Enforcing Rules and Regulations
A regulatory system must be enforceable. This requires regulations that are appropriate under specific circumstances. Effective administrative and enforcement procedures are also key.
Poor enforcement of regulations plagues developing countries. Public transport is no exception, where it can lead to:
- unreliable bus service
- poor maintenance standards (which may affect safety and pollution)
- poor driving standards (which affect safety and traffic congestion) maltreatment of passengers
- violence between operators
- antisocial or dangerous on-the-road behavior
Poor enforcement is usually due to a lack of resources, unsatisfactory systems, or general inefficiency or inability on the part of the staff.
Public sector operators are often easier to regulate than private sector operators. The regulatory task is substantially greater when there are a large number of individual owner-drivers. When the industry is dominated by larger units, whether these are companies or owners’ co-operatives, regulatory enforcement may be simpler.
The extent of the enforcement task is also influenced by the number of operating parameters that are subject to regulation. Where enforcement is difficult these parameters should be kept to a minimum. Many regulatory systems are unnecessarily complex, and are difficult or impossible to enforce with available resources.
Different enforcement agencies have different roles
Responsibility for enforcement of transport regulations may lie with a number of bodies, including:
- transport regulatory authority
- central and local government departments (such as the licensing authority)
- road transport department
- environment department
- operators’ associations
- passengers (to some extent)
The different enforcement agencies have different roles to play. It’s important that these roles are not confused. An operators’ association, for example, can have a role in enforcing those regulations which are clearly in the interests of its members. But some regulations, which it might be in members’ interests to infringe, should be enforced by a separate body.
Types of infractions
Enforcement of regulations regarding vehicle roadworthiness is often weak, with buses and other vehicles being operated in dangerous condition.
Compliance is also often poor when it comes to adhering to route and timetable requirements. Many bus operators operate in accordance with their perception of demand at the time, with complete disregard for the conditions attached to their licenses. This means the number of buses operating on a route at any given time often differs substantially from the number licensed.
Another common offence by all types of transport operator is failure to charge authorized fares. This may take the form of undercutting to steal traffic from other operators, or overcharging of passengers. This is particularly common among smaller bus operators. They may charge exorbitant fares when demand is high, but undercut other operators with very low fares at other times.
License offences are also common in many developing countries. In some countries a significant proportion of drivers and vehicles do not hold valid licenses or roadworthiness certificates, or carry licenses that have been forged, stolen or obtained through corruption. If this type of offence cannot be controlled, withdrawal or suspension of a license is ineffective as a sanction against drivers or operators.
Compliance with vehicle construction regulations as well as safety and maintenance standards may be verified by means of regular vehicle inspections at testing centers. Spot checks of vehicles on the road, examination of maintenance facilities used by operators, and checking of maintenance records in addition to regular vehicle inspections are an essential task. Often vehicle inspectors or traffic police have this responsibility but for public transport vehicles it may be appropriate for some inspections to be carried out by the licensing authority.
The easiest regulations to enforce are usually those which can be dealt with as they occur. The most obvious are driving offences such as speeding or illegal parking, which once detected can usually be dealt with immediately by enforcement officers. Similarly, offences such as overloading, or other infringements of construction and use regulations can often be handled in the same way.
Regulations that tend to be more difficult to enforce include those concerning road service license conditions, such as compliance with route and timetable requirements, and rules governing competition between operators.
Effective enforcement requires a system of realistic penalties for all infringements. But a major problem in many countries is that penalties are often inadequate deterrents. Fines for offenses such as excessive speed, license infringements or operation of unroadworthy vehicles are often regarded as normal operating expenses.
However, financial penalties are still widely used despite often being ineffective and counter-productive. For example, a financial penalty for operating a vehicle in an unroadworthy condition will reduce the owner’s ability to pay for repairs. He is likely to be tempted to continue to operate his vehicle in defective condition.
Financial penalties must be sufficiently severe to deter operators from offending. Penalties must also be regularly adjusted in line with inflation to prevent them from becoming ineffective over time. In many countries, where fines have not been increased and the rate of inflation is high, penalties have become wholly ineffective.
An effective non-financial sanction for most offences committed by a driver or transport operator is suspension or revocation of licenses, provided that there are effective deterrents against unlicensed operation.