You need a licence to drive your car, but your mechanic needs no qualifications at all to work on it. Is this right?
Recently there been some media discussion on whether this should be changed. At first it seems a reasonable idea: unless you are into extreme sports, hurtling around in a tonne-and-half of metal is the most dangerous thing most of us do. Anything that makes this safer surely has to be welcomed.
But there are a few reasons for caution.
Is there really a problem? While mechanics are not licensed, the roadworthiness of our cars is checked by the MOT test. Only 2.8 per cent of fatal crashes are caused by vehicle defects. The majority of which are caused by bad tyres, about which there is already legislation.
It seems reasonable to suggest that the current system is working pretty well. And most of the stories you hear, such as parts coming loose, seem to be caused by human error, not lack of knowledge.
In our 30 years of experience supplying car parts to the trade, I would say without hesitation that some of the best mechanics around have very little in the way of paper qualifications.
Secondly, it is debatable that a licence would make much difference. Legislation is often a bit like my wife’s cookbooks: potentially great, but with a distinct tendency to remain unused. Is there the will and finance to enforce more regulation?
Imagine a garage employs five people. Would everyone have to have a licence? How would you prove that the one with the licence was the one who did the work?
On the other hand, the costs of introducing a licence would be guaranteed, and would grow more complicated. Would one licence cover all kinds of work, or would there be different levels of skill levels? How often would it have to be refreshed?
Of course, the time and money invested in obtaining the licensing would result in increase labour costs for the customer. It might also put small operators out of business, meaning less competition, and again, increased costs.
Still, it must be conceded that garages and mechanics do have an image problem. I doubt if anyone hasn’t heard some horror story of overcharging or unnecessary work being carried out. However, that is a matter of honesty and trust, not skill level. Unfortunately, no one has yet invented a licence that measures honesty.
Andrew works at Clarke’s Tyres, which supplies car parts to trade and public. Tel: 02828260056.