It is unthinkable that the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) is relying on manual inspection of trucks and buses to verify whether they are fit for the road! Sadly, the lone automated machine that checks a vehicle's safety features broke down due to lack of maintenance and overuse three months ago. We talk about digitisation and yet the BRTA that must check anywhere between 70 to 100 vehicles a day had worn out the lone automated system that was capable of checking up to 30 vehicles per day. Obviously, when we factor in the manual inspection of vehicles, it opens up the possibility of corrupt practices whereby vehicle owners can circumvent the system by paying speed money to obtain certificates of safety.
The safety of vehicles plying our roads simply cannot be an afterthought. Thousands of people are losing their lives on roads every year because we cannot ensure that buses and trucks are roadworthy. The first order of business of course would be to have the automated equipment repaired. Given the high demand for inspecting vehicles, funds must be made available for more such automated equipment to be installed at BRTA's facilities because there are some 650,000 vehicles that have to renew their fitness certificates every year. On the matter of digitisation, we have seen several such programmes flounder for lack of trained manpower or proper maintenance. A poor example of this is the traffic management system. After having spent crores on the project, we still have policemen engaged in manual control of traffic. The fact is that automated machinery requires trained hands to operate them. Hence there must be budgetary allocations in place to train personnel and keep experienced technicians, who will carry out these inspections, on the payroll.