For the last one week, commercial vehicle owners in Tamil Nadu are finding it difficult to register their vehicles with the Regional Transport Offices (RTO) because they have been asked to instal Vehicle Location Tracking Device (VLTD), which had to be purchased only from eight manufacturers.
Owing to protest, the RTO issued a revised order on December 8 stating that the devices could be purchased from any manufacturer.
Commercial vehicle owners’ associations sensed some wrongdoing because the state transport department had authorised only eight manufacturers in the state to supply VLTD. After they raised an objection, the state transport department issued an order saying vehicle owners can purchase the VLTD from any valid supplier.
The owners, however, questioned the need for installing a navigation system when some of them already have company-fitted global positioning system (GPS).
Earlier, the Union Ministry of Road Transport had made it mandatory for vehicle owners to replace GPS with VLTD, stating that the existing GPS devices, mainly manufactured in China, are substandard. If the vehicle owners do not install VLTD, they will be denied a vehicle fitness certificate (FC), the ministry has said.
“Since 2015, vehicle manufacturers themselves instal GPS and speed governor in every commercial vehicle. Most oil companies and corporates instal their own GPS for monitoring the movement of vehicles. So, why should we instal a VLTD now?” asked Gopal, association manager, State Lorry Owners Association, Namakkal.
S Yuvaraj, president, Tamil Nadu State Sand Lorry Owners Federation, said the state transport department has reversed the rule for lorry owners, because women and children do not travel in lorries. “However, they have asked us to instal speed governors and reflecting stickers,” Yuvaraj added.
“One question that begs an answer is why instal VLTDs when there is no system in place to monitor the movement of vehicles,” said Dr S Kamal Soi, a road safety expert and member, National Road Safety Council.
“There should be a monitoring system in place along with the navigation system. The Union government had introduced these regulations in 2016, but the state sat over the proposal and it has still not set up a command and control centre (CCC) to monitor the movement of vehicles. With no monitoring facility in place, VLTDs do not get linked with a server. Then, how is the state going to track and locate the vehicles? How then is it going to ensure the safety of women, children and elders?” Soi asked.
Transport commissioner Tenkasi S Jawahar stated in a letter dated December 8 that the installation of VLTDs and panic buttons will be implemented only after the establishment of a command and control centre (CCC) by the transport department.
The Union transport ministry had made it mandatory to install VLTDs, panic buttons and speed governors in commercial vehicles after the infamous Nirbhaya incident in New Delhi in 2012.
Tamil Nadu has nearly 12 lakh commercial vehicles and it has topped the country for many years in road accidents. “Road accidents cause 5 per cent loss to GDP every year. Installation of speed governors is more important than fixing GPS or VLTD, ” said J Krishnamoorthy, former joint director, The Institute of Road Transport, and founder, R-Safe, an organisation for road safety.