27 MARCH 2002
GRTU director general, Vince Farrugia, representing the garage owners, said the association has long been asking for meetings with the Transport Ministry to discuss the difficulties VRT operators are facing, but no answers have been forthcoming.
"We have now reached a point at which garage owners are considering withdrawing the service they provide as a form of protest," he said.
Mr Farrugia explained that the garage owners have long highlighted the fact that the VRT stations are having to function in a no-win situation.
"Many garages made a substantial investment in equipment to be able to offer the VRT test, but they were led to believe by the government that only about 20 licences would be given out to operators," he said. "However, there are now over 40 garages operating, with a limited amount of vehicles coming up for testing, which makes it impossible for them all to be viable businesses simultaneously."
According to Mr Farrugia, the bottom line is that some of the operators are failing to adhere to the regulations, due to the cut-throat competition within the sector.
"Therefore, the client is suffering," he said. "Although there is obviously a need for better enforcement to be introduced in this respect, the government cannot ignore the underlying problem that these garage owners are trying to operate in an impossible situation."
The GRTU director general added that although an advisory board was set up to look at the situation, more concrete action now needs to be taken.
"The GRTU produced a document making proposals aimed at lowering expenses for the station owners, in particular the Lm500 licence fee they have to pay annually," he said. "We have also suggested that no more licences should be given out over the next five years, subject to review at the end of this period."
Mr Farrugia said that unfortunately, there has been no response from the Transport Ministry, despite several attempts from the GRTU to get things moving.
"This has prompted the station owners to consider more drastic action," he said.