Q&A - Mandatory Vehicle Inspections

Q&A ImageI would appreciate your comments on the lack of any formal (Govt) testing of vehicle condition in BC. I understand that there is testing for vehicle emissions in the greater urban areas on the Lower Mainland, but there is no proactive testing for facets of vehicle safety such as brake condition, tire wear, light function, bodywork and frame rusting etc. I understand also that the Police have the power to require faults in vehicle condition to be rectified but can't help feeling that this is too much left to chance - too much like closing the gate after the horse has bolted! In the UK (and in the rest of Europe) there is rigorous annual testing of every passenger vehicle from its third birthday onwards, and even more rigorous annual testing for commercial vehicles every year. No vehicle can obtain insurance without a current Ministry of Transport test certificate which would in BC, mean that no current ICBC decal would be obtainable. The tests are more or less self-funding since owners pay around 150 pounds ($300+/-) for each test, and a second fee for a re-test if their vehicle fails at the first attempt. It adds considerably to the cost of driving but, on the positive side, it does ensure that all vehicles on the road are in good condition on the day of the test. Obviously there are exceptions; people who deliberately set out to defeat the object of the testing and vehicles which are driven so much that their condition deteriorates between annual tests, but in the main the tests are effective and their purpose is achieved. The repair and maintenance facilities love the tests since they ensure a consistent flow of customers; the testing facilities reap the rewards of their investments in machinery and equipment. There are problem areas in remote locations but a system of subsidies ensures that no-one suffers because of a lack of customers. It does result in some additional Govt administration but, since the vehicle insurance is already managed by a Govt agency, there would be less duplication here than in the UK I am not suggesting that there are fewer accidents per capita in Europe, nor that the introduction of testing of this type will reduce the number of accidents (or their severity) here. I am suggesting though, that testing of this type may help to ensure that there is a minimum standard set for the condition of vehicles used on the road in BC. Not a bad thing, surely? What are your thoughts? Have there been tests of this nature in the past - I seem to think there were Govt tests of one kind until the early 90s?

B.C. did have mandatory vehicle inspection for all vehicles in the past, if those vehicles were in the Vancouver or lower Vancouver Island area. I am not familiar with why these inspections were discontinued but I am guessing that perhaps the government of the day wanted to get out of the vehicle inspection business and turn it over to the private sector in the form of Designated Inspection Stations throughout the province and AirCare in the lower mainland.

Currently only select commercial vehicles are required to undergo mandatory inspections for mechanical fitness on an annual or semi-annual basis.

The police are able to require that any vehicle be taken to an inspection station and pass a mechanical inspection based on the Superintendent's Standards set out as part of the Motor Vehicle Act. These inspections can be ordered to have been completed within 30 days or prior to the vehicle being operated on a highway again, depending on the level of mechanical defect. ICBC may refuse vehicle related transactions unless the pass has been obtained.

I am aware that other countries require mandatory inspection before vehicle license/insurance will be renewed, but I don't know if they can attribute a reduction in vehicle collisions based on better vehicle mechanical fitness. I would expect that AirCare would result in a measurable reduction in vehicle emissions.

The provincial government is taking AirCare to commercial vehicles with roadside inspections and inviting the public to report smoking vehicles in the Lower Mainland by calling 604-435-SMOG. AirCare will refuse to test smoking vehicles and they must be repaired to eliminate this before a mandatory test will be done.

In my own experience, police attribute very few collisions in BC each year to mechanical defects. This may be because they are difficult to detect or a driver error is caused or magnified by the defect and the driver error is more obvious during the crash investigation.

Should emission or mechanical inspections be mandatory for all of BC? Perhaps, but I think that I would rather see drivers be mandated to spend money on training or testing that would reduce collisions first.