Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion has been praised by the Federation of Small Business for his work pushing through key changes to a European Parliament report on minimum standards for MoT tests in EU countries.
The Transport Committee of the European Parliament voted on a number of amendments to the EU Roadworthiness Package last week for safety tests for vehicles on EU roads.
The Lib Dem MEP as shadow rapporteur helped secure a deal to exclude trailers with a maximum weight of up to 2 tonnes from MoT tests, instead of the Commission proposal that only trailers below 750kg should be exempt. His stance was strongly backed by the FSB and farmers who oppose MoT style tests on light trailers for agricultural use.
The committee also dropped plans to include motorbikes and mopeds in the scope of the regulations which had been opposed by motorcycling campaigners such as MAG. Motorbikes are already tested in the UK.
The committee also backed the MEP's suggestion that all vehicles should be tested annually after their mileage exceeds 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometres). Britain already tests all vehicles over three years old.
Phil Bennion MEP said: "We had a good result in the votes in Transport committee this week. In principle the idea of minimum standards for MoT tests is perfectly sensible, as vehicles which once taxed and insured can drive wherever they like in the EU, including roads in Britain.
"Britain has some of the most stringent MoT tests in Europe. Standards in some other EU countries lag a long way behind. But some of the proposals we voted went too far.
"The Commission wanted MoT tests for all trailers over 750kg but this was rightly opposed by the FSB and farming groups from all over Europe.
"There is a massive difference between unladen and maximum laden weight of most trailers, especially Ifor Williams style trailers used to carry livestock around. I convinced other party groups that this was far too low a threshold for testing and would be a piece of expensive red tape with very little safety benefit.
"Another win was retaining the UK’s integrated MoT system where garages can both carry out tests and do the repairs. The German rapporteur at one point wanted to separate testing from garages but both I and the Commission opposed this, and Parliament has clearly supported the British position.
"I was also pleased that my persistence won a sensible compromise on the definition of a historic vehicle, which will also be exempt.
"I don't agree with the UKIP line - in principle we do need common minimum standards. I visited an MOT station in Tamworth last week to discuss it with their management and they were positive about the changes. The new proposal will bring laggards up to the standard of better member states, like Britain. Vehicles do cross borders and we need to know that they have been tested properly.
"The package is now talking about a minimum set of standards that the UK in almost every particular already exceeds."
Phil Bennion's work was welcomed by business groups including Jayne Almond from the Federation for Small Business, who particularly welcomed the exemption for light trailers.
She tweeted: "@PhilBennionMEP Thanks for your hard work @fsb_hq members appreciate it."
But the package has been criticised by UKIP and some rightwing Tory MEPs.
Phil Bennion added: "I have to ask the anti EU brigade if they would be happy for other countries to allow their cars or lorries to drive here without any safety checks?
"Or would they just close the Channel Tunnel and put up a sign saying 'this is Little England - keep out'? That would soon mean that British cars or lorries would not be let into France without a French MoT, which would be a crazy situation."
Notes: The report considered by the Transport Committee of the European Parliament this week is a legislative proposal on periodic technical inspection to set minimum standards across the EU. The Department for Transport found in 2010 that 29.1% of non-GB registered lorry trailers stopped at the roadside were non-compliant with safety rules, compared to 13.3% of GB registered lorry trailers. In 2011 the figures were closer but still showed a substantial difference, with 19.9% of foreign trailers ordered to make repairs (4.1% immediate as being too dangerous to travel, 15.9% within a specified period) as opposed to 12.2% of British trailers issued with prohibition orders (4.4% immediate, 7.7% delayed).
Accidents involving light and medium trailers are in most cases related to overloading or excessive speed, and therefore should be dealt with through roadside inspections. The UK currently tests trailers with over 1020 kgs unladen weight. Trailers fitted with hydraulic brakes operated by the towing vehicle are subject to testing and are normally commercial vehicles. Other smaller trailers and caravans that are not tested (most of them) are those fitted with “over-run brakes” - a type of passive onboard automatic braking system (caravans use these). Periodic testing below 1,020 kgs is not required in the UK.
O1 (up to 750kg) trailers will normally be used in agriculture for movement of small numbers of sheep, pigs and possibly calves. O2 (750 – 3500 kg) type trailers make up the majority of the fleet in agriculture and other industries. ‘Ifor Williams type’ livestock trailers (although there are a number of other manufacturers of this type of trailer) are the most often used to transport livestock. There are also flat trailers (with or without sides) used for general transport duties, plant trailers used for transporting smaller diggers, tractors, buckets etc, trailers for fuel bowsers to take fuel to machinery in outlying fields, box trailers which are enclosed with a door at the rear to make them more secure and weather proof.
The Transport Committee also backed a proposal to exclude all tractors from MoT style tests except those with a maximum speed of over 40 kph (25mph) which are also predominantly used for haulage on public roads rather than farms or forest tracks.
Trailers over 3500kg of O3 and O4 type are periodically tested every year in accordance with the Directive (Britain also subjects them to additional recorded testing, similar to the periodic testing but done in house, every 6 to 12 weeks according to how they are used).