Since last year’s MOT upheaval, Rob Marshall now looks at the options of modifying, or upgrading, two person MOT test lanes and queries the DVSA about its connectivity plans.
Change is inevitable but, regarding MOT Test hardware especially, the equipment is not designed to cost you a fortune with no apparent advantage. Take the One Person Test Lane (OPTL) and its more sophisticated sister, the Automated Test Lane (ATL), as examples. Their chief benefits are to reduce the number of technicians needed to conduct an MOT from two persons to one, therefore permitting the garage to reduce their direct costs related to testing.
Surprisingly, not everybody is convinced. The Director of Euro Car Parts’ Workshop Solutions division, Adam White, enlightened us about his field experiences: “Many workshops are still operating on older setups and, when replacing equipment, they tend to choose older technology synonymous with two-person testing. Businesses don’t always realise that it only takes around six months to recoup the investment cost of a new OPTL; something that ultimately improves productivity, freeing-up technician time for other profitable work.”
Considering that Workshop Solutions supplies MOT equipment from respected specialists that include Tecalemit, Liftmaster, Crypton, Bradbury, Hofmann Megaplan and John Bean, Mr White emphasises that there is considerable flexibility and bespoke packages are available, as well as leasing options.
TO MODIFY OR UPGRADE?
Butts of Bawtry explains that you can still modify an existing two-man MOT Test lane to a OPTL and recommends the equipment range from Ravaglioli for class III, IV, V and VII applications. Yet, is the inconvenience of converting your existing two-man lane worth it, versus changing the entire ramp? Involve your chosen workshop equipment supplier for advice, because your equipment preferences may not fit in with your ambitions. The provider might also advise that it could be more cost-effective to upgrade, not to maximise their own profits, but primarily to give you the best value. For example, the cost and hassle of modifying a two-person ramp may be neither possible, nor worthwhile, in certain cases.
Should you decide to upgrade, rather than modify, two options lie ahead: OPTL, or ATL. The basic difference between them rests with the roller brake tester (RBT). The ATL’s RBT is connected to the computer/screen and, therefore, will feature upgradable software, hence offering a degree of future-proofing to meet requirements, such as offering direct connectivity to the DVSA’s servers (as detailed later). The RBT should also be able to weigh the vehicle, compared to the more basic analogue weighing hardware that is found on a typical OPTL set-up, which is harder to upgrade digitally and, therefore, is less likely to comply with future regulations without the garage experiencing additional expense and downtime.
While an ATL tends to cost £1,000+ more than an equivalent OPTL, Workshop Solutions’ Adam White highlights that it can be a false economy not to choose an ATL, such as in cases where the RBL has to be moved to accommodate the new lift. Consider also that ancillary equipment might have to be changed; again, your equipment supplier should advise you. The lifting jack, for example, might not fit the new ramp and a new one will need to be procured. Yet, you might consider expanding your technical capabilities. Should you have to move your existing headlight beam aligner, for example, it provides the opportunity to upgrade to new hardware that will cater for LED headlights – the DVSA may not have mandated these for the MOT Test, yet, but it is likely to occur in the future, with so many current car models featuring them as standard equipment. The same is relevant for other camera/radar technologies, such as those encompassed under the ‘ADAS’ category. These issues must be considered and balanced against your funding and payback calculations but consider that upgrades tend to involve garage downtime and getting everything done in one fell swoop tends to be preferable than having to repeat the exercise several years later. Workshop Solutions told us that it takes around six months to recoup the investment cost of an OPTL and that ATLs will be upgradeable to comply with future technologies for 7-10 years at least.
As always, choose a workshop provider that can reconcile your future plans, budget, forthcoming DVSA requirements and maintenance requirements, moving forward.
The DVSA is not going to make connected equipment compulsory for existing Vehicle Testing Stations anytime soon but it is a requirement for new VTS. It is likely that emissions equipment, beam setters and decelerometers will follow. Boston Garage Equipment reports that its RBTs are DVSA approved as Connected MOT Equipment. As specified by the DVSA, all data must be transferred in the form of a JSON file via a secure Application Programming Interface (API).
