Over half a million unsafe vehicles on the roads of Bangladesh

There are also at least 100 thousand unlicensed drivers at the wheel of registered vehicles.

Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary

Tuhin Shubhra Adhikary

The Daily Star


February 16, 2022

DHAKA – More than five lakh registered vehicles are now on the road without fitness clearance mainly due to poor monitoring by the authorities amid the pandemic.

Many unregistered vehicles are running without undergoing any fitness test.

Also, unlicensed drivers are at the wheel of at least 10 lakh registered vehicles, indicates latest data of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA).

All these are making the country’s thoroughfares riskier as statistics show that the number of road crashes increased sharply in recent years.

At least 5,088 people were killed in 5,472 road accidents last year, said police.

The number of deaths and road crashes were 3,918 and 4,198 respectively in 2020, meaning the figures rose by 29.86 percent and 30.34 percent last year.

The police’s figures, collected based on the First Information Report (FIR) and General Dairy (GD), are much lower than those of the road safety organisations’.

More than 50 lakh vehicles, including 35 lakh motorbikes, were registered with BRTA till last year.

According to existing rules, motorcycles don’t need fitness clearance.

Also, new cars, SUVs and microbuses are not required to have it in the first five years. After that period, they have to have their fitness cleared once every two years.

As these three types of vehicles had to take fitness clearances annually before January 2020, the number of vehicles eligible for fitness test should have been lower now and the number of unfit vehicles should have been smaller.

However, BRTA data shows 5.08 lakh registered vehicles, which are eligible for fitness test, did not renew their documents till last month. The figure had never been so large previously, sources said.

The number of unfit vehicles was 4.79 lakh in July 2019, according to a BRTA report submitted to the High Court as per its directive.

The state-run BRTA’s 2020-21 annual report said 6.75 lakh vehicles received fitness certificates in the last fiscal year. The number was 7.5 lakh in 2019-20 and 7.06 lakh in 2018-19.

An official of the government agency said around 2 lakh out of the 5.08 lakh vehicles are three-wheelers, which are used outside Dhaka. Besides, many of them are not operated.

BRTA offices across the country remained shut for a long time during the Covid-induced lockdown in the last two years, which contributedto the rise in the number of unfit vehicles, the official told The Daily Star, wishing anonymity.


Till June 2021, BRTA issued 37.63 lakh driving licences against 47.76 lakh registered vehicles, indicating that 10.13 lakh vehicles are being run by unlicensed drivers.

The actual number of licensed drivers may be less than the number of licences issued because many people collect more than one — one for a motorbike or a light vehicle and another for a heavy vehicle, a BRTA official said.

Moreover, more than 10-20 lakh unregistered vehicles, including locally-made “Nasiman” and “Kariman”, are plying roads without undergoing any fitness test. Drivers of those do not have any licence either, said people involved in the transport sector.


Transport expert Prof Moazzem Hossain said there was a trend among drivers to run vehicles without a licence or with a fake one. Besides, many vehicle owners avoid fitness test for fear of hassle at the BRTA office.

The trend has grown now, resulting in the rise in the number of accidents mainly because of the BRTA’s management incapability and a lack of transparency, he said.

For example, BRTA provided a very limited number of digital licence cards to drivers over the last two years. It provided manual tokens to licence seekers and extended time for the delivery of licence cards several times, creating scope for using fake licences, Moazzem told The Daily Star on February 9.

When all these are making the roads riskier, plying of a huge number of unregistered three-wheelers and motorcycles on highways is causing the rise in road accidents, he said.

“As the government agencies are failing to discharge their duties properly, the overall road safety situation is becoming more complicated now,” said Moazzem, also a former director of Accident Research Institute at Buet.

Asked about the reason for the rise in unfit vehicles, BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder said they have ensured that owners have to take their vehicles to BRTA offices for fitness test.

Many owners may not bring their vehicles for fitness tests presuming that the vehicles would fail the test. This might have resulted in the rise in the number of unfit vehicles, he said.

Asked if the BRTA mobile courts were taking action against such vehicles, Nur Mohammad said the courts were taking action.

Enforcement of relevant laws mostly depends on police and if they play their due role, owners would be bound to have their vehicles tested, he told this newspaper on Thursday.

About alleged hassle at the BRTA offices, he said they have made fitness tests hassle-free as the date for a test is fixed online and a vehicle can be tested at any BRTA office.

Regarding the big gap between the numbers of registered vehicles and driving licences, the BRTA chief said many licence holders own more than one vehicles and sothe gap would not be that big.

He denied the allegation of use of fake licences by a large number of drivers.

The BRTA chairman, however, admitted that they have been suffering from manpower crisis for a long time. He said they had asked for some 2,300 employees, but the authorities concerned approved only 96 and the recruitment of them was still under process.

Moreover, the organisation’s 110 posts out of the total 823 remains vacant now, shows a document.

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