Any modification which is not consistent with original design poses a serious threat to the pedestrians, commuters and even other vehicles on the roads.
The Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983, clearly states that alteration of vehicle shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extended for up to two years, or with fines of up to Tk 5,000 or both.
Dhaka Tribune found almost all motorised vehicles including covered vans and trucks fitted with external bumpers, horizontal angles and sharp hooks were plying the streets of Chittagong in full view of the traffic police.
The truckers informed that fitting an external bumper cost around Tk15,000 claiming that it acts as a shock absorber and reduces the force of impact from a pushes from behind.
The body modification in most cases is done by the inexperienced vehicle body manufacturers.
Fixing an external to a truck adds about 700-800 kg to the original weight of the vehicle. External bumpers make drivers overconfident and increase the tendency to drive recklessly.
On the other hand, the extra parts affixed for carrying excessive goods damage the highways and roads.
On July 1, 2003, a doctor died when a private car hit the motorcycle he was riding and his left leg got entangled with the bumper of the car.
The tragic death of Dr Shahjahan Ali was followed by a High Court directive to remove extra bumpers from all vehicles.
On March 13 of this year, at an inter-ministerial meeting, a committee was formed to stop illegal modification of trucks and covered vans.
Based on the recommendations of the committee formed on March 13, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) issued a notification on May 18 asking owners to remove angles and bumpers from all buses, covered vans and buses within June 30.
However, the deadline has already expired without yielding any result. Lately the government has again asked the vehicle owners to remove all the illegal parts, including extra bumpers by November 30.
The directive came during an inter-ministerial meeting held at the conference room of the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges on October 13.
Furthermore, the owners were given a deadline of this December 31 to convert the modified trucks, covered vans and buses’ bodies into shapes approved by manufacturing companies and the BRTA.
The private car owners, however, expressed their displeasure over the directive saying that it would increase the vulnerability of their vehicles to damage caused by rickshaws and other vehicles.
Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association told the Dhaka Tribune that the repeated deadlines were a telling commentary that the road safety related directives largely remained unimplemented.
“Regrettably there is a sheer negligence on the part of both the traffic police and BRTA with regards to implementing the directives. We do not want anymore deadlines. We demand the offenders be booked under the existing law for violating the directives,” said the passenger rights activist.
Welcoming the move to take off external bumpers, hooks and angles, Engineer Subhash Barua, a traffic specialist said that the number accidents would surely come down with the implementation of the directive.
“Bangladesh is ranked as one of the most accident-prone countries in the world. Vehicle modification is known to be a major contributor to the road accidents in Bangladesh. Most truckers alter the original structure of their vehicles to carry more weight. Vehicle alteration with external bumpers and sharp-edged railings encourages the drivers to reckless driving and eventually causes fatal accidents,” said the traffic specialist.
According to Covered Van Owners’ Association, 3500 covered vans and 700 lorries leave Chittagong Port for Dhaka and other parts of the country.
Contacted, Haji Munir Ahmmed, president of Covered Van Owners’ Association said that they came to know about the directives to remove all extra parts from the covered vans.
“We hail the decision and we will comply with the directives to ensure road safety,” added Ahmmed.
Asked for his comment, Md Shahid Ullah, deputy director, Chittagong BRTA told the Dhaka Tribune that they did not issue any fitness certificate to vehicles fitted with external parts.
“We are raising awareness with campaigns amongst the owners to get the vehicles structure in line with the design specified by the BRTA. We will take stern action against the offenders after the expiry of the deadline,” added the BRTA official.