Govt plan to roll out new law on old public vehicles hits roadblock

Kathmandu, March 26

Lack of preparations on the part of the executing agency and strong union of transporters are proving major roadblocks for the government plan to scrap extremely old public vehicles from next year.

On March 2, 2015, the government, through a gazette notice, had announced that public vehicles — both passenger and cargo — that are 20 years or older would be banned within two years. However, there has been no progress on this front although old and ill-maintained vehicles have been identified as the major cause for accidents and also as the biggest polluters.

In a clear display of the challenge in implementing the regulation, the Department of Transport Management — the law executing agency — has not even maintained data on how many public vehicles need to be scrapped.

“After introducing the law, we instructed our zonal offices to maintain records while registering new public vehicles and they have been doing accordingly,” said Govinda Prasad Kharel, director at DoTM.

The law has clearly stated that the Zonal Transport Management Offices will publish a notice with a three-month deadline to old public vehicle owners to transfer the ownership and register a new one. But Zonal Transport Offices have not maintained records of old public vehicles that have been scrapped till date and how many are in the process of being scrapped.

Tilak Paudel, head of the Small and Big Vehicles Division at Bagmati Transport Management Office, said the office has been maintaining records while registering new public vehicles, the details of which are clearly stated in the bill books as well. He further said his division has been gearing up to develop an effective data system of public vehicles, with all relevant information, including the number of such vehicles and since when they have been plying the roads.

An official at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, on condition of anonymity, revealed that strong lobbying by transporters had also hindered progress in implementing the law.

Meanwhile, Saroj Sitaula, general secretary of Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs, said they are not against the decision of sending old public vehicles to the scrap yard. “However, the government should come up with some kind of compensation for transporters using old vehicles. Simply stating that a vehicle should be taken off the road just because it has been in operation for 20 years does not make sense.”

There are 9,523 buses, 8,292 mini-buses, 18,134 trucks and mini-trucks and 2,018 micro-buses registered with Bagmati Transport Management Office. However, the office does not know how many of them have exceeded the 20-year-old mark and need to be scrapped by next year.

Considering the significant adverse impacts of old vehicles on the environment, public health and safety, it is quite appalling that the government is not keen to operate the Vehicle Fitness Centre (VFC). The centre was established around five years ago to monitor the fitness of vehicles, particularly public vehicles, considering the safety of passengers and to keep emission levels in check as well.

As per the provision of Vehicle and Transport Management Act, 1993, and Vehicles and Transport Management Rules, 1997, it is mandatory for public vehicle owners to examine the condition of their vehicles at authorised vehicle fitness centres.

The law has given Traffic Police and DoTM the authority to cross-check the road-worthiness of vehicles. The inspection team of DoTM can fine public vehicles plying in poor condition Rs 5,000 at one time, while the Traffic Police can penalise a vehicle owner up to Rs 1,000 at once.

While taking these concerns to the MoPIT, Devendra Karki, spokesperson at MoPIT said the ministry has delegated full authority to the DoTM to execute the law and that the ministry cannot be fully aware of the day-to-day affairs of the department.