San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Vehicle Inspections Simplified Inspection Firm’s Monopoly

CAR and truck owners have 123 fewer things toworry about when they take their vehicles for governmentrequired periodic inspections. The Ministryof Public Works and Transport (MOPT) this weekannounced changes to the inspections performed bythe Spanish-Costa Rican firm Riteve SyC, which lastmonth were the center of controversy and civil unrest.Spare tires, visors, original license plates and rearviewmirrors will no longer be required to pass theinspection.The changes are a condition of an agreement thegovernment struck with professional drivers’ associationsand union leaders to end eight days of strikesand roadblocks (TT, Aug. 27, Sept. 3). However,MOPT had already begun the revision process as partof a legal requirement to periodically update theRiteve manual, according to officials.ASIDE from revision of inspection standards,protestors’ primary demand during the civil unrestwas the opening of the monopoly Riteve has on performingthe inspections.Opponents maintain the monopolistic contract is against the Constitution. ComptrollerGeneral Alex Solís recently announced the10-year contract, signed in 2002, is amonopoly, and referred the case to theConstitutional Chamber of the SupremeCourt (Sala IV) (TT, Sept. 10).Recently named Minister of PublicWorks and Transport Ovidio Pachecosaid the matter has been turned over tothe Sala IV, but he would prefer to workout an agreement with Riteve to open themonopoly a certain percentage.“We have asked Riteve to put inblack and white what we can negotiate inour agreement,” he said in his first pressconference as minister on Monday.Riteve president José López told thedaily La Nación he does not recommendinvesting in Costa Rica at this momentbecause of the legal insecurity. He alsosaid the comptroller contradicted previousopinions by the Sala IV.“We came to this country knowingthat it is a democratic country, with socialstability, political stability and, wethought, real guarantees. Unfortunately,in this moment we do not see it so clear,”he said.REGARDING the changes to theRiteve inspections, company spokeswomanVilma Ibarra said the modificationsare part of a normal update, aftertwo years working with the original standards.No changes were made to standardsregarding security, such as brake systems,or environmental impact, such as emissions,Minister Pacheco said. The totalnumber of points of inspection in theevaluation is now 354, down from 477.Under the new guidelines, the numberof “serious” defects, which require thevehicle owner or user to return for reinspection,fell from 222 to 188.Among the 34 serious defectsreduced to “minor” defects are improperlyattached side mirrors that could falloff and lack of a muffler. These shouldbe repaired, but do not require re-inspection.Several defects were upgraded fromminor to serious. Working seatbelts andhorns are now required to pass inspection.Another three defects were taken outof the “dangerous” category (see list).THE goal of the changes is not onlyto simplify the inspection process, butalso to eliminate subjectivity and clarifyinspection standards, according toManuel Arce, executive director ofMOPT’s Public Transportation Council,which approved the new manual.The changes have been sent to theofficial government newspaper La Gacetaand will be published in the coming days,Pacheco said. The public will then haveten days to respond and make suggestions.Depending on this feedback, furtherchanges to the manual could bemade, Pacheco said.However, Riteve has already startedadopting the new inspection checklist,and the changes could go into effect assoon as next week, he added.Suggestions or complaints about thechanges can be made to the PublicTransportation Council by calling 586-9010 or visiting its office behind thePublic Security Ministry in San José.New Standards for Vehicle InspectionsRiteve will no longer inspect:• License plates to ensure they areoriginal• Condition of windshield wipers• Condition of mud flaps• The distance between drivers andpassengers in buses or uneven aisles• Presence of security triangles• Presence of spare tires• Reverse lights• Battery location for protection againstrain or good ventilation• In taxis, the location of meters or theircorrect time measurementDefects changed from minor toserious:• Non-working seatbelts• Non-working horns• Non-working lights on rear licenseplates• Dangerous holes or fissures in avehicle’s floor• Non-working turn signals or hazardlights• Blinding low beamsDefects changed from serious tominor:• Improperly sized signs on the sides ofvehicles• Improperly attached rear-view mirrorsthat could become detached• Improper placement or color of headand rear lights• Lack of first-aid kits or trash cans onpublic buses or transportation• Defective switch between high and lowbeams• Deformations, soldering, or fissures tothe steering column• Different-sized tires on the same axle• Lack of or modified mufflerDefects no longer considereddangerous:• Modified or illegible motor numbers arenow minor• Steering wheels on right side of vehicleare now minor• Missing or tampered with VehicleIdentification Numbers (VIN) are nowserious.

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