Lorry transport operators must have been among the happiest people when news broke that Puspakom would lose its monopoly over vehicle inspections after September 2024.
“My dream’s come true. Never could I have imagined that the Puspakom monopoly would be broken,” said a transport operator who had to stomach the ecosystem that had grown over the years.
It is understood that the government will grant terms that are no less favourable to new investors in this business including a 15-year non-exclusive concession.
Puspakom will continue to operate but in competition with alternative inspection service providers.
Mandatory check on old jalopies
Since the government is overhauling this inspection service, it might also be considering a mandatory check for carbon emissions from private vehicles that are more than 10 years old.
Perhaps the old jalopies that pollute with more than 350gm of CO2/km should be decommissioned and their owners given incentives to change to newer cars emitting less CO2.
After all, Malaysia needs to fulfil its decarbonisation and climate change commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Accords.
Standard inspection rates
And since commercial vehicle roadworthiness inspection is government-mandated, the fees charged should be standardised across a band of uniform rates depending, perhaps, on mileage and the age of vehicle.
The government should also be investor friendly and provide an environment for the fresh policy to have enough scale to attract investors.
If for instance, Brand X decides to invest in a vehicle inspection centre, then it must be allowed to provide its services to owners of all types of commercial vehicles in the same way a Puspakom centre caters to such vehicles.
Inspect and fix
In Taiwan, it is usual practice for a vehicle inspection centre to be located next to a main workshop so that a vehicle’s safety defects can be rectified and then re-inspected without wasting travel time. This is a win-win for both the investor and the vehicle operator who wants to minimise truck downtime.
Independent workshop operators and business entities that desire to provide vehicle inspection services would be encouraged to enter this new business if there is an easily navigable and comprehensive set of guidelines published on the transport ministry’s website.
Guidelines on roadworthiness
In the UK which has one of the best road safety records in the world, commercial vehicle inspection guidelines include a 269-page guide from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) on maintaining roadworthiness for commercial goods and public service vehicles.
One of the findings of the UK road traffic agency was that one-third to half of the defects which would lead to a vehicle being prohibited from public roads, such as bald tyres, can be prevented by a driver doing an effective walk-around check.
“Undertaking an effective walkaround check and acting on what is found and recording that action is as much a part of a driver’s duty as steering the vehicle down the road,” states the lead traffic commissioners, Sarah Bell and Kevin Rooney in the DVSA guide.
In my early life, when I spent almost five years managing an environment company with a heavy fleet of more than 60 garbage trucks, it was a big challenge to get the drivers to even check the engine’s coolant tank and bleed the brake air tank, but I couldn’t blame them because it was a grim task to walk around old trucks with smelly and toxic leachate ponding on the ground at 5am.
Bring back industry awards
Although long overdue, transport minister Loke Siew Fook’s initiative in providing more vehicle safety inspection centres is most welcome. Hopefully, the potential competition will galvanise Puspakom’s service centres to refocus on customers’ satisfaction.
Also, the land public transport agency (Apad) should resume the industry awards organised by its predecessor SPAD (the land public transport commission).
Transport operators who excelled in safety practices were recognised for their achievements in their respective categories, such as express buses, container hauliers and tour buses.
Operators who earned their safety stars would generally be treated favourably when applying for new routes or new permits.
Finally, to streamline road safety regarding commercial vehicles, do we really need two enforcement agencies – the Road Transport Department and police?
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.