The Government, represented by Jean Juliano, the Mechanical Road-worthiness Supervisor and Senior Foreman of the Public Works Department (PWD), has responded to concerns and complaints from a large section of vehicle owners in Port Vila.

These concerns were expressed in Tuesday’s issue of the Daily Post about new stringent processes and procedures for road-worthiness checks being carried out by the PWD engineers ahead of the March 31 deadline for payment of the 2017 annual road tax by all vehicle owners.

Mr. Juliano denied rumours and reports circulating about new procedures and processes for checking vehicles as new and stringent. He explained that what they were now doing was implementing the requirements of the traffic law Cap 39 passed in 1998 that he said had been in place but some of these requirements had not been enforced.

“Now we’re coming to the time that we have to implement these requirements expressed under the law and very soon we will very likely have machines or robots which will be performing these tasks and it is good for us to start preparing us for that time when it comes as required under law,” the head mechanic explained.

“What we are doing is to meet some of the criteria expressed under the law.”

Juliano explained that what they’ve started this year is put in place four procedural stages for vehicles to go through when they go in for checks.

This is to help facilitate the smooth and speedy mechanical checks of vehicles and reduce the long queues of vehicles, many waiting for up to an hour or more on some days before being checked by PWD engineers.

“The first, at the entrance gate as you come is the pre-check stage, which is based on bookings, and it is a change from before when vehicles just come in and go straight on the queue for checks.

“At this stage also drivers will be given some handouts showing what sorts of documents are needed to be presented for checks.

“The documents required are: the driver’s license, a valid insurance, a valid driver’s license, and the fee for the road inspection check and for public vehicles, a fire extinguisher,” he explained.

“When a driver arrives at the gate the engineers will check if he/she has all these documents if not they will have to go back.

“Those that have all the documents will be allowed in and accommodated inside the PWD inspection according to their category of priority, with those who booked the first to be checked.

“Once inside the yard, two engineers will check and vehicles and those under two years will go directly to the final check, where engineers check the interior for cleanliness, lights, seats and upholstery, seatbelts as required under the regulation.

“And everything manufactured will be checked for functionality.

“There is compromise given that can be reached with drivers/owners for other items, not manufactured found in the vehicle.

“Then they check the headlights – how far in front the beam goes. Any color lights not specified under the law will be removed. Not all 77 items listed under the regulation are checked for compliance by vehicles, but only a few items.

“In future more requirements will be checked for to meet these criteria.

“Vehicles over three years with questions about their conditions by the two specialized officers will have to go on the rump – one for heavyweight and the other for lightweight vehicles, where they will check the vehicle’s steering system, check for leakages, exhaust, the suspension, and screws – anything that could constitute a danger as specified in Act 39.

“It’s under this law that we are performing these stringent checks.

“If the two inspectors find defects in the vehicle they will record them.

“From there the vehicles go to the final check section, where engineers/inspectors will provide the final checks and then certification is granted.”

On the question of small dents how they impact on roadworthiness, Mr. Juliano said the whole idea behind roadworthiness inspection is the safety criteria – “safety of the owners of vehicles, safety of passengers and sometimes safety of road users”.

“Under the powers conferred on me, anything that will constitute a danger in future, we must first identify and we have to give the owner/driver an alert to say that such a state of a vehicle will in future pose a danger to road users and life as a whole. And if we do not give the alert and one day something happens to the vehicle a question will be asked if the vehicle was put through inspection or not, so we have to meet these criteria to answer such a question. This is for the goodness of everyone’s safety,” Mr. Juliano continued.

“Vehicles are compromised in screws on the bumper when there is a hit on the car bumper, which will not fall off immediately but in future it will and if it falls off on the road it will disrupt traffic.

“So, a dent or a bump on a vehicle will constitute a danger in future.

“This we must first identify and tell the driver/owner his vehicle is in such a condition before it happens later on.

“Rust on a vehicle is very critical because it shows that the vehicle panel is tired and old and if the rust is on the mounting for the windscreen, the windscreen could fall off in future and cause a danger to the public and road users,” he explained about the need to inspect for dents and rusts on vehicles.

“For number plates – the law does not specify the type of writing for numbers on the number plates, but it talks about 20 yards.

“At 20 yards the numbers on the number plate should be clearly visible,” Juliano said.

“Some people have flowers on their number plates and some have names in bold letters and numbers in small fonts. But the law states that at 80 to 100 meters numbers of the plates should be clearly visible at night as at day time.

“Number plates are important for when there is a need for law enforcement people to know the identity of a vehicle in the event of an issue or a criminal act on the road.”

He explained that the law required inspectors to remove caps to check nuts that hold the tyres in place and to put the caps back after they finish. The law does not say that vehicles must have wheel caps.

“The regulation does not specify tyre conditions, but for safety purposes worn tyres cannot be accepted in that they could constitute a danger on the road to passengers and other road users, in future,” the PWD Road-worthiness Supervisor concluded.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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