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Should car mechanics be licensed?

by Hugh Wilson | 01 Jun 2016

A new report by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) and Loughborough University urges the Government to introduce a ‘licence to practice’ for mechanics, and make it illegal for untrained technicians to work on electric and hybrid vehicles.

Professor Jim Saker of the University’s Centre for Automotive Management argues that the pace of technological change makes a licencing system imperative.

“Anyone working on these high voltage vehicles needs to be properly trained, accredited and licensed,” he said.

Steve Nash, IMI CEO, added: “As the volumes of these new vehicles grow, there are thousands of (unqualified) technicians that will be challenged to offer that kind of service, and without some sort of license requiring them to be properly trained and qualified…the service and repair sector will not invest in that kind of training.”

Licencing – the current situation

The report is another volley in the long running skirmish over licencing in the car repair industry.

At the moment, and in contrast to many other European countries, anybody can legally start a repair business and offer their services to the public, regardless of their level of expertise or experience.

No licence is required, and that is as true for working on standard petrol and diesel cars as it is for hybrid and electric models.

But that’s not what the public thinks. One poll found that over 70% of garage customers believe garages are regulated by the Government.

Licensing – the benefits

Many in the industry argue that bringing in minimum professional standards in the form of a Government-issued ‘licence to trade’ would deter rogue mechanics and enhance the reputation of repair garages among the motoring public.

The IMI campaigns for the introduction of just such a licence, and states:

“UK consumers are completely unaware of how vulnerable they are when choosing a garage…service providers don’t need any qualifications to operate, nor do they face any external independent checks on their competence to work on private vehicles.”

Many other industry bodies agree. They make the point that the plumber working on your boiler is required to hold an appropriate licence, but the mechanic working on an equally dangerous piece of kit – your car – isn’t.

Licensing – the case against

But others believe that licensing is unnecessary, and would only add an expensive level of bureaucracy to the industry.

That red tape would force costs up for both garages and the consumer.

The current Government leans towards this argument. Before the last election, Prime Minister David Cameron said he still required persuasion about the need for a licence to practice for mechanics.

“I hope you will appreciate that any policies would need to support our principles of de-regulation and reducing industry costs,” he commented.

Motor Codes, the government-backed, self-regulatory body for the motor industry, has stated in the past that it thinks self-regulation, rather than a Government issued licence, is the best way forward.

The AutoCare and Approved Garages way

Whether you agree with licensing or not, until it is introduced by Government – if it ever is – consumers still need a way to distinguish between qualified expert technicians and enthusiastic amateurs.

At Approved Garages and AutoCare all our members are Motor Codes certified, which means they regularly self-inspect and face ad hoc inspections from independent testing company DEKRA.

And perhaps most importantly, every Approved Garages’ technician has access to state of the art training. GROUPAUTO – the networks’ parent company – is one of the largest suppliers of training to garage professionals in the UK.

Our networks also publish all customer reviews and have a 99% customer approval rating from the Motor Codes customer review system, higher than any other independent garage network and well ahead of the franchised main dealers.

In other words, we think that all our garages and technicians already operate at a level beyond that which any licence to practice would demand.

By doing so, our members give motorists an assurance that their vehicles are in the hands of properly qualified technicians.

Not every garage network offers such assurances, so what do you think? Should all mechanics require a licence to practice? Whether you’re a garage, a mechanic or a motorist, let us know on Twitter (@approvedgarages) and Facebook.

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