A large number of accidents involving heavy vehicles take place because they aren’t maintained well enough, but RTOs continue to be lackadaisical in carrying out inspections and driving tests before issuing fitness certificates to them.
Sources said even though the transport commissioner’s office has directed all Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) to inspect heavy vehicles for at least 20-25 minutes before renewing their fitness certificates, this is rarely taken seriously.
Last year the Bombay high court had come down heavily on the motor transport department and ordered that no fitness certificate be issued to vehicles unless proper checks and verifications were carried out as per norms. The transport commissioner’s office issued two circulars on August 28 and September 12, 2012, asking all RTOs to follow the order. It also prescribed a specific duration for which each type of vehicle was to be inspected (see box) and asked senior officials to oversee the procedure.
Claiming this was not followed, Shrikant Karve, an activist who filed a PIL in the high court in this regard, said, “RTO inspectors continue to issue fitness certificates to all vehicles without even looking at them.”
Karve said 70% heavy vehicles plying on roads are faulty, but also said that if RTO officials perform their duties correctly, accidents would come down by 40%.
The motor vehicle department blamed the poor inspections on an acute shortage of manpower. All three RTOs in Mumbai have less than 100 officials. This paltry number is expected, in addition to their other duties, to issue fitness certificates to 1.5 lakh transport vehicles. And this doesn’t include public transport vehicles such as autos and taxis.
A senior RTO official, requesting anonymity, said that inspectors carry out inspections and driving tests merely by looking, in the absence of any technical equipment. “Our officials are working overtime to inspect vehicles to issue fitness certificates,” the official said.
Transport secretary SK Sharma said the state government is planning to conduct automated tests of vehicles before issuing the certificates. “We are building a state-of-the-art centre at Nashik and five more will come up at five other revenue zones.”