The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) released draft rules today bringing forward the commencement of the lower vehicle testing standards regime for 2004 to 2008 vehicles to October 2013. The lower standards will apply to 2000 to 2003 vehicles from April 2014. Previously the introduction date for these lowered vehicle testing standards was July 2014 but such launch date has been accelerated, ostensibly to “smooth out the reduction in business for WOF testers.” Obviously this will cause a huge amount of confusion.
Quite possibly the Government has political considerations for this tinkering with WOF policy but it has the potential to seriously undermine road safety in New Zealand. This scheme could have been refuted had the Motor Trade and related organisations presented a united front but the Automobile Association (AA) deemed it to their advantage to support such lower vehicle safety standards in their quest for relevance. It is an exquisite irony that an organisation that portrays itself as the guardian of all things related to road safety has become the principal backer of a scheme certain to make our roads more dangerous. Ok, we are not suggesting thousands of people will die, but at least some people will die as a consequence.
Bettertyres has recently conducted a survey of Tyre Shops about the attitude of consumers to tyre safety which has confirmed that the consumer has a very cavalier attitude to tyre safety . They generally accept the importance of having safe and high quality tyres on their vehicle, but often when confronted with evidence of poor quality tyres on their vehicle, will say “I will sort that out when my next Wof is due”. But the problem with the new WOF testing regime is that the WOF is not 1 or 3 months away, it is now up to a year away. Maybe that does not sound like a long time, but this extended period is critical with dangerous tyres. Seriously defective tyres can often last another 2 or 3 months, but they will never last another 6 or 12 months!
We could quote hundreds of case studies, but lets just focus on two. A nice old lady took her Corolla to a tyre shop yesterday and asked them to look at her left front tyre which she suspected was worn out. She was correct! The tyre was bald, there was no canvas showing but that could change very quickly. When told about this dangerous situation she insisted, “I will put a new tyre on when I do my next WOF. Probably this scenario is not so bad if the WOF were due in 1 to 3 months but it is a ticking time bomb when the next WOF is 9 to 12 months away. In the other instance, Pete got a workshop to check out his car and a ball joint was found to be faulty. Pete instantly said he would leave it till the next WOF, which under the new rules will be 12 months away. Just how does this advance the cause of Road Safety in New Zealand.
Underlying all of the above, is the naievity of those advocating and implementing this drastically reduced standard of vehicle safety in New Zealand. We can excuse our governments lack of industry knowledge but the lack of commonsense understanding of reality by some in the motortrade is beyond comprehension. Bettertyres hopes that the accident rate of vehicles not compliant with the Wof standard will not increase as much as it expects over the next few years.