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MOT status check: a five minute business case

I have just written this business case in five minutes. Go on, knock it over! [Spoiler: the update lower down is where it gets knocked over, in some style!]

Problem:

Millions of people have no idea when their MOT expires. If they’re lucky, their local garage sends them a reminder based on the last test date. But mostly they have to rely on a piece of paper in a filing drawer at home.

So they let them lapse, leading to compliance problems affecting insurance, enforcement, automated renewal of vehicle licensing etc. etc.

Solution:

Fortunately there’s an online service to check MOT status. You’d think there would be – it’s exactly the sort of simple, non-personal, bounded data storage that computers are really good at looking up.

Complication:

To use it you need TWO pieces of information: vehicle reg no; and either the old MOT certificate (or MOT failure note) reference, or a reference on the V5C (log book).

Thing is, pretty much everyone knows their reg no. but guess where people keep the V5C? Generally in the same drawer, right next to the MOT certificate. So what is the point of the online service if it forces you to go and run your fingers over the piece of paper that contains the answer you’re looking for? And of course when you think of these things, sod’s law says you are NEVER at home, with your filing drawer in reach. It’s a bloody nonsense.

Fix:

Simple modification to the business logic: take away that requirement for a second piece of information.

At the front end, just ask the user for the reg no.

Hidden from view in the back end, tell the system that the correct V5C/cert reference has been entered. Dig through all that ancient legacy code(?) and set the “HAS_V5C_BEEN_PROVIDED” flag to “TRUE”.

Benefit:

Massive improvement in compliance. And a really huge new online transaction success story to shout about AT PRETTY MUCH ZERO COST.

Policy implications:

(And this must be where the problems lie in this complete no-brainer…) It will mean an acceptance that your MOT record is essentially public. Anyone can look it up if they know your reg no. Short of some really outlandish edge cases where the Sun might write some crappy story about Tulisa’s car having an out-of-date MOT, I really can’t see why this shouldn’t be a matter of public record. After all, the presence (at least until this year) of a visible tax disc has been a publicly viewable example of a car’s compliance with the law, and nobody’s ever got upset about that.

Even in the wildest imaginings of what risks might arise, they will never outweigh the benefit of making an MOT status check online service that is actually USABLE.

Rant over. Go on then – what did I miss, and WHY HASN’T THIS J F BEEN D?

(I wrote about this over three years ago, and have mentioned it several times since to senior officials in the world of government motoring administration. No answer ever came back. Should I have been more persistent, or just punchier?)

UPDATE: A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

So, I tweet the head of DVLA, and I get properly ZINGED. Because it turns out that it did get JFD. (Just f—ing done)

Try this, the new Vehicle Enquiry Service (beta).

I just didn’t f—ing know about it. It’s not obvious in search – which is still dominated by that page linked to above, asking for that elusive second piece of info.

(It also asks for Make – which may possibly thwart a small percentage, and could be argued as being redundant, but I’m hopeful has been shown in testing to be a better way to handle mistyped registration marks than simply offering the (wrong) vehicle details back and hoping the user spots that their Ford is now a VW…)

Without doubt it is a GREAT service. An EXCELLENT service. It does exactly what I hoped. It does more, actually. It shows vehicle tax expiry too – which of course becomes essential as the tax disc is now being phased out.

Quite rightly, given the service is in beta, there’s still work to do on fixing that search journey, and I’m sure before very long that other page – https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-status – will be tweaked to reflect the new functionality.

I’ve got humble pie running down my face, and I’m ok with that. Shall we just reflect how far things have come that a well-intended (but clearly underinformed) blog post can pop-up – get a useful response directly from an agency CEO within a couple of hours, with not a hint of spin, snark or press officer flannel – and lead to a better informed me, and hopefully you, dear reader?

(Off to get a bigger spoon to eat that pie with)

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7 Responses

  1. Neil Cocker says:

    I think it’s a great idea. Although I do get an annual paper reminder (or is that for tax? Probably, now that I think of it).

    Yes, I’m in.

  2. Robert Dallison says:

    Brilliant suggestion Paul, and even more brilliant that it’s already been implemented. Thanks to Twitter, your blog post and the new online wotsit, I’ve just discovered that one of our cars needs its MOT done…

  3. […] MOT status check: a five minute business case – honestlyreal Shall we just reflect how far things have come that a well-intended (but clearly underinformed) blog post can pop-up – get a useful response directly from an agency CEO within a couple of hours, with not a hint of spin, snark or press officer flannel – and lead to a better informed me, and hopefully you, dear reader? […]

  4. David Pollard says:

    Don’t eat all the pie! The new MOT check site does indeed work well. However feedback – I was going to say ‘good work’ – requires the respondents have an account at either Gmail or Yahoo. They still seem not to realise what universal access is about.

  5. Paul says:

    Hopefully it’s not as bad as that – I just checked, and this is what I think is happening. The feedback link is a “mailto:” link – trying to generate an email automatically for you. If, like me, you generally use web-based mail and don’t have a client configured (I use a Mac) then it throws up a message about configuring a mail client, and suggesting some popular account providers, like gmail and Yahoo. The get-around is just to use the email address evl.feedback@dvla.gsi.gov.uk with a suggested subject line of “EVL BETA Service” but I imagine it will still make sense to them without it. Hope that helps – you can add to your feedback that bit about the feedback emailing being a bit clunky – but it’s more a general consequence of their choice to use link-generated email rather than a web form. Hope that helps!

  6. Paul says:

    Oh that’s nice – WordPress is automatically converting that email address to a link/generation version, thus perpetuating the issue. Sometimes software tries just a little too hard to be helpful…

  7. Mike says:

    Always a bit of a gamble putting a mailto hyperlink in a web page. It’ll work for most folks without issue, but there will be exceptions.
    But, yes what a simple and fit for purpose Site? and great news about the tax disk being phased out too.
    I do hope other Government Web Services take note and make their sits more user friendly

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