IT is believed the government is seriously considering extending the roadworthy testing period beyond the end of March.
It’s been a crazy period for the thousands of road users requiring roadworthy tests in Efate.
A new, far stricter regime of testing has led to many vehicles being failed for minor infringements that do not even exist in the relevant Act.
Dozens of motorists have been failed for broken for damaged number plates, insufficient water in their windscreen washer reservoirs and one man with an 1980s model Mercedes failed because the vehicle had hub caps and the ruling was that the wheels could not be covered.
One modern 4WD failed because it had red indicator lights rather than yellow.
“There is nothing in the Act about yellow indicator lights, in fact it (the Act) is so old it talks about giving hand signals,’’ said one prominent car dealership owner.
“The whole thing quickly got out of control and they seemed to be making up the rules as they went along.
“We needed stricter testing but this has developed into madness and in future we will need about three testing stations to cope with the situation.’’
Social media has been in overdrive for weeks describing a litany of ludicrous test failures that had nothing to do with safety issues and describing the whole affair as the worst roadworthy test period in history.
Meanwhile, several owners told the Independent of their frustration at taking their vehicles, booked for a roadworthy test last Wednesday, only to be told by the PWD staff that there was a private function taking place on that day and there would be no roadworthy tests for the whole day.
“I was told to come back the next day, it was such a mess because we will have to join the others who are booked for the next day,” said one vehicle owner.
“What’s the point of organising a function during the middle of the once-a-year roadworthy checks. Why not after work or at the weekend?”
Speaking to the Independent this week, John Julliano, Senior Forman for the Public works Department (SFPWD) and also Road Worthiness Supervisor (RWS) expressed his apology for the day off earlier this week.
“We managed to put out a notice at the main entrance but apologies for not letting the media know,” he said. “There was a handing over ceremony for 14 special vehicles given by Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA).
“It’s a JICA group based in Fiji so they chose the day especially for the ceremony.”
Mr Juliano said his apologies to the public were genuine and there will always be challenges but they are calling on everyone to work together with the PWD.
“Forgive us if we don’t do everything that follows your expectations,” he said.
Mr Juliano said the new tests are to ensure public safety on public roads.
“Safety and health are the priority for the road users,” he said.
Mr Julliano said there are many complaints that the time for testing was too short because many vehicles are still not complying with the regulations.
“With that I can’t give an answer because it’s up to the government to respond to that,” he said.
“I just want to say that the period provided was a very long time and I am really sad to see that happening because it’s just common sense, we are all under the law and we all have to follow it.
“There are regulations that we must follow and don’t wait for the last minute to take actions, make use of the time given.
“Actually we did not apply on all the 77 items that are in the list of the regulations-if we do a full check-up then there will be not many vehicles on the road in Vila.”
Mr Julliano said this year many people are saying that they are doing a strict job but it is not strict as it could be.
“We are not running the brake analyser now because it’s been bad for four years and also the light analyser but in the future we will have machines that will help identify that in vehicles,” he said.
A bus driver who could not be named told the Independent that there was a meeting earlier this week at Korman consisting of more than a 100 bus drivers.
“These bus drivers were the ones whose buses were not in a good condition and they knew for sure that they will not comply with the regulations set by the PWD,” he said.
“They know that every bus, whether old or new, does the same job and that is to provide the best services in Port Vila.
“So during the meeting a petition was written to ask for the government to extend the timing of the roadworthy checks so that we can fix our buses.”
Mr Julliano also apologised for the lack of awareness surrounding the requirements of roadworthy checks.
“We believe we haven’t done enough awareness to the public so it comes as a shock to them but we will do better next time,” he said.
When asked about any government vehicles being tested for roadworthy checks, Mr Juliano said since 2009 there were some vehicles from some government ministries coming in to be checked, but not all of them.
“The government has thoughts for the government vehicles and they have a committee in place for the government vehicles so I can’t go beyond that, I concentrate only in my area,” he said.
Vehicle owners said this is the finale to a number of weeks of intended improvement that have become pure farce, absolute stupidity and in the end unachievable deadlines for the annual roadworthy check period.
Without a roadworthy certificate, you cannot register your vehicle for the following year and therefore cannot be legally on the
road. In past years it has been incredibly easy to gain this roadworthy certificate and a blind eye has been turned to a myriad of vehicle faults and defects.
Under the new regime of the Minister for Public Works, Jotham Napat, it was decided to make the roadworthy test actually worthy, with the aim of seeing many sub-standard vehicles removed from our roads.
Although technically you can have your roadworthy for your vehicle done from October in the previous year, in reality, the new tests were due to begin in the first week of December. But as a government spokesman told The Independent, disaster struck then as the 2017 roadworthy certificates were stolen by a Public Works employee who was selling certificates at half price from his home – which has not been a unique occurrence over the years.
A bus and taxi group spokesman said this technically meant all their vehicles had a matter of a few weeks to be under a new roadworthy certificate – with all 9000 vehicles on Efate to be covered by a new roadworthy by the end of March this year.
A hoist had been installed at the Public Works Department and individual tests have taken much longer than in previous years.
This was initially applauded by all road users as a positive move, but that quickly deteriorated.
Frustrated owners are finding it very difficult to get roadworthy test bookings as deadlines loom for road taxes.
“Vehicle owners are advised to get in fast and get their vehicles tested now or they will pay penalty fees in the future,” said a Government source.
According to the Vanuatu Customs and Inland Revenue Department’s website, late vehicle registrations will incur an additional 25 per cent added to the current ‘Road Tax Fee’ and 25 per cent added to the ‘Road Worthy Test Fee’ plus VAT for both fees.
“The Public Works Department workshop is almost fully booked out for March and are finding it hard to keep up with public demand for tests,” said the source.