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European roadworthy inspection

The publication last April 29 of the new directive 2014/45/EU couldn’t have been more timely, just days before the European Parliament elections, in support of the European cause while euro-skepticism seems to have a greater grip on the electorate

Massimo Brunamonti

We're talking about an insider’s topic, new European motor vehicle inspections, which has very little echo on public opinion, but still carries a strong signal: Brussels has completed on schedule the procedure for the emission of new European rules aimed at harmonizing motor vehicle inspections.

As we know the purpose of this Directive is to contribute to the drastic reduction of mortality on the road, improving "road safety through the adoption of common minimum requirements and harmonized standards relating to roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles within the Union" . The path proposed by the European Commission in July 2012 until the final last April, has been rather difficult and has had to deal with different motions and positions among the member states and conflicting interests. What came out of it? In essence, the final document does not show anything particularly new compared to what was expected and considered during the process of discussions and approval; But now that the legislative process has been completed, it is appropriate to specify what it consists in and what will it change in Europe.


First of all it is a "Directive" and not a "regulation" as the Commission had proposed. Where is the difference? A regulation is directly applied by Member States in the time and manner prescribed by the Act; this is rather an indication that a directive must be converted into national law. The differences seem subtle, but the experts know how much margin the States have to apply the measure locally. But perhaps this is how it had to be to achieve its purpose; after all a basic common platform is set and what has to be done is clear. Some countries, such as Italy, are ahead and will not have many problems; others will have to work harder; time is not extremely tight but still does not allow room for hesitation.

Starting with the first topic, the categories of vehicles subject to mandatory revision, the news are represented by the inclusion of trailers over 3.5 tons., The T5 wheeled tractors with a maximum speed exceeding 40 km / h, and starting from January 1, 2022, all vehicles with 2 or 3 wheels above 125 cc. A shining example of "European-compromise" is the exception to the 2.1 paragraph on motorcycles, according to which if a Member State demonstrates by means of statistical data that it has already applied alternative measures for safety within the previous five years, it can waiver the required periodic inspections for two-and three-wheeled vehicles.

No news on inspection frequency; the 4-2-2 system remains in force, that is four years after the first registration and every two years thereafter, with the exception of taxis and ambulances that are subject to annual inspections. The only addition is the option given to Member States to tighten the inspection frequency for vehicles that are damaged, altered or modified during change of ownership or in the event of a serious road hazard, and finally, in case of exceeding a mileage of 160,000 km.


Getting a bit more specific about inspection test techniques, we notice that no new tests have been introduced, at least compared to the current practice in most developed countries such as Italy. The directive does not introduce anything new, therefore Italian inspection centres will not have to make adjustments to their technical equipment.

This opens the door to possible future innovations related to the technological evolution of vehicles; Brussels’ attitude is formally proactive, but sometimes inconsistent in substance. For example, when it comes to emission controls, it begins by pointing out that over the last 20 years, unfortunately, air quality has not improved enough in spite of tightening the rules, and therefore it sponsors the introduction of new methods of emission control particularly aimed at NOx (nitrogen oxide ). Perfect. Soon after, however, it is also stated that, given the progress of OBD systems ( On-Board-Diagnosis ), member states could opt for OBD testing in lieu of testing the exhaust pipe, if proven equivalent. This is frankly disconcerting, anyone who works in the automotive sector knows that this is unthinkable; how could a diagnose system set to inspect the vehicle like the OBD, be expected at the same time to “ diagnose itself." If the system fails, it won’t regulate the vehicle’s functions, and much less, inspect properly.

A very important aspect of the inspection tests is the "flaw evaluation". In the event that a vehicle presents only "minor flaws" a further inspection is not required; in case of "major flaws" the owner is compelled to repair the vehicle and pass a new inspection within a time frame established by the State. With "dangerous flaws" it is expected that the vehicle is inhibited from moving for a defined period of time, up to the vehicle’s repair and subsequent inspection. The flaw evaluation for each inspection is described in detail in the Directive’s 1° appendix.


Another very important aspect, in our view, relates to technical information. Testing techniques increasingly demand the comparison of the results with the "nameplate data" and, in case of testing electronic systems, the availability of specific information about the system to allow an effective inspection. It is obvious that this data needs to be provided by those who build and approve the vehicle; Well, after a long dispute, the European Commission was made responsible for the definition of technical data that will be made available by manufacturers to inspection centers and national authorities.

The most innovative parts however cover the operational, organizational and inspectional nature of the issue and relate to inspection centers and national inspection authorities.


Who thought or feared that the EU was going in the direction of requiring a single system for everyone got it all wrong. The Directive does not give any indication as to how inspection centres should be made, but at the same time devotes much space to quality and the need to avoid any conflict of interest between vehicle inspection and repair; Appendix IV and V lists precise rules of independence and strict criteria of government supervision by the Authority. The concept is that "the member states should retain the 

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