24 August 2005


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Exhaust defaulters beware; everybody’s a warden

Michaela Muscat

Drivers will no longer have to grin and bear the clouds of black exhaust being emitted by the vehicles around them.
People will now be able to report any trucks, buses, ministers’ and government vehicles producing excess exhaust through a new mobile phone messaging system launched yesterday by the Malta Transport Authority.
This initiative described as “foolproof” by Transport Authority (ADT) CEO Gianfranco Selvaggi, will allow citizens to SMS the registration number of the vehicle that they suspect to emit unacceptable levels of exhaust in order to reduce harmful emissions.
There are no exceptions to the rule; all vehicles will be subjected to the test if reported.
Minister for Transport Jesmond Mugliett is not pleased about the results yielded by the vehicle roadworthiness test (VRT). He attributes the results to “possible abuse in VRT stations” when they decide “to close on eye” for certain faults found in the vehicles.
As a result all of the VRT licensed stations are going to have to be connected to the Internet to allow the ADT to check out the tests being held in real time.
The Minister stated that, “only two vehicles a month fail the VRT when in reality the number could be much greater.” Yet the General Traders and Retailers Union are arguing against the online connection for VRT stations. However Mugliett warned that unless they acquiesced to the on-line connection he would be more than willing to resort to changing the legal notice in order to control the abuse. In the last six months, two stations were closed down and three were fined Lm5,000.
“The regular road checks being carried out by the ADT and the police for both private and public transportation are not enough to curb the emissions,” said Selvaggi. According to research the particles found in the emissions possibly caused by diluted fuel, ignition problems, faulty fuel systems, overloaded vehicles and too much oil in the combustion chambers increase health risks. Besides an increase in cancer, reduction of lung function in children and the aggravation of respiratory illnesses the pollutants also cause premature death through heart and lung disease.
Once the two cent sms is sent to 5061 1899, the system will automatically register the vehicle for inspection. A citation of Lm20 will be issued to the owners of the vehicles which fail the test and the owner will be granted a week to address the problem. If the vehicles fail the subsequent tests it could very well result in license restriction and further citations.
The billboards with the ‘Emission Alert’ slogan have already been set up as part of this campaign. Furthermore they aim to increase awareness and social responsibility amongst the citizens. Every precaution is being taken to ensure the confidentiality of all parties in accordance with the Data Protection Act. The police are also involved in this project to
serve as legal invigilators whenever the emission tests are carried out and investigate any
“prank or revenge “ reports.
The SMS 4 Clear Air, was launched yesterday by Mugliett and Selvaggi. It aims to limit three types of pollutants, namely hydrocarbons, nitrogen-oxides and carbon-monxide. Vehicles can be maintained regularly by checking the exhaust pipe, choke, air ducts and the air-conditioning unit. It is also imperative to look for leaks, keep tires firm, change oil regularly and use clean filters.

michaelam@newsworksltd.com



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