Road law yet to be fully implemented after 2yrs

Shahin Akhter | Published at 12:11am on September 17, 2020

The much-talked-about Road Transport Act 2018 is yet to be fully implemented two years after its enactment.

The processes of renewing and upgrading driving licences and motor vehicle documents still remain incomplete as per the law after the government has accepted the demands of the transport workers and owners.

Besides, the transport leaders have continued to press for amending some sections of the law to reduce punishments.

The rules for the law are also yet to be framed fully.

After the enactment of the new, number of road accidents, fatalities and injuries increased ‘significantly’ in 2019. Experts alleged that the government consistently failed to bring order on roads while the families of the victims continue to cry for justice.

The number of fatalities increased by 57.03 per cent, injuries increased by 129.73 per cent and accidents increased by 58.94 per cent in 2019 compared with that in year 2018, as per the statistics of Bangladesh Police.

According to the police, at least 4,138 people were killed and 4,411 were injured in 4,147 accidents in 2019, while 2,635 were killed and 1,920 were injured in 2,609 accidents in 2018.

On an average, about 15 people were killed in traffic accidents in the country in August 2020. At least 459 people were killed and 618 injured in 388 such accidents in August, said a report released by Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh.

Road Transport and Highways Division secretary Md Nazrul Islam told New Age recently that the implementation of the law was not being stopped.

‘The law is not being cancelled,’ he added.

Earlier on September 19, 2018, the Jatiya Sangsad passed the Road Transport Bill replacing the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983 in the wake of a countrywide student protest after two college students were killed by a reckless bus in Dhaka on July 29 of the year.

Transport workers enforced strikes in different districts against the enactment of the law following which road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on February 17, 2019 formed a three-member committee.

The committee, comprising home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, law minister Anisul Huq and railway minister Nurul Islam Sujan,  was asked to submit recommendations with respect to the amendments to the law  demanded by the transport leaders.

In this situation the new law came into effect on November 1, 2019 more than 13 months after it was passed.

Immediately after that, Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Goods Transport Owners and Workers Unity Council called a countrywide strike.

They withdrew the strike on November 21, 2019 after a meeting with home minister Asaduzzaman Khan.

The minister told reporters that the drivers could drive any vehicle with their existing licences till June 30, 2020 and within this time they would have to obtain appropriate licences from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority.

The time-limit for drivers to drive any vehicle with their existing licences and obtain appropriate licences was recently extended till June 30, 2021.

On November 21, 2019 the home minister further said that the transport sector leaders also discussed the issue of running modified vehicles, which would be solved within June 30 the following year.

At that time the owners demanded waiver of all fines for renewing papers of vehicles while the authorities gave them the facility till December this year.

Following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus the concessions were extended till December this year.

At a meeting of the ministerial committee on August 19 this year Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation placed 34 recommendations to the committee.

The recommendations asked for making some sections of the law bailable, including those on offences for overloading and vehicle modification, and reducing fines for offences relating to accidents.

Former shipping minister and federation executive president Shajahan Khan the same day told New Age that the committee would evaluate the recommendations and then take decisions.

A senior Road Transport and Highways Division official said that the division in November last year requested the police not to impose fine against those drivers who would have documents for renewal or upgradation of their driving licences.

Meanwhile, the BRTA formulated the draft Road Transport Rules 2019 in May last year and submitted the rules to the RTHD.

After the division found many aspects in the draft inconsistent with the present law, many important issues not included in the draft and schedules remaining not prepared, mentioned in the draft, it sent the draft back to the authority.

BRTA director (road safety) Sk Md Mahbub-E-Rabbani has told New Age recently that they have sent the draft rules to the law ministry and the ministry has sent these back with some observations.

He said that it could take up to one and a half months to incorporate the observations in the rules and then they would send it to the RTHD, from where they would be sent to the law ministry.

Meanwhile, road transport and safety experts viewed that the new law could not solve the faulty planning and that was why it could not be fully implemented.

They also alleged that the transport workers and owners resorted to the tactics of delaying the enforcement of the law in its entirety.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s civil engineering department professor Md Shamsul Hoque said that the new law was not fully enforced due to institutional weaknesses and serious disorder in the transport sector.

‘Faults in planning could not be solved by the new law,’ he said and asked why the authorities kept issuing registration to new motor vehicles while all knew about the crisis of drivers in the country.

The transport sector regulatory and enforcement authorities need reform to boost their skills and accountability, said Shamsul, also the director of Bureau of Research, Testing and Consultation under BUET.

‘We need to prioritise the planning and engineering aspects first, followed by education and awareness in second stage and then we need to ensure enforcement or implementation of the law,’ he said.

The new law, he commented, has already become blunt, has lost its sharpness because of the authorities’ reluctance to enforce it fully. 

BUET Accident Research Institute’s director Professor Mizanur Rahman said that the sections of the new law which could play a role in reducing accidents on roads were not enforced.

‘When this is the case, how can we expect that the law will improve the road situation?’ he said.

It seems, he further said, the transport workers and owners are using the tactics of delaying the enforcement of the law in full as much as they can.

The authorities should ask the transport workers’ associations to show the list of their driving licences and the owners’ associations to show their vehicle documents every month to see the progress, he added.

After the enactment of the new road transport law, number of road accidents, fatalities and injuries increased ‘significantly’ in 2019 while the experts alleged that the government consistently failed to bring order on roads while the families of the victims continue to cry for justice.

The number of fatalities increased by 57.03 per cent, injuries by 129.73 per cent and accidents by 58.94 per cent in 2019 compared with the year 2018, as per the statistics of Bangladesh Police.

According to the police, at least 4,138 people were killed and 4,411 injured in 4,147 accidents in 2019, while 2,635 were killed and 1,920 injured in 2,609 accidents in 2018.

At least 459 people were killed and 618 injured in 388 road accidents across the country in August month, says a report published by Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh on Wednesday.