News from the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA)
24 January 2013
Public Hearing on Roadworthiness Testing in Parliament
To read this news on our website please visit http://www.fema-online.eu/index.php?page=news
In the European Parliament the responsible Transport Committee has started the discussions on the proposal for a new regulation on roadworthiness testing (RWT). Upon invitation industry stakeholders presented their views to MEPs and most lobbied in favour of strict and frequent RWT in Europe. Only the car drivers association FIA expressed doubts about the effectiveness of extended RWT. FEMA was not invited to speak.
In Brussels on 22 January the Transport Committee (TRAN) of the European Parliament invited stakeholders to contribute to a public hearing on periodic roadworthiness tests (RWT). In summer 2012 the European Commission had proposed a new regulation on RWT which includes all kinds of powered two wheelers and which requires annual checks for all road vehicles older than six years. Most speakers invited to present their views at the hearing were industry representatives calling for the introduction of a European RWT scheme with high frequency extended to all vehicles.
The Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA) had asked TRAN Chairmen Brian Simpson as well as Werner Kuhn, TRAN Rapporteur on RWT, to be included into the list of speakers but has not received a reply. The association of car users FIA therefore resulted as the only body representing the concerns of European citizens. All other speakers represented car and motorcycle manufacturers (ACEA and ACEM), the RWT industry (CITA and EGEA) and road transport companies (IRU). The ETSC was presented as ‘Civil society organization’ but is in fact representing national road safety institutes as well as test centres (e.g. TÜV).
The test industry continues to push for extension of PTI to all vehicles
The ETSC very much welcomed the proposal of the Commission and claimed that ‘quantity of testing should never substitute quality’. In the view of ETSC, testers have to be independent and should therefore not offer repair and maintenance services at the same time. The ETSC presented numbers to make MEPs believe that 6% of all car accidents could be saved if the proposal of the Commission was adopted.
CITA, the representative body of major commercial test centres in Europe (like DEKRA and TÜV), explained that cars tend to crash significantly more often when the last inspection dates back more than 12 months which would prove the effectiveness of RWT and which makes it necessary to check older vehicles at least on an annual basis. Like ETSC had argued previously CITA called for the inclusion of all powered two wheelers (PTWs) into RWT and presented a graph which, according to CITA, would prove that motorcycle accidents are more frequent in countries without RWT for motorcycles.
CITA concluded that compared to cars motorcycle accidents were stagnating due to the fact that in some countries motorcycles are not part of the RWT schemes. The speaker of EGEA, which is the organisation of the producers of the equipment test centres are using, supported his colleagues from ETSC and CITA – only more severe and more frequent RWT for all vehicles could improve road safety in Europe any further.
Vehicle manufacturers support RWT as they do not have to bear its costs
The car manufacturers, represented by ACEA, welcome extended RWT and called for the regular inspection of electronic safety systems like ABS and ESP. Even Antonio Perlot from ACEM, the association of motorcycle manufacturers, called MEPs to include powered two wheelers into RWT. He argued that RWT was good for the environment and would prevent riders from tampering with their engines.
Indeed Mr. Perlot recalled in front of MEPs that ACEM’s motorcycle in depths study (MAIDS) found that only in 0.3% of all cases technical failure was to blame as primary cause for a motorcycle accident but still he saw some potential of RWT to improve the accident statistics of PTWs. ACEM’s only reservation with regard to RWT: minimum inspection frequency should not be shorter than every two years.
It is barely surprising that vehicle manufacturers are supportive of RWT as they are not the ones having to pay for it. They have realised that public opinion tends to believe in RWT as an efficient tool for road safety and environmental protection and they aim at being seen as responsible industries working on greener and safer transport.
Green MEP Isabelle Durant therefore raised the right questions. How can RWT improve the environment in practice? Is it not a matter of fact that its introduction comes along with huge cost implications for the users? The industry stakeholders on the panel failed to come up with convincing answers.
High costs, doubtful effectiveness, and unscientific proof
After a dubious contribution about the danger of cracked spokes of wheels by a speaker from the North-West Automotive Alliance, the only citizen representative within the panel was finally given the floor. Laurianne Krid from the FIA argued that it was misleading to suggest that 6% of car accidents could be prevented by more frequent inspections.
Ms. Krid used the example of Switzerland, where inspection centres are run by the state. Despite its love for safety and control the Swiss government has continuously decided to lower inspection frequencies, simply because technical defects play no crucial role as causes of accidents. Ms. Krid further explained that contrary to CITA the numbers of FIA do not suggest that the accident probability increases when the last vehicle inspection was performed more than 12 months ago and called MEPs to base their decisions on sound evidence.
According to the FIA the reason why older cars tend to crash more often might simply be that a lot of young people can only afford to buy old cars. As a result they tend to crash more often not because of technical failure but because of lack of experience. Finally Ms. Krid reminded MEPs that due to their low mileage for some vehicle, like PTWs, it might be justified that they are excluded from RWT schemes.
The reaction of MEPs
While some MEPs took the suggested benefits of RWT for granted others raised critical questions. MEP Phil Bennion asked whether a regulation would be flexible enough to take differing national RWT schemes in Europe into account. He raised concern about the testing of historical vehicles due to the lack of original spare parts and questioned the extension of RWT to trailers. According to him it should be acceptable that ‘some member states have RWT for motorcycles and others don’t.’
MEP Jacqueline Foster commented that for decades the UK has had good testing records and that the impact assessment of the European Commission had overlooked millions of euros the UK would have to invest in order to adapt with the proposed regulation. She highlighted that millions of Europeans might be affected as collectors and users of historic vehicles and she criticized CITA and ETSC for threatening MEPs with unproven numbers about the potential life-saving of extended RWT.
Ms. Foster called it apparent what interests were pursued by each speaker. She thanked FIA for its critical speech and repeated that costs needed to be taken into account, ‘we need to get best value for it.’
MEP Dominique Riquet reminded his colleagues that the proposal has significant cost implications for users and asked the panelists whether they could confirm that direct causes of accidents by mechanical faults are actually quite small.
The Rapporteur sets the agenda
German MEP and Rapporteur Werner Kuhn summarized the priorities he identifies for the proposed regulation as follows:
1. the technical standards of RWT should be harmonized on the highest level possible
2. inspectors must be independent (inspectors should not offer repair services at the same time)
3. testing frequency is of less importance
4. Motorcycles should be included into PTI but no need for mopeds
His priorities basically represent the German situation with biennial checks for cars and motorcycles performed by independent inspection engineers. Compared with trailers mopeds are not covered by German RWT.
The views of FEMA
FEMA is disappointed that the biased positions of the testing industry are still being taken into account while the views of riders remain ignored. The prejudiced studies and data provided by CITA and its members have already been taken for granted by the European Commission. The European Parliament, as the only legislative body in Europe directly representing European citizens, must not make the same mistake.
The countries of Europe are different. In Germany it is possible to race on a motorway without speed limit, riding in Sweden is only possible during several months of the year due to weather conditions. Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have better accident statistics than Germany – even though they do not have RWT for motorcycles. Along with the Council FEMA calls to turn the proposed regulation into a directive and to leave the decision to the Member States on whether and how often mopeds, scooters and motorcycles are to be presented for periodic testing.
Download the position of FEMA on RWT: http://www.fema-online.eu/RWT/20121107%20FEMA%20Position%20on%20Road%20Worthiness%20Tests.pdf
Access a more comprehensive background paper on the topic: http://www.fema-online.eu/RWT/20121112%20FEMA%20background%20paper%20on%20Road%20Worthiness%20Tests.pdf
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