You may have noticed a considerable fuss among drivers since the beginning of 2019. The Periodic Technical Inspection (PTI) now applies to all vehicles in the country. In a country where 90% of the cars are more than 10 years old, many of which have removed the catalytic converters, concerns are to be expected.
In Tbilisi alone, there are around 40 thousand registered taxi drivers, who rely on their car as the main, if not the only, source for livelihood. At the end of the last year, just before all this big fuss unfolded, GeoWel, in partnership with the Alliance for Road Safety and the financial support from the East-West Management Institute (EWMI), produced an extensive report based on the monitoring of the PTI reform.
Since the PTI became applicable to all vehicles, there had been a plethora of blog posts, articles, FAQs, TV stories and interviews about what you should know. Nevertheless, it is apparent that there is still much confusion among the general public and even many guides and articles are not always accurate. So we’ve decided to correct a few widespread myths about the PTI reform.
Myth #1: A car has to have a catalytic converter in order to pass the PTI.
This is a big one, and only partially (or temporarily) wrong. Technically, you don’t need a converter, even though improving the air quality is one of the key goals of the reform. Currently, PTI only checks the levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in petrol-engine vehicles and smoke in diesel-engine vehicles. Passing does not require a catalytic converter.
The reason for this is that the standard are low compared to the EU. In Georgia the requirement to pass the inspection is the EUR 1 standards that were in force in the EU in 1992-1996 (they have EUR 6 standards now). So, unless your car is spitting out black smoke like a coal factory from the industrial revolution period, you should be ok. If the car is that bad, then you don’t even need PTI tell you to stop operating that poisoning machine, do you?
That said, the rules will get tougher over time. We do encourage installing a proper catalytic converter. Starting from 2020, the plan is to require such converters, and also measure a whole set of other poisonous exhaust outputs. Investing in a proper converter is more prudent than buying a cheap one as it will last longer and you do need to go through the PTI once every year.
Myth #2: The main idea of the reform was to improve air quality. We still have bad air quality. Therefore, the reform must have failed.
As already explained, currently PTI doesn’t have a particularly high threshold for vehicles to pass for air quality. As an initial phase of the reform, it is understandable as a very much higher standard would have been political unsustainable, and this system gets people used to the system, removes some of the worst offenders and does not induce rioting
But even if a vehicle passes stricter standards of PTI, people will always figure out ways to cheat and pollution will also be affected by fuel quality, which is not controlled by the PTI. Two things need to be done to control these weaknesses. First, imported fuel needs to be thoroughly controlled for quality. The government says that this is already happening. Second, it is important to introduce mobile checks of cars on the road to make sure that they satisfy the requirements. This is still not happening, and so far there are no specific plans to introduce such checks.
Even with these checks, pollution levels will go down slowly because the current levels of pollution in Tbilisi are driven by many things. Cars that over-pollute is part of the picture, but traffic volumes and air pollution from construction sites are also big factors.
Myth #3: I can find information on all PTI centers on pti.ge
Not quite. Pti.ge is a website of the association of PTI centers. Some of the largest PTI centers, such as Quick Test or GreenWay are not part of the association, so you won’t be able to find them there. In fact, one of the recommendations in our report had been to have a publicly available comprehensive list of all PTI centers, but it doesn’t seem to be happening yet. Meanwhile, do use pti.ge but also employ services of good-old-fashioned Google to make sure you are aware of all PTI centers and chose the one which is most convenient for you.
Myth 4: There are long queues for the cars. I will have to waste all day long just to make it to the test.
This is true, but there is a trick around it! If you make an appointment via telephone or online, then you will bypass all those cars still waiting in the queue. It is easy to do and it works!
Myth 5: The process is all computerized. The “human factor” is excluded from the evaluation of a vehicle.
Although the reform implementers often claim that the “human factor” is minimal in the process, in fact, it is quite important. Unfortunately, the same exact car might pass a test in one place and fail in another place. So, make sure to properly wash your car before visiting a center, removing old oil marks. Making good first impression is important and that is true for cars as well.
Hope now you have a clearer idea about the PTI reform. If you are interested in more details, do check out our reports. We plan to have another round of monitoring and the new report should be available in June. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/geowel.research/).