JAMA Discusses Mandatory
Vehicle Inspection at the
SAFE Annual Convention 2009

According to SAFE (the Society for Automotive Fitness & Environment, organized under a Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers initiative), studies have revealed that close to 80% of road accidents in India are attributable to inappropriate driving practices, while more than 6% are traceable to poor vehicle maintenance. The conclusion, therefore, is that a great many road accidents could be avoided if drivers were to drive with greater care and caution and if a proper vehicle inspection and certification system were to be implemented.

At SAFE's annual convention on 17 June 2009 in Hyderabad, India on the theme of "Safety through Enforcement and Inspection & Certification," participating government delegates from the State of
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Andhra Pradesh pointed to the importance of driver-education programs and the establishment of a periodic vehicle inspection and maintenance scheme.

Invited to speak at the convention were experts from European vehicle inspection organizations as well as Mr. Kanji Nakayama, JAMA Executive Vice President, who made a presentation, summarized here below, on Japan's vehicle inspection system and its implications for safety and environmental performance in road transport.

Since over time all vehicles undergo deterioration through use, they must be provided with appropriate periodic maintenance to keep up their safety and environmental performances at the initial compliance levels.  The purpose of a vehicle inspection system is to enable government to verify the maintenance status of all vehicles, and its specific objectives are: (1) to withdraw from circulation those vehicles not conforming with relevant technical regulations, (2) to prevent the illegal tampering of vehicles, (3) to raise users' awareness of the need for maintenance, (4) to identify and recover vehicles subject to a recall, and (5) to ensure the collection of automotive taxes and compulsory insurance fees.

Countries with mandatory vehicle inspection determine the frequency of that inspection on the basis of such factors as road accident data, exhaust emission levels, vehicle use patterns and defect occurrence rates.  In Japan, private passenger cars are subject to mandatory initial inspection three years after first registration, then once every two years thereafter.

A vehicle user in Japan has three options in terms of how his or her vehicle can be checked, maintained and inspected.  The first option is to take the vehicle to a government-authorized “certified” auto service shop for a check-up and maintenance as necessary.  In this case, however, the user must additionally present the same vehicle to a Land Transport representative office for inspection.

The second option is to bring the vehicle to one of the “designated” service shops, which are assigned that status on the basis of their superior technical and inspection capacities as compared to the “certified” service shops.  Once vehicle inspection and maintenance have been carried out by a “designated” shop, the user will not have to present the vehicle to a Land Transport office because the top-caliber capacities of these “designated” shops are considered by the government as equally reliable as those of Land Transport offices.

The third option is for the user to conduct check-ups and maintenance him/herself and then present the vehicle to a Land Transport office for inspection.

The reality is, however, that about 70% of Japan's in-use vehicles are inspected at the “designated” auto service shops.  Currently there are some 89,000 government-authorized service shops, whether “designated” or “certified,” operating in Japan, of which 16,000 are operated by auto dealers side by side with their showrooms.  Of those dealer-operated service shops, 10,000 are “designated” shops—so qualified, as explained above, for their superior technical and inspection capacities.  Not only, therefore, is vehicle inspection necessary to help maintain automotive safety and environmental performance but, as Japan's situation illustrates, it can also be an important source of business for auto dealers.

Japan first introduced information processing systems to deal with a rapid increase in vehicle inspection and registration documentation in 1970.  Currently the government's 93 Land Transport representative offices are all linked with the national Motor Vehicle Registration Center by an online network, in order to process in real time registration and inspection data on Japan's more than 75 million vehicles in use.

The Japanese auto industry's position on periodic vehicle inspection is one of complete endorsement, since it effectively monitors the maintenance status of all in-use vehicles; mandates the repair of defective vehicles; and contributes, by means of the data it accumulates, to the formulation of sound road transport policies.  Vehicle inspection is thus a highly significant factor in road accident prevention and sustainable motorization.


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