Astley Cross Garage, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire
As with many garages, Astley Cross supports local private car owners not only with repairs but also buying and selling all makes and models. “MOT testing, therefore, is a critical service we offer through our business,” reports Workshop Manager, Jamie Clark, who continues:
“Being based just outside a rural town, our customers would not tolerate the labour rates that they might encounter in a big city. Due to our relatively low hourly rate, we do not consider MOT Testing as a loss-leader, because we do not discount the maximum permitted rate set by the Department of Transport.”
This long-established garage changed hands around five years ago, which Jamie admits introduced a slight issue, because the sale included a lot of outdated hardware, which Jamie says was adequate but far from ideal. “One of the main issues was a large pit, over which MOT Tests used to be conducted; we were never happy with it,” he recalls: “So, I planned for the entire garage to close over a fortnight for a complete refit. As we have only a relatively small workshop, the building work would have stopped us from working anyway. We decided to replace an elderly, worn-out ramp, have the pit filled-in and an ATL installed next to it.”
Was it worth it?
“It was absolutely worth it!” Jamie states. Not only are MOT Tests safer but they can also be conducted quicker, helped immeasurably by the shaker plates that (like those fitted to OPTLs) negate the need for a colleague to sit inside the car and operate the controls. Astley Cross Garage’s MOT Testers agree as well, although it was voiced that inspecting steering rack gaiters for rips is not as easy, with the vehicle raised and its suspension dangling – but this is a very small gripe. It was also appreciated that the roller brake tester is linked into the main computer; again, speeding-up the test procedure.
While Jamie is happy with the installation two years- on, he admits that anybody considering installing an ATL must consider not only the hardware but also the installer. “We found that, as can happen with any building work, the fitting of the ATL was subcontracted to another company and there were a number of delays that could have been avoided, prolonging the work, which was more than slightly frustrating at the time”, he explained.
Therefore, consider the practicalities, including any potential disruption to your business, as part of your costings.
The DVSA speaks to AT about connectivity
Prior to going to press, a number of MOT Testers and garage owners voiced concerns to us about the DVSA mandating that certain MOT equipment must be connected to their servers, so MOT data can be seen by the department in real time. Responding to your concerns and our questions, Neil Barlow, the DVSA’s Head of Vehicle Engineering, told us that the authority is introducing connected equipment to modernise testing and reduce the potential for mistakes. He says: “There are several benefits to using equipment that connects directly with the MOT Testing Service. For existing equipment, such as roller brake testers (RBTs), it will save time in re keying data and reduce the risks of error. The same approach can also enable newer equipment, such as digital camera-based technology, to improve confidence that the right vehicle is being tested, and on- board diagnostic readers that will set the foundations for potential new areas of the test.
“For RBTs, the connected equipment will provide the same information that we receive now but without the need for re-keying. For other equipment, such as emissions equipment, or headlamp aim, we will be able to have similar levels of detailed data. This will help with consistency, but also give us better information on which to make future decisions, for example, test criteria based on the ‘state of the car fleet’.
“We set ourselves a target of changing the approval specifications for new models of class IV, V and VII RBTs to require connectivity from 1 July 2019. We have agreed with the Garage Equipment Association (GEA) not to approve any new models of RBTs in the relevant classes unless they are connectable.
“We are also working with the GEA on rule changes for diesel smoke meters, exhaust gas analysers and decelerometers. We have agreed with the GEA that no new models of these kinds of equipment will receive approval from 1 August 2019 unless they are connectable. We will continue to work with the garage trade, the GEA and manufacturers on this. This will enable us to work towards a wider implementation of this technology, starting with new garage approvals.
“The DVSA has worked with the GEA and continues to work with all manufacturers who are keen to develop new products across the range of equipment. Typically, the software development has taken days rather than months to complete. We have worked on live products with around five manufacturers and are open to working with any manufacturers in the future.”
The GEA’s Chief Executive, Dave Garratt, informed AT that the DVSA and the GEA are currently testing the quality of Connectable RBTs and the GEA will publish a list on its website, www.gea.co.uk, shortly, showing those that have been accepted for use in the MOT scheme.