Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Service (VIS) is a government agency that inspects vehicles plying the roads. One of its tasks is to get rid of vehicles that are not road worthy in order to reduce carnage on roads.
In this interview, the Director of the VIS, Akin-George Fashola, an engineer, speaks on accidents involving petrol trucks among other issues. Excerpts:
Tell us about the mandate of the VIS?
The job of the Vehicle Inspection Service mainly revolves around vehicle inspection with a view to ensuring that vehicles are road worthy and Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) are the officers who manage the affairs of VIS. Also, we have the statutory role to check the particulars of all vehicles that ply Lagos roads.
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How do you discharge the statutory responsibilities you have mentioned?
We are continuing from where my predecessor, Mr Gbolahan Oriola, left and hope to improve on this by introducing technology to make our job more efficient.
One of the technologies we are looking at is Automatic Number Plates Recognition (ANPR) Cameras which will be installed in strategic locations across the state. The essence of the cameras is to capture the number plates of vehicles regardless of where they were registered and the information on the number plates goes directly to our data base across the state. This will reveal information about vehicles' license, Insurance Certificate, Hackney Permit andRoad Worthiness Certificate among others.
It will reveal whether the vehicles are authorized to ply the routes and once any driver is certified not to have any of the documents, he will face the music.
Being a cosmopolitan state, to what extent doyou think Lagos residents are aware of this innovation?
I cannot say they are 100 per cent aware but we are doing our best to sensitise them, to achieve this. We have been constant in the massmedia through our advocacy programmes of visiting the garages and parks.
Tell us more about the ANPR Camera
This was installed on Lagos roads about a yearago and our assessment of it is that some residents have got our message but others do not but the sensitisation will continue until the message is well spread and road users adhere to it. We know that those who are not resident in Lagos also visit the state and we hope that this message gets to them. The ANPR Camera can also reveal features of vehicles like the speedometer.
Lagos State Computerised Vehicle Inspection Service (LACVIS) is another technology -based initiative that we have introduced and our inspection centers are sited in major areas of the state to ensure that vehicles plying our roads are in good condition.
Gone are the days when our officers engage in the rigorous task of inspecting car bonnets, head lamps, engines, steering and other partsof vehicles before issuing Road Worthiness Certificate; nowadays, vehicles are taken to the computerized centers for inspection and this is done by machines thereby making the job to be efficiently and effectively done.
Apart from the use of technology, what other innovations do you hope to introduce?
Lagos residents should expect more technologies that will enable them apply for vehicle license and Road Worthiness Certificate online although the document cannot be issued onlineexcept by physical presence but fines can be paid online while registration can also be done.
What about the unlearned residents?
Well, this set of people should bear with us bycoming physically to register their vehicles at our various centers because online registration is applicable to online users only. In essence, you can do online registration and make online payment without stress.
Your officers were asked to vacate the road during the regime of the immediate past governor of Lagos State but the current administration has reversed the order. What difference does this make?
During the period our officers were off the road, they underwent trainings that have exposedthem to the various methods of interacting with the public. Now that they are back on the road, the knowledge is being put into use. Apart from checking Driver's License, our target is to get rid of vehicles that are not road worthy.
It may interest you that most vehicles that ply Lagos roads are not road worthy and we are doing our best to fish them out and remove them from our roads.
Does this apply to all vehicles?
Yes, this applies to motorcycles, tricycles, private cars, commercial vehicles and articulated vehicles.
Can you say many tankers on Lagos roads are road worthy?
All tankers and articulated vehicles on Lagos roads should be road worthy; unfortunately many of their drivers slip through Vehicle Inspection Service but this will no longer be tolerated as the international best practices must be adhered to. Another thing to be considered is that most of the tanker drivers do not reside in Lagos but only come and go, and we are putting the machinery in motion to ensure that they comply with the rules.
Lagos State Ministry of Transportation is working to ensure that vehicle inspection centres are located at entry points of the state and to enable proper inspection of all vehicles that enter Lagos.
How do you achieve this?
We are looking at ways to make this work andI believe it will take off soon. Right now, we have challenges with traffic but the state government is trying to explore every avenue to address the challenges.
