28 Feb. - 6 March 2001

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VRT testers face disaster
Abuse is 'no surprise'

By Miriam Dunn

Garage owners who are suffering huge financial losses because there is not enough Vehicle Road Worthiness work to go round warned the authorities long ago that the crisis would lead to abuse from some proprietors.

The Business Times recently revealed that the government plans to set up an advisory board to monitor VRT operators, in the wake of reports that a number of proprietors had been found in breach of regulations.

The most common abuse is the issuing of certificates without the car going in for testing.

One VRT operator who spoke to The Business Times yesterday said it was obvious from the "haphazard and ‘ad hoc' manner" in which the system was set up that there would be problems.

"The whole thing has been a financial disaster," he said. "We have forked out something in the region of Lm60,000 each on equipment and there simply aren't enough cars coming up for testing to ensure there is anywhere near sufficient work. It is impossible and our turnover is terrible. It was inevitable that some testers would breach the regulations."
In line with this, the proprietor said, it would have been much better for ‘bona fide' operators if a monitoring board had been set up earlier, which is what the sector had been led to expect.

"The board was supposed to be set up 18 months ago," he said. "Then some of these problems could have been nipped in the bud. After all, the authorities know where a lot of the abuse is taking place."
The VRT proprietor who spoke to The Business Times said there are a number of steps that the authorities could take to begin curbing the abuse.

"One idea would be for the authorities to make sure the computers are on line so they know exactly when tests are being done," he said. "They should also make a timeframe for inspectors to work hours when the tests are conducted, since they do not check up on VRT operators after office hours."
He also voiced his hope that there would be consultation in changes to the law, "this, especially bearing in mind that the first laws were passed arbitrarily," he added. "For example, we would like to see them listen to our complaint about the vast amounts of paperwork that bog us down."
Operators of the VRT stations have been caught up in a series of controversies since the project was first launched.

When the test was introduced, the operators protested their equipment was standing idle because of delays in getting the scheme off the ground.

At present, there are 34 authorised testing stations, while a total of 117,347 tests have been carried out since the introduction of the VRT in October 1999.

The problem of too many VRT garages for not enough tests might be an issue of concern, highlighted especially by the Association of General Retailers and Traders, which represents the operators, but the Transport Ministry's spokesman said there were no plans to change the system at present.

"It has always been the policy of this and previous administrations, that whoever satisfies the requirements contained in the testing regulations will be granted a licence to operate a testing station," the spokesman said. "It is not considered opportune to revise such a policy yet."

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt