27 April 2015
What Building Control could learn from the NCT | Orla Hegarty MRIAI
Ireland had a problem with safety standards in cars. There were too many older cars, they weren’t being maintained properly. Rural roads and bad weather compounded the problems and “something had to be done“.
In 2000 the National Car Test (NCT) was established and now all cars more than 4 years old are tested every year. I recently visited a test centre: in less than 25 minutes and for the cost of €55. I was back on the road. The testing centre ran like clockwork because the mechanics are trained, the equipment is calibrated and the testing standardised. It works and it’s very efficient. They can fully test a car for €55 without making a loss. All centres work to the same system and the roads are safer as a result.
If the NCT was run on the BCAR (Building Control Amendment Regulations) model, testing would be carried out in every filling station in the country- all of them would have to train staff and buy in equipment. They would have to continually upgrade machinery and keep it operational, devise their own computer record system, bring in an emissions expert, keep oil samples, file forms and issue reports. It wouldn’t cost €55.
Problems might arise when different garages worked to different standards- word would get around about who would turn a blind eye to bald tyres, who didn’t even check the brakes. Inevitably the cheapest garages would attract a lot of business. Despite good intentions there would still be many dangerous vehicles on the roads.
The powers that be might also find it very difficult to keep track of thousands of operators. It might prove impossible to police the system effectively or to tackle the cowboy operators. Perhaps the diligent operators would be priced out of the market in a race to the bottom.
Some garages might find it impossible to keep up: a staff member who is selling cars, ordering parts and meeting customers might find it very hard to stay on top of a raft of ever changing technical requirements, and also manage the administration, testing and reporting.
Having invested heavily in the new system some operators might then have to stop offering the service altogether, their customers might find they can get a cheaper inspection from a specialist garage who has dedicated staff and equipment.
Customers might see the benefits of dedicated centers of excellence where specially trained staff could do the job better and faster. These specialist operators wouldn’t be distracted by other tasks, they could work more efficiently and develop greater expertise.
Every local garage would have to raise their game to meet the standards of the specialist inspectors, improving safety right across the country. The Local Authorities could readily police the system by spot check audits on the inspectors. In time, as their systems improved and the volume of business grew, inspection specialists might be able to offer a good service for as little as €55. Just like the NCT.
Perhaps BCAR has something to learn from this? Dedicated specialist staff and standardised systems, monitored by the local authorities are more cost-effective, easier to quality control and ultimately, everyone is safer.
The above opinion piece was received from Orla Hegarty B.Arch. MRIAI RIBA who is Course Director for the Professional Diploma (Architecture) at the School of Architecture, UCD.
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