Wednesday, April 9, 2014

T.Boldbaatar: Driving courses in Mongolia are inadequate

In 2013, there were 18,367 reported car accidents. According to relevant statistics, 97.2 percent of car accidents were caused by driver errors. The following is an interview with the Director of the National Center of Auto Transportation, T.Boldbaatar about the condition of cars in Ulaanbaatar and causes of traffic accidents.

Is it true that the National Center of Auto Transportation keeps information about some 500 thousand vehicles in your network?

Doing technical inspection for vehicles is part of our organization’s work. Since the mid-1950s, Mongolia began registering vehicles in a short period of time through a campaign. During this, official taxes for vehicles were collected. At the time, some 5,000 vehicles were registered. In 2000, the number of vehicles increased to over 80 thousand and each year, it increased by around 10 percent resulting in negative effects to health and the environment.

The Mongolian government received concessional loans from the World Bank and Nordic Development Fund and implemented a technical inspection project which were developed in accordance with international standards from 2001 to 2005. The inspection was for vehicles being imported for commercial purposes. Through this project, 24 centers for technical inspections were established in Ulaanbaatar and all provinces. These centers are connected to the information network and presently, a database with the information of over 500 thousand vehicles is active. Owners of vehicles are able to get information connected to technical inspection for their own vehicle from the technical inspection page of our website transdep.mn by searching through their VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or serial number.

How many vehicles were inspected last year? Through technical inspections, which aspects of the vehicle are inspected?

Last year, at state levels, some 428 thousand vehicles were inspected. This year, around 500 thousand vehicles are expected to be inspected. Through technical inspections, a total of around 50 inspections, including inspection for general condition, car parts, engine, transition, brakes, steering mechanism, lights, chassis, ecology and ergonomics are evaluated to see if they meet standards.

Vehicular emissions, its toxic substance content, amount, activation of front, rear and parking breaks, north axis calibration, front lights, and mirror calibrations are done and sent straight to the main server without any human intervention. Other inspections are evaluated with the help of portable instruments and knowledge of inspection engineers. Our engineers have many years of experience.

People purchasing cars should get technical inspections before purchasing to ensure everything, including integrity, serial number, manufactured date and commissioned time period. These should match the documents. In some cases, serial number, date of manufacture and import dates are different. Due to these circumstances, many have suffered.

How frequently should drivers get their vehicles inspected? Can you get an inspection for technical integrity whenever you want? How much does it cost?

The frequency of technical inspection was approved by the government. Public transportation vehicles are to be inspected twice a year and others are to be inspected once a year. Depending on the month they had an inspection, they have to give another inspection around the same time period in the following year. If they are unable to get an inspection within the time period, according to the law, vehicle owners will be fined with 5,000 to 30,000 MNT, officials with 30,000 to 60,000 MNT, business entities and organizations with 100,000 to 250,000 MNT.

Our organization informs drivers who exceeded inspection time through their cell phones. In the future, penalty notices will be sent to residential addresses. Even if they’ve had technical inspection before but want partial inspection, our centers are always ready to receive. Depending on what parts to inspect, the cost varies from 2,000 to 5,000 MNT.

In Mongolia, how many accidents are caused due to faults in vehicles? Were there any cases which led to deaths or injury from these accidents?

According to a research by the police, the number of traffic accidents has increased every year. In 2013, 423 people died due to traffic accidents in Mongolia. This is a huge number and an issue that needs special attention. Furthermore, the police reported that out of some 18 thousand registered traffic accidents nationwide, 97.2 percent was caused by the driver’s error, 2.6 percent due to pedestrian’s error, and 0.2 percent was caused by poor road conditions. From this information, it’s good that there weren’t any traffic accidents due to technical reasons. This is an indication that Mongolian drivers and owners of vehicles are getting inspection in the prescribed time period and always paying attention to the functionality of their vehicle.

Last year, a total of 20 thousand evaluations showed violations for the braking system, steering mechanism, lights, chassis, ecology and ergonomics from vehicles inspected. We are taking action to eliminate these errors straight away.

Most traffic accidents are caused by drivers. Is it linked to poor driving courses and insufficient training? Your organization is responsible for taking driver’s tests and handing license, right?

From studies, most traffic accidents were caused by drivers’ errors. The curricula for driving courses in our country is inadequate. Organizations giving driving courses are mainly focused on getting income rather than giving quality driving lessons. If one gets driving lessons after paying tuition, no matter if they’ve learned or not, they are to give the tests. People give driving tests with the aim to pass with whatever method they can use to get driving license. Even organizations giving driving lessons intend to pass them regardless of whether they learned to drive or not. This system has been around for many years. We must change this system.

Changes were made in the Vehicle Law in May 2008 and specialized classes were specified for transporting goods and driving public transportation vehicles. In this law, it’s stated that drivers who received the right to drive before this law was adopted can get specialized driving licenses by giving driving tests in accordance with regulations approved by the central state administration concerning vehicles. After these changes were made in the law, tests for specialized driving licenses have been taken and our organization became responsible for this work since 2013.

Presently, there are ten organizations offering courses for specialized driving. Out of these ten, four are in provinces. Our organization is taking tests from people who received lessons for specialized driving as well as drivers who got their license before August 2008.

From the drivers taking the test, what percentage is able to pass on their first try?

Out of the drivers taking the test, a percentage under 10 is able to pass on their first try and around 90 percent take the test twice or more. Most who pass the exam have taken the exam more than five times. There was a case when the test was given 23 times to one person. In order to increase course quality, enhance knowledge, capability and responsibility of drivers, we need to set fees for the examination process. Currently, tests are taken without any fees. A study is being conducted and soon we’ll take fees for the process.

What will be done at the state level to improve course quality and responsibility of organizations offering driving courses?

Organizations training and enhancing the skills of specialized drivers are in charge of legal regulations for transportation methods, technical knowledge, maintenance and repair services, formulating curricula and so forth. A significant sum of capital is required for organizations offering driving lessons to execute all of these. In order to provide quality lessons, capable instructors are required. If above activities are allocated to two to three organizations instead of one, then it’ll cost less and the quality of courses will improve. For instance, it’s possible for instructors to be responsible for teaching regulations for transportation. All they need to do is validate that the person has participated in all the lessons in accordance to the program and received complete knowledge and are capable. The organization responsible for taking tests will evaluate if they’ve received lessons in accordance with the program and then take tests. If training activities are developed this way, there will not be much costly burdens. In order to develop training activities, we are planning to cooperate with associated organizations. By preparing drivers that are highly skilled, we can decrease the increasing number of traffic accidents and violations as well as reduce death tolls and injuries.

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