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According to the latest figures from the DVLA, there are around 4 million commercial vans on UK roads. Many commentators have put the surge in van numbers down to our thirst for internet shopping, as cans are needed to make all the deliveries of goods we order online for delivery direct to our front door. Light goods vehicles, as vans are formally known, now account for around 10% of all traffic on UK roads. If you’re one of the millions who regularly drives a van, here’s everything you need to know about the annual MOT test.

Annual Requirement

Just as with cars, vans have to be taken for their MOT test when they first reach three years old, and then every year after that. It’s important to make sure that the vehicle you are referring to as a van is classed in the same way by the DVLA. In terms of the MOT test, the DVLA defines a light goods vehicle or a van as any vehicle with an unladen weight up to 3,000kg. Anything over that is classed as a good vehicle instead, and different rules apply. But the UK’s top selling vans such as the Transit, Mercedes Sprinter, Renault Traffic or Vauxhall Vivaro are within this 3,000kg limit.

Booking the MOT

JIf you’re employed as a van driver, then it’s usually your employer who owns the van and takes responsibility for booking in the van for its MOT test and paying for any work required to get the car through. However, an increasing number of drivers are self-employed, or run their own small businesses involving operating the van. If that is the case, then it’s up to you to organise getting the van booked in to have the work done. It makes a lot of sense to plan this advance, especially when you’re trying to minimise the time off the road and loss of earnings. If you usually work Monday to Friday and want to book your van in for a weekend or evening MOT, then you’re not alone. Booking weeks in advance can make sure you get the slot you want.

What’s Tested?

There’s not much difference in what’s tested in a MOT for a car or a van. The MOT is s general test of roadworthiness, and the inspector’s main concern is making sure your van is safe to be on the road. The inspector has an official checklist to work through, making sure that your van meets the limits set out by the legislation. They have very little “wriggle room” as the rules are strict and there is no room for benefit of the doubt. The MOT covers everything from brakes, steering and fuel line to tyres, registration plate and whether you’ve enough windscreen wash.

Passing or Failing

Around a half of vans presented for their MOT fail on their first attempt. This is probably because, on average, a light goods vehicle does a higher mileage than most family cars. If your van is in the 50% which passes the MOT then all you need to do is pick up the keys, pay the test fee to the garage and drive away. The details of the MOT pass are automatically uploaded into the DVLA database, so you can forget all about MOT tests for another 12 months.

If you suspect that your van might have problems getting through the MOT, point out suspected faults to the mechanic before he starts work on the inspection. There’s no point having a fail recorded for bald tyres, then replacing the tyres before a partial retest. Get the tyres replaced first, and no fail will be recorded on the system.

If you get an unexpected call from the test centre saying that your van has failed its MOT then you have a couple of courses of actions. The easiest thing to do is to discuss what work needs to be done with the garage, and agree a price for them to bring your van up to the required standards. If your van has failed the MOT on a major rather than a dangerous fault, then you still have the option to drive it away to another garage to get the work done someplace else. This isn’t possible if your van has failed for a dangerous reason though, as that means it’s not safe on the road at all.

Maximising Chances of a Pass

Vans often work harder on the road than other vehicles, and drivers can often be reluctant to address minor faults on their vans if it means time off the road and time away from earning. However, ignoring small noises or faults can give those faults the opportunity to turn into much more expensive problems. Try to address problems as soon as you become aware of them. If you’re not the person responsible for organising servicing on a company’s vehicles, flag it up to the person who is.

Servicing isn’t a legal requirement, but having the van serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations should help that faults are picked up quickly and getting the oil or air filters changed will keep the engine running smoothly. It’s also a good idea to have a system for regularly checking the most common reasons for MOT failures such as inadequate tread on tyres, lights not working or cracks in your windscreen.

Cost of MOT for Vans

Just as with cars, the government sets the maximum amount which a garage can charge for MOT checks. The maximum fee for a light goods vehicle up to 3,000kg is currently £54.85, but this changes annually in line with inflation. Garages are free to charge whatever they like up to the legal maximum, and many choose to charge less in an attempt to attract customers. However, if you suspect your van might need some work done to get it through the test, the cost of this can be much higher than the cost of the test fee. Don’t use a cheap MOT as the deciding factor about which garage you should use.