Using MOT test data to analyse travel behaviour change: part 1- scoping study

Lead Research Organisation: Transport Research Laboratory Ltd
Department Name: C4S


In 2005, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) introduced a computerised system for reporting MOT (roadworthiness) test results. Since that time, the results of approximately 35,000,000 MOT tests annually have been collected and stored in a Department for Transport (DfT) database. The DfT business plan , published 8 November 2010, promised to make available the "detailed VOSA MOT data" - and on 24 November, comprehensive data was released - consisting of the results of 150,000,000 MOT tests from 2005 to the spring of 2010. Some fields, such as vehicle registration plates and unique VTS (vehicle test station) identities have been withheld from the published data in order to preserve anonymity. However, what remains still contains a wealth of information that is not available in any other data set.

In addition to the results of the MOT test itself (including detailed reasons for failure), the data include:
- the vehicle odometer (mileage) reading
- the vehicle manufacturer, type and engine capacity
- the vehicle's year of first use
- the top-level postal area (letters only from the postcode) of the VTS

Our initial objective is to use the vehicle odometer readings - which are not available in any other (large scale) data set - combined with the data about vehicle type, to analyse how patterns of vehicle usage (and associated carbon footprint) have changed with time, disaggregated over different regions of the country. The project will therefore aim:
- to develop software tools for the analysis of the MOT data;
- to work with the DfT and VOSA on maximizing the use that can be made of the MOT data set whilst respecting issues such as data protection;
- to scope the application of MOT odometer readings and the possibilities for triangulating with other data sets (such as vehicle emissions, new vehicle registrations and Census data);
- to develop one (or two) small-scale demonstrations illustrating potential applications of our approach.

The ultimate aim, going beyond the scoping study, is to create a publicly available tool that all those undertaking travel behavior change initiatives could use to assess the impacts of their work on car ownership, use and related carbon emissions, thereby dramatically reducing the need for every individual project to commission surveys or other forms of travel behavior measurement. Further research could also include specific analyses of: changes in car ownership and use that have occurred in the Sustainable Travel and Cycling Demonstration Towns; the nature of the distribution and diffusion of electric, hybrid and other alternative-technology vehicles; the location and concentration of 'dirty' vehicle use with implications for the targeting of climate change and air quality initiatives; and the relationship between car use and physical activity.

Planned Impact

The key immediate impacts from the project will be:
- To develop collaborative relationships with DfT and VOSA, in order to understand the potential value of the data set, and the wide range of uses that it could be put to and to feed into their existing work on potential users and applications of the dataset.
- To develop a more detailed research specification for a follow-on project for making use of the data (in a number of potential forms).
- To input into existing discussions around the evaluation of travel behaviour.

There are key communities who could benefit greatly from products and tools ultimately derived from the MOT data set, particularly in the fields of transport, climate change, energy and air pollution. The project team have considerable experience in these fields, and can identify a wide range of purposes for which the dataset could be used. This initial project will help to clarify the nature and quality of the data set, and the different forms in which it could be possible to use it for research purposes or as an input into a wider set of publicly available tools. Having explored its potential, the project team will be able to use existing networks to identify particular uses and needs for the data and develop a future research specification for a more advanced project. At best, this would include finding ways to link the MOT data with the huge amount of other socio-economic data available on a spatial basis, as well as spatial data on particular issues such as physical activity, air pollution (emissions and concentrations) and domestic energy use. Principle beneficiaries are likely to be policy makers in local and national Government and other researchers, though there could also be particular insights that are of relevance to business, and to third sector organisations (such as charities that work in the relevant policy areas).


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Description This project comprised a 3 month scoping study, completed between April and June 2011, to explore the potential to make use of data collected during the British MOT test. The MOT data were first made publicly available in November 2010, with the release of over 150 million test results. The data set is unique in providing national information about vehicle types and usage which is not available from any other source.

During the scoping study, a number of different possibilities were developed for future work. These were subsequently consolidated into a successful research proposal (EPSRC EP/K000438/1). This new project - 'MOT: Motoring and vehicle ownership trends in the UK' - October 2012-December 2016 - is led by Dr Jillian Anable, now at the University of Leeds, and has involved the University of Bristol, University of the West of England, TRL, UCL and the University of Aberdeen, in partnership with DfT and DECC. More details of this project are given here:
Exploitation Route The scoping study involved joint work with DfT, VOSA (now DVSA) and DVLA, and discussions are continuing as part of the follow-on study.

Part of the work involved the development of various techniques for data manipulation, which may be of interest to various stakeholders.
Sectors Environment,Transport

Description Through work on the follow on grant, activities are taking place with DfT (about making publicly available statistics of mileage estimates available) and with DECC (in relation to vehicle fleet turnover).
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Environment,Transport
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Further MOT funding
Amount £806,910 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/K000438/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2012 
End 12/2016
Description Partnership working with Government agencies 
Organisation Department of Transport
Department DfT, DVLA and VOSA
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Discussions with VOSA, DVLA and the Department for Transport. Various positive discussions took place, to understand the data currently available, and what could be made available in the future, including the strengths and weaknesses of the information.
Start Year 2011