New MOT disciplinary rules – what MOT testers need to know


The motor trade is a competitive business but a smart way to get ahead is to offer MOT testing. Not only will it help secure a steady stream of income, but if you provide an excellent service to your customers, it will also boost your reputation as a dependable local business. Something you really can’t put a price on in these uncertain times.

As you would expect, the MOT testing regime performs a vital service in terms of road safety. So, the businesses involved in delivering it are tightly regulated by the authorities. Not only do you need to keep your MOT testing skills and premises in tip-top shape, but there are also strict disciplinary rules. If your business is found to not be meeting the appropriate standards, then serious sanctions can be imposed.

Some of these disciplinary rules have recently changed, so we’ve put together this quick guide on the new MOT disciplinary rules and what you need to know now.
Whatever the new rules, one thing hasn’t changed. It’s still a vital part of responsible business practice to have the right motor trade insurance in place to protect your business, staff and customers.

The MOT disciplinary regime

Becoming an authorised MOT test centre is a serious undertaking and isn’t something you can do overnight without any planning. For example, you will need to be eligible to qualify as an Authorised Examiner (AE) and pass a variety of tests. Then you’ll also have to make sure you’ve got the right approved testing equipment and get your premises approved by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). The government has lots of advice on setting up an MOT test station on their website.

However, your obligations don’t just stop there. Once you’ve become an AE and your premises are approved, there are ongoing duties you’ll need to perform to keep the business running. For example, you’ll need to carry out quality control checks on each of your testers  at least every two months and perform a regular MOT centre site assessment.

Alongside this there is a disciplinary regime that ensures that if standards are not maintained then there are consequences for your MOT testing business.
As well as regular risk-based site reviews, the DVSA uses various methods to investigate those responsible for providing MOT tests. Depending on the result of the investigation these can lead to disciplinary action.

As well as complaints from members of the public, investigations can arise for a whole variety of reasons including:

  • A vehicle that has recently been passed by your test centre which is subsequently examined by the DVSA and considered defective.
  • A ‘mystery shopper’ being sent to your MOT centre and the test being observed.
  • A vehicle sent for a test with known defects that are not identified by your tester.
  • Undercover surveillance of your site.
  • Data analysis and/or intelligence.

If the DVSA decides there is sufficient evidence, then you’ll be sent a contemplated disciplinary letter. With only 15 days to respond to the letter, you haven’t got much time in which to review the evidence the DVSA has gathered and make the best possible response, so start straight away.

The outcome of the disciplinary procedure is based on a points system. The possible outcomes are:

  • No further action.
  • Advisory warning letter.
  • Temporary suspension notice.
  • The issue of a formal warning.
  • Short term cessation of a tester’s approval 28 days with a conditional return.
  • Full term cessation for 2 or 5 years.

Obviously, this can have a huge impact upon your business.
A man in a suit talking to two mechanics in a workshop

Changes to the regime from January 2021

Clearly, being investigated and undergoing the disciplinary procedure can be very stressful for business owners. To help counter some of the stress and uncertainty the disciplinary procedure brings, the DVSA has introduced some changes from January 2021.

From now on, certain issues will be dealt with immediately rather than through the current points system. A further benefit being that it frees up the DVSA’s enforcement teams to concentrate on more serious matters.

Certain issues will now be termed ‘shortcomings’ and will have a straightforward series of ‘predefined sanctions’ imposed. 

These shortcomings are:

  • Not calibrating MOT equipment or not having the calibration certificate available.
  • Having test equipment which is clearly malfunctioning, inoperative or missing a mandatory upgrade.
  • Mandatory signs and notices not being displayed in the required manner or illegible.
  • Viewing areas inaccessible or providing a restricted view of the testing area.
  • Emissions records not readily retrievable for the previous three months.
  • Adequate appointment system not provided on request (i.e. not having full details of vehicles and customers).
  • Asking customers to sign a loss or damage disclaimer.
  • If a new vehicle record is created on the MOT Testing Service that doesn’t match the one presented.
  • An inappropriate reason for rejection or incorrect location recorded.
  • Incorrect manual entry of measured test values onto the MOT Testing Service, where the overall test result remains unchanged.
  • A VT30/CT30 Notice not issued.
  • A VT30/CT30 Notice showing failures issued for non-testable items.
  • Where the vehicle and tester are on the premises, failing to register a vehicle at the start of the test and/or the result is not entered within one hour of test completion.

If any of these shortcomings are found at your MOT testing site, there are now three levels of predefined sanctions:

  • Level 1: The DVSA will issue written advice by way of an MOT advisory warning letter/notice.
  • Level 2: The DVSA will issue a temporary suspension notice (a new sanction). This will stop testing at your site if the shortcomings are found to impact the quality of testing. Your site can not perform MOT tests until the shortcomings are remedied satisfactorily.
  • Level 3: The DVSA will start a disciplinary case if multiple occurrences of the same shortcoming are found in a five-year period. Depending on the specific shortcoming this will either be on the third or fourth occurrence.

