Vehicle technical inspectors hit out at bodycams plan

Vehicle undergoing inspection, footage taken from the mandatory fixed camera.
Vehicle undergoing inspection, footage taken from the mandatory fixed camera. Source: ERR

An organization representing vehicle technical inspectors in Estonia has criticized pans by the Transport Board (Transpordiamet) to make portable cameras, to be worn by staff, mandatory in inspection facilities, in addition to existing fixed cameras.

The authority says that the situation with vehicle technical inspections in Estonia has reached critical level, with around 10 percent, or 50,000 vehicles inspected, with significant or hazardous defects passing out on checks per year.

This is exacerbated by the fact that while around 16 percent of vehicles inspected a second time last year (i.e. after having a fault rectified – ed.) this is concerning, given the figure for re-inspection in "neighboring countries" stands at 25 percent, the Transport Authority says.

As a result, the authority says that inspectors should be monitored more closely, via the adoption of smaller head-cameras, in addition to the fixed cameras already used.

Tarmo Kahem, CEO of the association of technical inspectors (Tehnoülevaatajate liit), wrote to the Minister of Economic Affairs recently stating that the comparison with other states is not a valid one.

"In Estonia, it is quite common for there to be car repair shop located next to, or near to, the inspection point," Kahem noted.

"Vehicle owners often take their car for maintenance or repair, then request a technical inspection afterwards. Following maintenance or repair, there is a high probability that a vehicle will pass the inspection without any faults," he continued.

"For this reason, the percentage of re-inspections is significantly lower than the average [for other countries] and so it would be inappropriate to say that the inspector would is doing a bad job," Kahem added.

At the same time, Kahem admitted that the low percentage at some inspection points raises concerns, but the position has always mean that the reasons in those cases should be investigated exactly.

He said: "In our opinion, the results of the inspections will be ensured by a well-targeted and coordinated monitoring by the Transport Agency, which would provide a more adequate overview of the area. In its last report, the Agency noted that over the two years 2018-2020, five spot checks were carried out in which an additional 40 vehicles were inspected, but in 14 years, a total of 1,233,632 passenger cars were inspected in Estonia. In this case, no mathematically reliable conclusions can be drawn from a sample of 40 vehicles."

The technical inspectors' association also referred to the opinion of the Data Protection Inspectorate (AKI), which said that the use of the main cameras must first and foremost be permitted by law and that using them was an infringement of the rights of both the technical inspection employee and of the customer bringing the vehicle in for checking.

Kahem said that: "Current legislation does not allow for personal storage devices. We agree with the explanations in AKI's guidelines, that the use of surveillance devices is the most intense invasion of privacy at all compared to other ways of collecting personal data. Depending on how it is used, the use of surveillance devices can be degrading."

Kahem added that personal camera surveillance of inspectors could exacerbate labor shortages in this area, as well as affecting all car owners.

In fact, it will cause more inspectors to quit the job altogether, he claimed. "Currently, a significant number of technical inspectors with very lengthy experience have announced that they will no longer continue their work in this area, as a result of the mandatory emplacement of the fixed cameras. Many people will choose another less stressful job, or take their pension."

The new draft administrative agreement envisages additional financial costs, in addition to personal cameras themselves, due to the requirement to double the video recording capacity of inspection points, from 90, to 180 days.

"For companies, this would mean purchasing additional servers, which, together with maintenance, would incur higher fixed costs," Kahem went on.

"Companies are also required to install an additional camera on their terrain, to monitor outdoor inspections. All this incurs additional costs for companies. This in turn means that the price of the technical inspection could increase by at least five euros per vehicle, in comparison with today" his address went on.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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