Coronavirus and MOT tests perhaps not all the confusion comes to harm
If we were looking for a way to complicate simple things, we could not have done it better: between the "Cura Italia" decree, newsletters (or lack of) and EU Regulation 698/2020 dated May 25, 2020, to understand, who, when and if one has to go for an MOT test is anything but easy. Recently, the Communication of the Department of Public Security of the Ministry of the Interior dated June 5, 2020 finally explains the combined provisions between the LD 18/2020 of March 17 (basically, the decree "Cura Italia" converted into law) and Regulation 698. Without going into lengthy discussions about the explanations provided, which are actually quite clear, it is good to emphasize a few curious details.
EU Regulations do not take into account mopeds and motorcycles since these vehicles are not included in the Directive 2014/45 to which Regulation 698 refers; for them the LD 18/2020 is still valid, and consequently the deadline of October 31 to undergo roadworthiness tests in order to circulate in Italy (but not abroad). As far as class M and N vehicles and their trailers are concerned, the most relevant difference consists in the nature of the changes to the deadlines. In fact, while the EU Regulation focuses on the concept of "extension of the deadline", the LD 18/2020 instead speaks of "authorization" to circulate beyond the normal deadline until October 31. The difference consists in the fact that while an extension automatically re-schedules the deadlines, an authorization does not, with the risk that MOT inspection centres will be overcrowded at the last possible date, a problem that has been repeatedly reported by operators. The automatic entry into force of the EU Regulation may help to solve this problem, since those who do not spontaneously “re-schedule” a test date will be able to circulate in Italy until October 31, but not in Europe; this may be a good reason for drivers to decide to opt for dates in line with the criterion of extension, thus staggering the inspection tests over time. Also interesting is the impact of the EU Regulation on the transport sector; the 7 months extension provided seems heaven sent for a sector victim of inadmissible dysfunctions. As everybody knows, the average delay of the annual inspection of heavy duty vehicles, even before the coronavirus, is measured in months; this damages above all those companies operating at international level, since a simple booking for an inspection test is by no means enough to circulate freely.
No solution has, as yet, been presented, not even after the 2019 Budget Law amending Art. 80 of the Highway Code by transferring inspection tests of transport vehicles to private entities, instructing the government to implement these measures within 30 days (see Autoattrezzati, Pneurama 1/2019). This never occurred: in more than a year and a half, the Administration has not been able to issue the necessary decrees to "privatize" the MOT tests of heavy duty vehicles, despite the legislative decree. The EU Regulation, through the already mentioned extension, may unintentionally give some breathing space to an Administration that appears somewhat in distress, to say the least, providing for seven extra months to do what it had already failed to do in the past. From the end of 2017 until today, the management responsible at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport has already changed twice; we hope that the new managers, who have recently entered into service, will take the opportunity to remedy a situation that is now unsustainable and is damaging the entire freight transport sector.
Lockdown effects on car equipment and proposals to the European Commission
The impact of the lockdown on the entire car maintenance and repair supply chain is visible to all. Although spared from a complete shutdown, due to its strategic importance for mobility, the whole sector still experienced a dramatic drop in business volumes. Even garage equipment manufacturers have inevitably been affected by the situation and are facing a difficult future with many unknowns, also as a result of uncertainties related to current sales trends of motor vehicles.
Aica, the Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturers Association, took a snapshot of the situation by launching a questionnaire among its members on the effects of lockdown. The results of the survey are significant indeed: almost 85% of the companies contacted, reported an average reduction in turnover during the March-May period of more than a third compared to the same period in 2019. This reduction, in addition to causing liquidity problems, has made it necessary to reduce the number of working hours significantly using the extraordinary payroll subsidies offered by the government. On the other hand, the resulting drop in turnover forced almost all into temporary stops and new working methods: the majority of companies had to resort to interrupting production and deliveries; on the other hand, others turned to intensive smart-working methods, and with great satisfaction to the point of probably making it a permanent working method.
Additionally, the survey examined the sentiment of the sector towards government emergency initiatives including payroll subsidies, confirming the common intention to preserve jobs as much as possible. For a full recovery, though, those interviewed have clearly indicated two ways as crucial in the future: less red tape and a closer school/work relationship. The overall picture that emerges is that of an industry that, although hard hit and concerned about a possible drop in demand worldwide, confirms its aptitude to looking ahead and its resiliency by adapting its portfolio of products and services to the changes taking place, aware of its heritage and know-how as well as market penetration. Like Aica, other European trade associations (in Germany, the Netherlands and others countries) have conducted similar surveys with rather homogeneous results; this, together with the acclaimed strategic nature of the sector, has led Egea, together with other associations in the sector, to contact the European Commission with a list of concrete proposals explained in several chapters. First and foremost, aid measures for companies, mostly small and medium enterprises, both in the form of cash and investments, especially if they are "socially responsible", i.e. those that have a relevant environmental and social impact (employment and innovation).
