Just before Christmas we reported that the EU Council of Ministers (The National Governments) decided to exempt bikes from the new Super MoT and downgrade the proposals from a Regulation, to a Directive, which would give each country a little leeway in what they introduced.
The Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) of MEPs who are the leading committee on this subject, revealed in early meetings that they however, seem happy to believe the statistics the Commission put forward about safety and emissions improvements, even though the research was done by the private company (DEKRA) that wants to provide the testing facilities should it all become law. To that end, they now wish to fight the Council, keep the proposal as a Regulation and include bikes again.
The DEKRA figures claim that 8% of bike accidents are caused by component failure which wouldn’t happen if the bikes had regular testing. This is at odds with all other studies, which the Commission and most MEPs seem oblivious to.
The Committee were willing to listen to evidence from other sources though and to that end they called a public hearing on 22nd January in Brussels. They invited the Road Worthiness Testing industry, the motorcycle industry, road safety institutes and even the car lobby FIA, but alas, just like IMCO and the Type Approval Regulation, they wouldn’t let FEMA speak, so no motorcyclists were directly represented. FEMA were allowed watch though, so were able to fill us in on what occurred.
The RWT industry said that cars crash more often if their last inspection was over 12 months previously and that bikes crash more frequently in countries without an MoT for bikes. This clashes with other studies which don’t have quite the same commercial connection, and it doesn’t explain why countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, who don’t have an MoT, have the best road safety records.
MAG was chastised for earlier suggesting that the Super MoT could be used in conjunction with the TA regulation as a method of enforcing anti-tampering by owners, so it was interesting to hear the ACEM (bike manufacturers) representative say that the Super MoT as proposed would prevent riders from tampering with their engines!
Thankfully the FIA did at least speak out against the interests of the commercial sector. The representative noted that other studies find very different results and those countries noted for their strict attitude to safety – Sweden and Switzerland – have been reducing the frequency of their testing regime because they can find no link between frequency of test and safety. She even went so far as to say that since bikes generally cover lower mileages, they should be excluded.
The other good news is that not all the MEPs on the committee seem prepared to follow the commercial interest. Phil Bennion is the Lib Dem MEP for the West Midlands who attended a huge Riders Are Voters meeting near Coventry last year to discuss EU legislation. He said he hadn’t been to such a big event and was impressed with the bike lobby.
Phil Bennion is also the shadow rapporteur on the Committee, so he will be steering all of the European liberal MEPs when it comes to parliamentary vote, currently timetabled for July. He certainly seems to have listened when he met riders in Coventry: he raised concern about genuine spare part availability on older machinery, suggested more flexibility for member states to make up their own minds and decide if they want to test bikes or not.
Another feisty Brit was Jacqueline Foster, Conservative MEP for the North West who said the costs would be excessive for imperceptible gain, that the impact assessment was flawed, that older vehicle users would be badly affected and finally, that the RWT industry shouldn’t present as fact, unproven stats about lives that would be saved!
Unfortunately the Chairman of the Committee, Brian Simpson the NW Labour MEP, looks prepared to go against the interests of the British Government for purely party political reasons, which is a huge shame. And the Rapporteur (who will lead the committee) is a German MEP Werner Kuhn who appears determined to implement a TuV type German system.
At the end of the meeting he summarised the TRAN Committee priorities as:
- The highest RWT standards should be harmonised in Europe
- There should be a separation of testing and repairing
- Motorcycles should be included
- Testing frequency doesn’t matter!
Basically, that list is what the commercial testing industry wants, but this time we aren’t alone in our campaign, as we have the weight of the National Governments on our side and not just the UK this time.
A targeted letter to MEPs on the committee will be available soon.