Hoping for a tougher vehicle, driver’s license test

February 15, 2020

I’M hoping and praying that the Department of Transportation and Land Transportation Office’s plan to get tougher on acquiring a driver’s license and registering a motor vehicle in the country would finally push thru without any hitches this year and would be fully supported by all government agencies concerned and the public in order to address expected corruption.

I’m referring to the  major need to see to it that all Filipino drivers will undergo and pass a real honest-to-goodness driving lesson and 2nd, which for me is very basic: the need to subject all motor vehicles and motorcycles to a genuine inspection to prevent the presence of road-unworthy vehicles which daily pose a threat to lives and limbs of innocent persons.

These programs are long overdue and I would say that The Philippines is 40-50 years behind when it comes to really producing quality drivers and roadworthy vehicles or those which have working brakes or lights or real smoke belchers etc. It’s good to hear that halfway thru the term of President Duterte, DoTR-LTO officials are doing something to address the problem. Many would for sure protest the new program since it would entail additional expenses on their part but what the heck.

However, there should be a ‘whole-of-government’ approach and full public support to the program to address future corruption, specifically the thing called ‘Non-Appearance’ in which a motor vehicle can be registered without undergoing actual physical inspection. This has been happening due to the presence of some rogue, or say ‘enterprising’ DoTR-LTO and even police authorities who will blink their eye in exchange for hundreds or thousands of pesos.

Add to the problem the presence of ‘enterprising’ vehicle inspectors and smoke emission testing companies who will issue clearances to vehicles even without actually physically inspecting them and using photoshopped vehicle pictures on their clearances. Add to the brew the presence of vehicle owners who will offer bribe money so that they can’t be inconvenienced during registration and presto, we have smoke-belching  and road unworthy vehicles out there on the road.

Right now, the big  race is on for the registration and issuance of licenses to motor vehicle inspection system or MVIS companies across the country. We’re talking of big business here since there are around 12 million motor vehicles registered nationwide, over 2 million of them in Metro Manila alone. It’s really big business since the companies set to be accredited would literally become a ‘one-stop shop’ for vehicle registration.

What’s good in this is that President Duterte has made it known to all that he completely abhors corruption and is expected to say it again when the ambitious DoTR-LTO program finally pushes thru this year.  It was the President who demanded solutions from the DoTR-LTO and the Philippine National Police specifically the Highway Patrol Group to address the never-ending cases of tragic road accidents attributed to overloaded trucks and passenger buses and jeepneys.

Add to it the presence of drunken or drugged drivers who drive like they are kings of the road while behind road unworthy public utility vehicles whose operators are rallying in the streets to protest government phase-out plans.

As many have explained to me, the DoTR-LTO plan is to require starting April this year  all aspiring drivers to undergo 15-shours of training in an accredited driving school before getting their temporary license. Amid reports from the MMDA which showed that about 12,000 drivers in Metro Manila have incurred a minimum of three traffic violations: the worst of which involved a bus driver who has incurred more than 500 violations.

This long-delayed plan will help produce quality drivers in the country and really inculcate in the mind of all Filipinos that getting a driver’s license is a privilege and not a right.

There should also be a law which should require all public utility drivers to undergo a refresher course before they are allowed to renew their professional driver’s license amid the fact that many of these drivers only learned how to drive with the help of their fathers, brothers and friends who also don’t know traffic rules and regulations and can’t understand the different traffic signs.

Lastly, there is really a need to inspect all vehicles for registration just like what is being done in modern countries like the United States, Australia, Japan and Singapore and make the necessary correction if a defect is noticed. No correction, no registration.

I found out that in some parts of Australia, once a vehicle is registered, it generally will not need to be inspected again if it remains with the same owner. However, the Australian Capital Territory has a random inspection scheme in which  vehicles can be spot checked whether occupied or not. If faults are discovered, a defect notice can be issued in which case the owner will be required to have repairs made, and obtain a full inspection from a licensed examiner with 14 days to clear the notice. If egregious safety violations are found, the vehicle’s registration can be suspended on the spot and the operator will need to have the vehicle towed.

Many modern countries also require vehicles over 5-years to obtain an ‘e-Safety Check prior to annual registration or before selling it to another person. The ‘test’ actually checks the following: vehicle and owner identification including vehicle registration plate; emissions; steering; underside; lights; brakes and wheel alignment.  Here in the country, there is a major need to check the quality of the tires of a vehicle being registered to see if they are road worthy or not. A corruption-free checking of tires would greatly eliminate road accidents I’m sure.

In highly-modernized countries, cars older than 15 years are considered “antique”, and must be inspected every 6  months, and have additional inspection of the brakes done. This should be done in the country to ensure that all vehicles conform to regulations governing safety, emissions or both. The country’s Clean Air Act must also be considered here.

I learned that in Japan, personal cars and motorcycles are inspected every 2 years prior to registration. In Singapore, cars are required to obtain a safety and emissions inspection every other year starting in the 3rd model year, and annually after 10 model years. Motorcycles must be inspected annually starting in the 3rd model year. Buses, taxicabs, commercial vehicles, and trailers must be inspected every year or six months depending on the vehicle’s age.

In Taiwan, cars older than 5 years are required to have yearly safety and emission inspection. Cars older than 10 years are required to have the inspection every 6 months. Motorcycles and scooters older than 5 years are required to have yearly emission inspection. Failure to comply may result in fine, license suspension and revocation. These should be taken into consideration by our authorities.