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MEPs quizzed vehicle experts on Tuesday about what benefits could reasonably be expected from new EU-wide minimum standards for technical checks on cars, powered two-wheelers and commercial vehicles including vans and trailers. Speakers agreed that tampering and mileage fraud as well as accidents caused by technical failures would decrease - but by less than the European Commission hoped.

"There is no sound evidence that increasing the frequency of checks (to 4 years, 2 years and then every year) will help", said Mrs Laurianne Krid of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), arguing that most cars already have built-in electronic equipment to signal defects and that this prevents accidents.

Ms Krid questioned the Commission's view that 6 % of accidents could be avoided by stricter safety checks. FIA figures suggest that  only 1% of accidents are primarily caused by technical problems, she said.

Manufacturers' associations backed the aim of harmonising checks, contending that the new rules would encourage better maintenance of vehicles and discourage tampering, thanks to a national electronic registration database.

Speaking for commercial road hauliers, Mr Marc Billiet criticized the lack of harmonised test results, which is due to the variety of equipment and inspector training methods. "We need a single approach to enforcement and mutual recognition of certificates", he added.

Several MEPs raised concerns about increasing costs for vehicle owners, but also for authorities which would be obliged to invest in control equipment and better training for inspectors.

Next steps

Parliament's rapporteurs on the threefold "roadworthiness package", Mr Kuhn (EPP, DE), Mrs Sehnalova (S&D, CZ) and Mrs Savisaar (ALDE, ET) will prepare draft reports for a vote in the Transport and Tourism Committee scheduled for the end of May.