The exercise can be described as fleet management by identifying the tankers that reside in Lagos and those that are not. We have been able to establish the fact that some of them areowned by registered companies which makes it easy to locate them by going to their office, but we will also fish out the unregistered onesthrough various efforts and we will not relent on our effort to get rid of tankers that are not road worthy.
How do you ensure the tankers adhere to safety standard?
All vehicles are required to visit LACVIS centers regularly but our major concern is tanker drivers who constitute nuisance on our roads. We must ensure they are certified by LACVIS.
How do you ensure this?
It is my job to direct our officers to stop the tankers and find out whether their drivers have been to LACVIS because they have the power to impound any tanker who fails to adhere to this. One of the strategies we have adopted is to talk to the unions by telling them it is compulsory for trucks to be certified by LACVIS.
Another challenge we have with trucks is overloading but we are going to use technology to combat this.
Through a method called Weighing Motion, weighing devices will be installed at all entry points to Lagos and this will reveal whether they comply with specifications.
This is something that can be done easily but we need to identify the eight locations to install the technology before this can take off.
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Some of the articulated vehicles are said to have been converted from their original purposes thereby causing mishaps that occur on our roads. What is your take on this?
I am glad about this question in the sense that technology to detect this is in town and we will do our best to make maximum use of it. This technology helps to check the chassis of articulated vehicles which will, in turn, reveal the number of tonnes of goods the vehicle was designed to carry and, if it is discovered that the vehicle has been converted, two things may happen: the vehicle is impounded or is ordered to reconvert to its original purpose.
Before the technology-based inspection kicks off, how do you ensure compliance?
Let me seize this opportunity to inform Lagos residents that if any articulated vehicle breaks down on the roads, such vehicle will either be impounded on the spot or fined to serve as deterrent. Truck drivers must be certified by LACVIS or else they will face the wrath of the law.
How can a lay man identify a truck that is road worthy?
This is a bit difficult except the vehicles are inspected by professionals, all that can be easily noticed are the wind screens, tyres, wipers andthe body but it is difficult to visually inspect some vehicle parts without the use of machines and that is why LACVIS is recommended for all vehicles.
What about the use of fire-fighting equipment by articulated vehicles?
As a precaution, all vehicles including articulated vehicles are required to have fire extinguishers for safety purposes and this is enforced by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) which is in charge of road safety.
It is a common sight to see tankers spilling their contents on the road through holes or cracks on the surface. What is your view about this?
This has called for the need for us to be stricter on enforcement where necessary and this crusade should be taken to the depots of articulated vehicles but we should also consider the fact that mechanical faults can occur at any time; we need to continue the crusade of road worthiness for all vehicles.
What is the percentage of the articulated vehicles that are road worthy in Lagos?
The statistics cannot be quoted off handedly but I think it is about 20 per cent, but don't also forget that a large percentage of them come from outside Lagos and this does not give you accurate calculation. However, we will continue to apprehend erring drivers and impound their vehicles until sanity is returned to Lagos roads.
Let's talk about the challenges of ensuring road worthiness.
The major challenge is the level of compliancebut we shall get there one day. Another challenge is the fact enforcement has been very difficult because of the rainy season as drivers of articulated vehicles use this as cover to evade arrest, moreover, the slippery ground during rainy season does not give room for enforcement as we do not want to cause man-made accidents.
Apart from these, man power is a major challenge for VIS because Lagos as a melting point needs more officers to enable us get to all the nooks and crannies of the state to carryout our assignment.
What is your staff strength?
Do you mean that this number cannot adequately cover Lagos?
Yes. We need twice this figure to enable us discharge our duties effectively. Our men should be deployed to different parks, garages and depots but this number cannot effectively cover the 43 zonal offices in Lagos.
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The use of technology should help. Shouldn't it?
There are limitations in what technology can do and some assignments cannot be effectively carried out by machines but by human beings. For instance, technology cannot stop a vehicle with bad tyres or broken wind screen but human beings can do this effectively.
How challenging is the work of VIS?
It is very challenging considering the state of our roads but it is of note that Governor Sanwo-Olu has directed that palliative measures be carried out on bad Lagos roads. He also said major road rehabilitation cannot be effectively carried out during the rainy season but we are hoping that the rains will soon stop as the fixing of the road will alleviate the sufferings of road users and enable us to carry out the task ahead