In Appendix 8.4 of the DVSA’s most recent MOT testing guide there is an easy-to-use table setting out the levels of sanction appropriate for the various shortcomings. For example, incorrectly calibrated testing equipment will result in a temporary suspension notice on the first occurrence. However, by the third or fourth occurrence this could progress to a disciplinary case.

At the other end of the spectrum, not having an adequate appointment system in place will only result in advice being issued. However, if the same issue arises four or more times in a five-year period it will result in a disciplinary case. 

Carrying out MOT tests comes with its own set of risks – after all accidents can and do happen every day in MOT test centres. Accidental damage to customers’ vehicles and the potential for injuries to staff are both risks that need to be guarded against. That’s why you’ll need to ensure your business is always covered with reliable motor trade insurance.

Further recent changes

Changes to mitigation

There has also been an important change if you’re providing mitigation for any disciplinary matters. Previously where the outcome of the case would normally lead to cessation (other than single offence cessation) the DVSA considered the number of credit points earned by the business.

However, from January 2021 the DVSA is removing credit points and moving to a process where the AE or tester can provide mitigation relevant to the disciplinary case. This will then be considered by the DVSA and may lead to a reduction in the sanction imposed.

Additionally, in the case of an AE, if you offer evidence of a quality control regime that is significantly better than the minimum required by the DVSA then this will also be taken into consideration. This could lead to a reduction in the sanction level imposed, although the quality control regime would have to be operating before the disciplinary case was brought.

The DVSA hopes that all cases will now be dealt with in the same way, and that decisions will be fairer and more proportionate.

Emissions records

The DVSA has also introduced changes to the requirements for issuing and retaining emissions records.

From January 2021, a record of the MOT emissions test for a vehicle does not need to be issued to the customer every time. If the vehicle passes the test, the emissions record will only need to be issued if the customer requests it. While, if the vehicle fails the test, the emissions record must be issued to the customer. In either circumstance, the emissions record must be retained and must be produced if requested.

While emissions records for all test results must be kept for three months, this can be as a hardcopy printout or digitally if your emissions machine can do this. If you cannot produce an emissions record when requested, then this may result in disciplinary action being taken.

Under appendix 8.4 of the MOT Testing Guide, advice will be issued in writing to the AE and/or tester for the first three occurrences. However, if this occurs four or more times in a five-year period it will result in a disciplinary case.

Calibration of equipment

Calibration of equipment is mandatory and MOT testing must stop if a piece of equipment falls out of calibration. As part of the new MOT disciplinary rules, the DVSA will suspend testing if uncalibrated equipment is found. Testing can only resume when the equipment has been calibrated.

You need approved and correctly calibrated testing equipment for the following:

  • Plate brake testers
  • Roller brake testers
  • Tow bar socket testers
  • Decelerometers
  • Tyre tread depth gauges
  • Wheel play detectors
  • Brake pedal application devices
  • Diesel smoke meters
  • Exhaust gas analysers (catalyst and non-catalyst vehicles)

 A mechanic writing on a notepad whilst MOTing a vehicle

Connected equipment keys

Some equipment can connect directly to whatever service you use to record MOT test results. This means that test results can be automatically added without the need for manual data entry. To do this you need a software code called a ‘key’.

If you have such equipment, then the way you request connected equipment keys has changed. Previously keys were requested through an email to the MOT Admin hub. This has now been stopped. Instead you can now only request keys using the links on the ‘Vehicle testing station’ page. Find out more by reading the MOT approved testing equipment guidance.

Annual assessments

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DVSA has extended the deadline to complete and log MOT annual training for the 2020/21 training year to 30th April 2021. However, as this year’s assessment pass mark has been increased to 80%, testers may need further preparation and time to complete their assessment.

Signing into the MOT testing service

From mid-February 2021, you will be able to log into the MOT testing service using an authentication app on your smartphone. As the app is rolled out, the DVSA will stop issuing replacement and new security cards. So, if you lose or damage your security card it won’t be replaced. Instead you’ll have to log in via email or using the app. Be aware that once you’ve set up the app, you’ll no longer be able to use your security card.

Further details on the changes and how to set up the app can be found on the government’s Matters of Testing blog.

Motor trade insurance from Insurance Choice

With ever-changing rules and regulations and increasing demands on your time, Insurance Choice is well aware of the importance of arranging the right insurance at the right price. That’s why our wide range of motor trade insurance policies are tailor-made for the unique requirements of your motor trade business.

We can offer insurance policies to include cover for:

  • Road risk motor trade
  • Cover for part- and full-time traders
  • Cover for car valets
  • Cover for mechanics
  • Collection and delivery cover

For over 20 years now we’ve specialised in providing insurance to the UK motor trade. We also offer flexible payment options, a useful solution when times are tough.

Simply call us on 01384 429900 or fill in an online request and get a motor trade insurance quote today.