Sri Lanka’s entire vehicle emission testing programme will be overhauled by introducing modern high tech systems while allowing more companies with technical knowhow to participate in breaking the existing oligopoly, Motor Traffic Department (MTD) sources said.

The State Ministry of Vehicle Regulation will be focusing attention on changing the existing system on the directions of the President as 13 per cent up to 26 percent out of the vehicles running on roads in Sri Lanka were running without satisfying the prescribed air emission standards, a senior official of the MTD told the Business Times.

Testing for emission levels of pollutants currently are carried out while the vehicle is stationary and expressing the results as percentages of each pollutant present in the exhaust.

The standard method in use today comprises the use of a dynamometer, where the driving wheels of the vehicle are mounted on rollers driven by a computer controlled system.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has also expressed his concern on permitting vehicles with carbon emission to run on roads causing increased environmental pollution even after making the vehicle emission testing compulsory.

State Minister of Vehicle Regulation, Bus Transport Services, Carriages and Automotive Industries Dilum Amunugama told a planning meeting of officials that a decision will be taken as to whether the vehicle emission testing certificate is essential or not in the issue of motor vehicle licenses.

He noted that the vehicle emission testing mechanism should be changed soon as it has now created mass corruption.

Corruption in testing centres operated by three companies involved in the testing programme is one of the problems, several motorists complained.

Most testing staff have no training and experience on handling and understanding the mechanical problems of a vehicle, a motor mechanical expert said.

The current emission test is a money-making venture for the three companies and for the government as the state makes between Rs. 415 and Rs. 1660 per vehicle from emission testing, official data showed.

The tests need to be carried out annually for many of the nation’s over seven million registered motor vehicles and it brings a revenue of more than Rs.120 billion for the government while the three emission testing companies also earn over Rs. 2.8 billion, official provisional data revealed.

Allegations of corruption at testing facilities are widespread, the senior MTD official said adding that a large number of permits of centres had been cancelled by the department for not maintaining standards and for issuing false certificates and test reports for motorists who bribed their staff.

However, as a faulty or aging vehicle failing the test may cost a large amount to repair, many vehicle owners simply bribe the staff at a testing facility for the certificate.

The testing of exhaust emissions and issuing of certificates is being carried out by three private companies – Clean Co Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Laugfs Eco Sri (Pvt) Ltd and Auto Test Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.

Several leading motor vehicle franchise dealers told that they are willing to set up vehicle emission testing centres countrywide supporting the government’s plan to open up the programme to more private firms.

They said that motor vehicle franchise dealers have the capacity to bring new testing equipment and technology with international standard testing protocols deploying a talented and trained team to provide a better service to customers.