It is shocking that a sector as important as the public transport system should be in a state that the biggest carrier—BRTC (Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation) should be plagued by buses that have an abnormally short shelf life. According to a report in this daily the BRTC buses after being imported from various countries become run down and often out of service long before their expected expiry dates due to lack of proper maintenance. The report has found that of the 255 Daewoo buses delivered, within around six years only 138 are running, when usually they should have lasted for at least 10 to 15 years. Out of the total number of buses owned by BRTC only 921 are in service with the rest being out of service or in need of major repairs.
So why does BRTC have such a poor track record when it comes to maintenance of its vehicles? Some of the reasons cited include, a lack of skilled mechanics and spare parts, inadequate maintenance, poor decisions by authorities and corruption by some members of the corporation. This has resulted in the strange situation of having a service that can barely meet the demand of its consumers—the thousands of people travelling by buses—but one that is running at a loss.
So what will it take for the authorities to wake up to the reality that BRTC must undergo major reforms? They must employ skilled mechanics, ensure spare parts are available and that there is regular maintenance of these buses so that they are financially viable and also meet public demand. These are the easier solutions. What will be the most challenging is to remove the corrupt practices of some of the members of the corporation such as making out false bills for new spare parts when they actually procure used ones that will obviously impede proper repair. Procurement of the buses must also be based on quality and durability. While the proposed software-based fleet management system may make monitoring more efficient, it will have little impact in improving the service unless corruption and inefficiency are removed.