The single market is another crucially important aspect for a sector that lives on mobility, so hard hit by the pandemic; it is necessary to prevent pretentious barriers to the movement of people and goods and to provide new stimuli for the free market throughout the Union. Nurturing the economic activity of the entire automotive supply chain is another important issue: initiatives for the promotion of “eco-friendly” cars, understood both as a low-polluting and properly maintained vehicle; support for a circular economy in which greater use is made of regenerated parts and components; fight against high-emission vehicles by means of regular inspections. All of this would benefit society as a whole. A special mention goes to the expected expiry of the Ber regulation (Regulation 2010/461) in 2023: the guarantee that every vehicle can be serviced anywhere, and by any qualified specialist chosen by the customer, is not negotiable for a sector like ours, where competition and capillarity are primary requirements for quality services. The instrument provided by the Ber regulation must not be wasted, on the contrary it must be preserved and updated in light of new mobility needs, as a result of new technologies, and changes in social customs induced also by the coronavirus.
Egea: six-monthly meeting June 2020
Despite the pandemic, also Egea, the European Garage Equipment Association, of which Aica is the Italian member, held last June 18 its semiannual General Assembly, obviously via web; if this had already become a familiar practice for the various working groups, for the General Assembly, the Association's highest decision-making body, it was a debut. After the opening remarks, President Dave Garratt informed the Assembly of the resignation of Neil Pattemore from his role as technical advisor, due to his approaching retirement. Egea wishes to sincerely thank Pattemore for his high professional and human contribution that, for more than a decade, has helped the growth of the Association and improved its ability to interact with the political scene in Brussels.
As described by Secretary General Jordi Brunet, the last semester was important to complete the reorganization of the Association: new office, new organization and new services, a fundamental step towards achieving future goals. A first confirmation of this came from the now closer relationship with Cita, international organization of MOT inspections, with a mutual interest towards widespread and technologically evolved periodic inspections; after years of isolated contacts, now a permanent channel has been established between the two associations, aimed at joining efforts on many common grounds for greater political effectiveness.
The wide range of activities of all Egea Working Groups, were illustrated by Brunet and the group leaders present, and highlighted, once again, how vast and complex are the issues facing the Association, and how these are being dealt with thanks to the financial contribution and specialized know-how of its members. Starting from setting new standards for garage equipment, such as garage lifts, tire changers, roller brake tests and headlamp centring, and then Adas calibration procedures in the workshop, new communication standards between equipment, all the way to the innovations in the field of emission checks, especially PN and Nox, as a result of the announced Euro 7 class. Still speaking of working groups, the leading role, given the amount of work, is played by Working Group 2 Diagnosis, led by Elvis Colla of Aica/Texa, hard at work in two areas of extreme importance for the sector: access restrictions to the Obd port and the planned implementing decrees of the European Commission on computer security and remote vehicle access. Without going into details, it is worth noting that the proliferation of access restrictions to the Obd port has made it necessary, as suggested by the Commission itself, to contact various national type-approval authorities, responsible for verifying the conformity of vehicles. This is what Egea is doing, in order to oppose violations of the laws that will damage the entire independent car repair sector.
Among the many other activities, one deals with collecting and processing market data, already agreed between Aica and Asa (D), and proposed to all the other members to build a European panorama. Gieg (F), Rai (NL), Fma (B) and Afiba (E) have expressed interest and will discuss the matter shortly. The Covid-19 outbreak and its consequences in the sector were other topics inevitably present during the meeting: Egea, through Afcar, sent a letter and a document with proposals to the European Commission to support the world of car maintenance and repair, also in the wake of surveys conducted in some countries (Italy, Netherlands and Germany) among car equipment manufacturers.
Then came the moment for the statutory and financial part: after the unanimous ratification of the appointment of the new Secretary General and the new direction of the Association, the treasurer Leon Andriessen of Rai-Nl illustrated the accounts: 2019 closes as expected, as a result of the changes previously decided upon, while 2020-2021 proceed as planned with the new organization that will ensure the desired commitment. The meeting ended with the date of the next General Assembly in Munich; however, it was decided to change the date and the way it will be held. The date will fall in the last week of October and, as far as the mode is concerned, in September the Association will decide whether to confirm the assembly with physical presence or teleconference like the last one, in case the coronavirus issue still requires caution. It is interesting to note that all participants expressed satisfaction with the progress of the meeting in teleconference: even so, maximum efficiency was guaranteed without losing any concreteness in the discussion despite being located throughout Europe.