The six-month MOT extension introduced at the start of lockdown should be ended as soon as possible, according to the UK’s leading automotive trade body.

The automatic exemption from testing was introduced at the end of March to ease pressure on garages and motorists to continue to use their vehicles for essential travel even if their test had expired.

However, as lockdown restrictions are eased in parts of the UK, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called for the six-month MOT extension to be withdrawn “as soon as possible”.

The extension was introduced on March 30 and the legislation allowing it is set to remain in place until the end of March, 2021. But Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT says that with many vehicles returning to the road after weeks of inactivity it is vital that owners ensure they are still safe to drive.

Mr Hawes said: “With government advice stating that workers should avoid public transport when returning to work, the use of private cars is likely to rise more sharply than it already has over recent weeks. Given many of these vehicles have been idle for weeks, a reconsideration of the six-month MOT extension needs to be made as soon as possible.

“It is timely that the aftermarket can assure customers and colleagues that it is ready to re-open safely to ensure workers’ vehicles remain roadworthy. This is essential, not just for the sector, but for the restart of the wider UK economy.”

The SMMT’s position was echoed by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), which also warned that delaying so many tests could create a bottleneck later in the year which could overwhelm test centres.

Steve Nash, CEO of the IMI, said: “Whilst the motives for the initiative were sound at that time, there are serious risks in the extension remaining in place now.

“First and foremost, if vehicles are coming back onto the roads in volume, it is vital for all road users’ safety that they are roadworthy.

“The other issue is that if all motorists wait up to six months from when their MOT expired to get their vehicle tested, there is going to be a big backlog of tests in the autumn and winter, which could significantly overwhelm the sector”.

Mr Hawes added that while some garages had remained open throughout lockdown, the sector was ready to step up MOT testing and other aftersales services, with a new set of guidelines to help protect staff and customers from the risk of coronavirus transmission.