The number of vehicles registered in Dhaka declined last year for the first time since 2013.
Besides, the number of new and reconditioned cars and microbuses getting registered with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) continued to drop across the country for the second consecutive year.
Experts and vehicle importers attribute vehicles’ sales slump to the growing popularity of ride-hailing services and the rising price of reconditioned cars.
However, with Dhaka being the exception, the numbers of new motorcycles registered last year went up across the country.
Nevertheless, 434 vehicles are registered at BRTA offices in Dhaka every day. The daily average registration includes 272 motorcycles and 41 cars, according to BRTA data.
Many experts see the trend as a ray of hope for reducing the capital’s traffic congestion. They blame cars for taking up road space while carrying fewer people than larger vehicles.
On the other hand, motorcycles are becoming increasingly popular in cities mostly because they can sieve through traffic.
Last year, 5.04 lakh vehicles were registered across the country, including 1.58 lakh in Dhaka. In 2018, the figures were 4.97 lakh and 1.71 lakh, respectively.
Abdul Haque, president of the Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association (BARVIDA), termed the duty structure for reconditioned cars discriminatory, claiming that it pushed the used cars’ prices upwards.
The government has brought down the maximum depreciation of imported reconditioned vehicles to 35 percent in 2018-19 from 45 percent in 2015-16, increasing the import duty and the prices of cars, according to the BARVIDA.
Thanks to ride-hailing services, many people are refraining from buying cars, Abdul said.
Contacted, an Uber official said the company was aiming to put more people in fewer cars.
App-based ride-hailing services were launched in Dhaka in May 2015. Inclusion of motorcycles popularised the services.
Currently, there are 12 registered ride-hailing companies with over 1 lakh vehicles, mainly cars and motorcycles.
Sajol Rahman, a private employee, said he was planning to buy a car in 2017. “But we dropped the plan because using ride-sharing services proved to be convenient.”
Prof Shamsul said the purchase of 600 buses by the BRTC and the introduction of some new bus routes in Dhaka and its adjacent areas led to the increase in buses and minibuses.
“This is a very good sign, especially for reducing traffic congestion in Dhaka,” Prof Shamsul, also a former director of the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said.
BRTA Director (operations) Sitanghsu Shekhar Biswas said they had not changed any policies or fees that could affect the number of vehicles. Import duties of cars or other tax issues may have played a role, he added.
The number of cars obtaining registration in Dhaka gradually declined from 19,573 in 2017 to 15,016 last year. Outside Dhaka, the number fell from 21,959 to 16,783 during the same period.
Last year, fewer trucks and microbuses were registered in the country but the registration of new buses and minibuses increased.
The numbers of buses and minibuses registered across the country were 3,606 and 837 last year. In 2018, it was 2,755 and 436, respectively. The BRTC’s import of 600 buses last year was a major reason behind the rise.
From the independence to 2019, 43.01 lakh vehicles were registered with the BRTA. Some 15.28 lakh of those were registered in Dhaka. But the transport authorities do not have any record on how many of these vehicles are on the road now. Besides, there are unregistered vehicles plying the roads.