MONIQUE FORD / STUFF
The Motor Trade Association says the number of cars failing warrants has increased by about 180,000 over the last six years.
The Motor Trade Association (MTA) is appalled it took eight months to shut down a substandard WOF inspection service after a fatal crash in January.
The motoring industry says the New Zealand Transport Agency needs to behave like a proper referee and start handing out "red cards" to substandard warrant of fitness certifiers.
MTA chief executive Craig Pomare said it was appalling that Dargaville Diesel Specialists (DDS) had continued issuing warrants despite longstanding agency concerns about its operations.
Even after a fatal January crash where a passenger died when a seat belt failed in a recently warranted car, it was late August before NZTA stopped the company doing WOF inspections.
* Wrongly warranted car crashes causing death, NZTA shares blame
* Trucking industry faces financial fall out from safety clamp down
* Constant restructuring gutted NZTA of experienced staff, says Road Transport Association
* Police defend big drop in commercial vehicle inspections
"For too long NZTA has been standing on the sidelines, they need to be out on the pitch handing out red cards," said Pomare.
"You can not be a nice referee because you're dealing with a safety issue.
"In this case they (DDS) had been on NZTA's radar since 2011 for not having done inspections properly, and they let them continue."
Pomare said the Dargaville testing service was not among MTA's 3700 members, and although he did not think faulty warrants were a major issue, it was impossible to know.
MTA had talked to NZTA about improving its auditing procedures and in the last 12 months the association had put 1500 inspectors through a WOF training program to ensure their skills were up to speed.
"There are 6 million WOF inspections annually and you only need one that results in a loss of life – every day these inspectors are making life and death decisions about cars."
Pomare said over the past six years national WOF failure rates had risen 3 percent to 38 percent.
While that sounded like a small increase, it was equivalent to an additional 180,000 vehicles failing warrants.
For the year to October, Marlborough had the lowest average WOF failure rate of 30 per cent, while Gisborne had the highest at 45 per cent.
Lights were by far the most common reason for inspectors to refuse warrants, followed by tyres, then steering and suspension, he said. .
"There are still a lot of cars that fail their WOF but do not come back for a recheck, so they're sitting in the fleet with those safety issues exposed."
In the Dargaville case, NZTA wrote to almost 2000 vehicle owners urging them to get their cars re-certified at its cost and with WOFs costing about $ 50 on average, the bill is likely to be substantial.
Of the 741 re-checked to date, 63 per cent failed their first re-inspection, and in 58 cases faults were found in seatbelts.
Pomare said owners had a responsibility to properly maintain their vehicles because a warrant only reflected the state of the vehicle at the time it was done.
"People still think of the WOF as a pre-purchase inspection or a servicing – it's not, it's a high level general safety review.
"It's a non-invasive look at the key areas of the car, we do not take the wheels off, we do not check the engine other than the fuel lines."
Brand new cars now need a warrant every three years. Pomare said he was shocked to discover his six-month-old vehicle needed two new tyres after only 30,000 km, and the danger was that car owners tried to economise by delaying replacement.
"Tires range from $ 60 to more than $ 300 each so people try to get as much life out of them as them as possible."