While the Sindh transport department has announced that all the vehicles in Sindh must obtain fitness certificates to continue plying the roads, the implementation of this will take some time as the motor vehicle fitness department is being privatised.
The transport department, in a notification, revised the old fee structure of the fitness certificates, adding that under Section 39 of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1965, all vehicles older than three years must have fitness certificates.
Sindh transport secretary Tuaha Ahmed Farooqui, however, said that the notification cannot be implemented immediately. "The fitness department has been taken back from the traffic police, as it was not their duty to issue the certificates," he explained. "Now, even the transport department will not issue them; we will hand it over to the private sector."
He explained that foreign companies had been asked to bid for this, with the first advertisement already published. "The company gives the highest bid will receive the tender. We will sign the agreement by October and by next year, it will be functional," he promised, adding that while the Sindh government would provide the land, the chosen private company will operate on its own. "We will use a public-private partnership."
Claiming that the government would not suddenly clamp down on vehicles, he said that vehicle owners will be given a year to obtain the certificates. Keeping the number of vehicles expected to apply for these, he added that there will be separate stations for light and heavy vehicles as well as online appointment facilities.
Meanwhile, Sindh Bus Owners Association president Mir Afzal Khan rejected the revised fee schedule as well as the idea of privatising the fitness department. "This is the job of the government; they must perform it," he maintained. "The fees were initially Rs200 and now, all of a sudden, the government has raised them to Rs1,200."
Dr Uneb Gazdar, a professor at NED University's urban and infrastructure engineering department, believed that the transport department will missing out on the revenue it could potentially generate if it ran the fitness department itself.
According to him, 3.5 million vehicles were registered in 2011 — rising from just 1.5 million in 2004. With such increases, he estimated that around Rs278 million could be earned by issuing fitness certificates, with an additional Rs92 million being generated from vehicle registration. This, he said, did not even account for the same vehicles being re-inspected for the renewal of certificates, which could double the revenue.
Stressing that the concept of fitness certificates was not very common in Pakistan, he said that older vehicles too would have to obtain them, which would also drastically increase the revenue.
Dr Gazdar further pointed out that it would be a staggering task to issue fitness certificates to such a large number of vehicles all at once. "The government will have to open a facility in every district of Sindh and it would still take a minimum of three years to issue the certificates to every vehicle."
He suggested that the government should run its own workshops in the first phase and then outsource them in the future.
'CNG fitness should be prioritised'
Talking to The Express Tribune, Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan senior research engineer Sahib Din Khowaja believed that outsourcing the fitness department will help curb CNG-related explosions in vehicles. According to him, CNG fitness in vehicles should be prioritised.
Sharing safety guidelines, he said that CNG cylinders in cars should be in the boot, while in vans, they should be behind the first seat and not under it. He stressed that cars and vans should only have a single cylinder with a capacity of not more than 65 litres.
Revised fees for fitness certificate
Trucks, trailers Rs2,000
Buses, station wagons Rs1,200
School buses Rs1,000
Delivery vans, taxis, rickshaws Rs800
Jeeps, cars over 1,000cc Rs700
Cars up to 1,000cc Rs500
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2015.