Safer Vehicles for Fiji

09/07/2016 11:53

Road safety is a global concern. For Fiji, where road death toll is alarming, there is more reason for the nation to work together to curb the deaths on our roads. A total of 25 lives have been lost so far this year compared to 32 in the same period last year. These deaths have left the families devastated.

The good news is that a latest UN resolution also backs the rights of consumers to ‘safe vehicles’. The resolution puts consumer organizations in a stronger position to push for immediate action, holding governments and manufacturers accountable to the standards.

This will compel car manufacturers and governments to improve vehicle safety standards throughout the world by 2020. Today’s crash avoidance technologies are capable of preventing many types of vehicle collision before they happen.

Consumers International (CI), early this year joined the campaign STOP THE CRASH. The international organization is calling for key crash avoidance technologies to be fitted as standard in all new cars and motorcycles, to help reduce the 1.25 million deaths that occur every year from road crashes around the world.

Not all consumers question whether the vehicles they’re buying have safety features which would keep them and their loved ones safe. Car manufacturers make new cars based on importing countries’ standards.

To prevent the sale of unsafe vehicles across the globe, governments in all countries need to set laws that require at least the most basic safety features in vehicles. This commitment towards road safety is a significant step in reducing the unnecessary loss of lives on our roads.

As a national consumer body, the Consumer Council of Fiji also joins CI on a campaign to lobby key stakeholders to get safer cars in the country. One area which the Council has been working on is in regards to the quality of second hand vehicles.

The Council has been relentlessly working with the Land Transport Authority and the Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority for the re-introduction of the Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Center (JEVIC). JEVIC will assist in checking on the ‘quality’ where pre-shipment inspection of the vehicles will be carried out before being sent to Fiji for sale.

Since 2011 to date, the Council has received 182 complaints worth $2.2 million regarding defects in both brand new motor vehicles and the second hand vehicles. Consumers still face numerous hurdles and stumbling blocks, such as vehicles in poor or even dangerous condition, unfair financing arrangements, deceptive sales practices, lack of pre-disclosure, junk and unsafe vehicles with cosmetic treatment and outright fraud.

JEVIC will bring about more transparency, accountability and responsibility in the second hand car business in Fiji. It will better protect consumers in the absence of regulations to safeguard consumer interests and prevent Fijian buyers from buying defective used vehicles.

The lobbying has now materialized with the reintroduction of JEVIC as announced by LTA last month.

According to JEVIC, a pre-shipment vehicle inspection program is proven effective in ensuring safety, biosecurity and consumer protection. JEVIC’s vehicle appraisal will include:

•Emissions testing

•Structural and Safety checks (accident damage, flood)

•Biosecurity verification (harmful pests)

•Fraudulent representation (stolen vehicle, accurate documentation)

•Exceeding age limit

•Euro 4 (Japan 05)

•Tailpipe emissions

JEVIC will provide used vehicle assessments prior to export from Japan. The end result will be a reduction of vehicles arriving with serious structural issues, elimination of fraud within the pathway and increase in consumer confidence. JEVIC’s pre-shipment programs are prevalent in island nations reliant on used vehicle pathways. The objective is to provide assurance of the quality of the cargo prior to importation, and avoid issues on arrival.

Certainly more stringent rules need to be put in place to ensure that all vehicles (new or second-hand vehicles) need to be safer.