pretty crappy and people driving too fast for the conditions. The accident rate due to car defects is extremely low.

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.

More on WOF checks

December 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Clive Matthew-Wilson writes at Stuff:

The proposed changes to the vehicle licensing laws are a case in point. According to the Government, most of the changes involve stretching out the period between warrants of fitness (WOFs) from six to 12 months.

Sounds good. The government geeks assured us there would be no safety compromises as a result. Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

No, they never said there would be no compromise. They said the benefits probably do not exceed the costs.

Despite a glowing endorsement of the Government’s plans by the AA (which is the beneficiary of several lucrative government contracts), the best independent research suggests the average motorist will save very little and might lose a lot.

A ridiculous attack on the AA. The AA has battled Governments on many many issues they disagree with.  To suggest they are not impartial is a classic attacking the man, not the ball. Add to that the mischaracterisation of what the Government has said, and he is off to a bad start.

A recent independent report by Australia’s Monash University, contradicts many of the claims by the Government and the AA.

The report concluded that extending the WOF period from six to 12 months is likely to increase the road death toll by between 1.3 deaths and 25.6 deaths per year. Monash also predicts injury accidents might increase by between 16 and 325 per year.

Not the selective cherry-picking. He overlooks the actual conclusion from Monash. The report is here.

In terms of the cost-effectiveness of the New Zealand WoF scheme as a whole, we placed the known costs of the scheme to the motorist as one side of the cost-benefit equation and then estimated the necessary benefits to equal these costs, represented by Figure 10. The benefits started to exceed the costs only when the drop in crash rate associated with the scheme reached 12%. This is evidently quite a demandingly high level of injury reduction. It is unlikely from the literature and from the rate of fault detection in the NZ WoF scheme that 12% of crashes can even be considered to be caused by mechanical defects, let alone able to be prevented by periodic inspection and repairs.

So Monash said that six monthly WOF checks are only cost effective if they reduce the crash rate by 12%.

Now recall that mechanical defects are implicated in only 2.5% of vehicle crashes and are the sole cause in only 0.4% and you see that there is no way the six monthly checks reduce the road toll by 12%.

So Monash concluded:

Despite these safety benefits estimated, the costs to the motorist of the 6-monthly inspections over and above the annual inspections were estimated to be considerable. This means that the 6-monthly inspections compared to annual inspections were not considered to be cost-effective.

But Matthew-Wilson said:

The Monash report found: “[changing the period for WOFs from six months to 12 months is] not considered to be cost effective”. In other words, there will be little or no saving from the changes.

That is the exact opposite of what they found. Go read the report for yourself.


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.

AA on WOF checks

October 15th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike Stockdale from the AA writes in the Dom Post:

As part of the reform of the vehicle licensing and Warrant of Fitness systems, the Government is looking at changing the frequency of the safety inspection. Changing the WOF system is a big decision that will affect us all, so it’s important it’s made on the basis of unbiased facts and evidence.

Let’s put things in perspective. 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.

A key point.

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.

Personally if inspections are to be regular, I think distance is more sensible than time.

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.

So we are paying extra for no benefit.

The Automobile Association believes some of the focus on vehicle safety should shift away from the majority of compliant motorists to the minority who choose to ignore our laws and put other lives at risk, and focusing more on factors that most contribute to crashes – tyres, brakes and lighting. When it comes to vehicle faults contributing to crashes, the main cause is worn tyres and our current six-monthly test isn’t preventing that.

We need to be smarter about how we ensure vehicle safety is maintained and enforced, rather than only relying on a WOF check once or twice a year.

We need to encourage more motorists to get in the habit of regularly checking their tyres and vehicle condition themselves. If drivers in other countries can, so can we.

Absolutely. The WOF checks can give a false confidence.

The international evidence suggests road safety will actually improve if we follow their example and reduce inspection frequency while beefing up driver education and roadside enforcement of unsafe vehicles.

In the last few decades the quality of the New Zealand fleet has vastly improved from the days when Kiwis routinely drove elderly and worn-out vehicles on unsafe roads, when our road toll was three times what it is today, and when a twice-yearly test made sense. Since then vehicle technology and safety have progressed, but the frequency of the WOF test hasn’t changed to suit. Maybe it’s time it did.

I’ve seen no evidence in favour of the status quo – just a scare campaign.

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.