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January 28, 2019

Roadmap for safer cars

Opinion

January 28, 2019

In a win-win situation for consumers and the automobile industry, just a year before ending of the UN’s Decade of Action for Road Safety in 2020, the federal government has revised vehicle-safety standards so as to harmonise them with those of developed countries.

These standards have been adopted by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, and will be made mandatory through a notification from the federal government. The PSQCA has been coordinating with the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulation under the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the UN’s technical regulations called UNRs. The forum is called the WP.29.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed a Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 to stabilise and reduce the level of road fatalities. Policy actions include road-safety management; safer roads and mobility; safer vehicles; and post-crash response.

Safer vehicles must have a minimum of six UNRs, including seat belts and anchorages, occupant protection in frontal or side collisions, electronic stability control (ESC), and pedestrian protection. Motorcycle anti-lock braking systems help the rider maintain control during an emergency braking situation and reduce the likelihood of a road traffic crash and subsequent injury.

It is ironic that the country has not done much during the UN decade, even though the estimated road traffic death rate per 100.000 population is 14.3.

In the WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018, Pakistan has scored zero against all the indicators of safer vehicles. Only 10 percent motorcycle riders use a helmet. In Pakistan, road fatalities are underreported because the reported cases are that of fatalities on the spot that are registered in the form of a police case. The UN’s definition of road fatality is much broader as it includes those fatalities that happen within one month after the accident.

In Pakistan, nine out of every 10 fatalities (91.7 percent) occur on a provincial road. It is officially understood that the highest level of under-reporting for accidents is happening on provincial roads. The WHO estimated there were 25,781 road crash fatalities in Pakistan in 2013.

Producing safer car that meet higher standards is the most critical factor in reducing car crashes and deaths. Two federal government policies – the Automotive Development Policy (ADP) 2016-21 of the Federal Ministry of Industries and Production, and the National Road Safety Strategy 2018-30 of the Federal Ministry of Communication – also reflect vehicle safety.

The National Road Safety Strategy states: “In Pakistan, locally manufactured cars are produced under the licence of international manufacturers, do not meet the same safety and structural standards as would apply in the parent company’s country or if they were exported from the parent company to Europe, America, South-East Asia, or South America.”

The Competition Commission endorsed it in its deliberations held in September 2018 while taking up consumer complaints: “Despite Pakistan being a signatory of the UN charter of the car safety standards (UNECEWP 29), the local car assemblers have not introduced the compulsory safety features required by the charter, such as electronic stability control, frontal impact standard, pedestrian protection, and airbags”.

The ADP’s thrust is to make Pakistan automobile industry internationally compatible, with a future expansion to exports. The automobile policy, which is expiring in two years, explains the need for adopting global standards, saying that different countries implement different regulations to ensure safety and environmental protection, and all vehicles must conform to them.

With an attempt to smoothen international trade procedures, the policy document continues, WP.29 has been working toward the mutual recognition of vehicle certification under the International Vehicle Type Approval System (IWVTA) scheme through the harmonisation of regulations of the member countries in order to alleviate cumbersome a testing process for the vehicles imported from member countries.

The ADP stresses priority development and the implementation of national regulations, following UNRs as the first step. It also envisages initiating a certification by the government of newly-built or imported road vehicles as a measure to certify their adherence to regulations and allow them to be sold without testing every single unit. The government certification will be needed to utilise the IWVTA scheme to help local industry develop an overseas market. In the past 10 years, the number of locally manufactured cars has grown five times faster than the growth in population. Yet, they remain without international safety standards.

Official statistics reveal that the number of registered vehicle is 21.5 million in Pakistan. Of these, 15.6 million are motorcycles and around three million are cars, jeeps, and wagons. The aim of the ADP at the end of the 2021 is to increase the per year production of cars and jeeps to 350,000, light commercial vehicles to 79,000, trucks to 12,000, buses to 2,200, and motorcycles to 2.5 million.

In Pakistan, the projected rise of road traffic is 50 million vehicles by 2025 and up to 65 million by 2030. Since 2008, motorcycle registrations have increased by 20 percent annually. In its report titled ‘Democratising car safety: Road Map for Safer Cars 2020’, the Global NCAP states that 50 years of engineering innovations, stimulated by regulation and consumer awareness, has made passenger cars safer than before.

Recording the car production shift from developed to developing countries, the report states: “In 2013, the high-income countries accounted for 51 percent of a total of 65,433,287 cars produced. The middle-income countries took all the rest at 49 percent as there is no significant car production in low-income countries”. Six of the top 10 producers are now middle-income countries. China leads the way as the world’s dominant number producer, with India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and Thailand now competing with the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the US.

These top 10 producing countries were responsible for 92 percent of all the passenger cars manufactured in 2013. There is a similar concentration of automobile production with the top 10 companies accounting for 78 percent of all cars produced in 2013.

Driving this reordered location of production has been a major change in the share of global automobile industry profits. In 2007, middle-income countries accounted for Euro 12 billion or 30 percent. By 2012, this had risen to 31 billion or 60 percent. By 2020, profits from middle-income countries are forecast to make up 75 percent of the total.

This transformation of sales and production to an almost 50:50 split between high and middle-income countries is rapidly changing the structure of the global car fleet. Ten years ago, three-quarters of the world’s cars were in high-income countries. The shares in 2005 were 76 percent for high-income countries, 23.5 percent for middle-income countries and 0.5 percent for low-income countries. By 2012, the middle-income countries accounted for 35 percent and low-income countries accounted for one percent.

So, in just seven years, the share of middle-income countries in the global car fleets has increased by 91 percent while the share of low-income countries has increased by 58 percent. At this rate, it will not take many years for the majority of the world’s cars to be seen on the roads of middle-income countries.

Pakistan is exception to these global trends. The full implementation of global car-safety standards will not only make the automobile industry internationally competitive, but will also ensure the safety consumers from preventable accidents and deaths.

The writer is a freelancecontributor.

Email: [email protected]

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