13 units have secured accreditation with some soon to get it

In what is termed a generational transformation, major bus coach builders in Karur have secured quality assurance accreditation mandated by the Central government for fabricating bus bodies. The certification enjoins on the builders the need for incorporating stringent safety and comfort norms.

There are around 60 coach building units in Karur and many of them have sprung after late 1980s when the industry demanded more coaches for public transport. The novelty, durability, expeditious completion and aesthetic appeal of the coaches fabricated in Karur units have resulted in Karur becoming a major hub of bus coach building in southern India.

With the mushrooming of coach building units not just in Karur but also in other parts of the nation, including Punjab and Karnataka, the Central government decided to regulate the coach building industry to ensure that public transport vehicles were fabricated with safe and quality materials. Accordingly, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways amended the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1988 to introduce categorisation of bus coach builders and implement certain mandatory regulations in coach building aspects, according to former president of the Karur Bus Body Builder Association and a leading coach builder P.Thangaraju.

An important feature of the amendment was that every coach builder has to get accreditation from a Central government-recognised certifying agency specialising in automobile sector. At present there are two such agencies – Central Institute of Road Transport, Pune, and Automotive Research Association of India. The Central notification was to take effect from January 1, 2013; yet-to-be confirmed reports suggest that the cut-off date has been postponed to April.

After the cut-off date, any vehicle fabricated by a non-accredited unit will not be registered by the Transport Department, as mandated by the Central Motor Vehicle Order (Accreditation of Bus Body Builders), 2012. So far in Karur, 13 coach building units have secured the accreditation and some more are on their way to get that soon. Notably even the coach building units under the control of State Transport Corporations must get the accreditation. Also even the design aspect of the coach must be okayed by the certifying agency and only then the coach could be registered.

The agencies would grant accreditation only if the requisite infrastructure, plant, machinery, qualified personnel, and organisational requirements with focus on quality was at the disposal of the coach builder. After ensuring their availability, the coach builders have to apply to the agencies which then would inspect and compile reports to grant accreditation.

Periodic inspections will be carried out to ensure quality of workmanship and administration was maintained, points out Director, Tamil Nadu Chapter of Indian Association of Bus Manufacturers (IABM), T.Muruganandam.

In fact, the amended rules have classified builders into two – chassis/coach manufacturers and fabricators. But for the efforts of IABM, the second category would have never seen the light of day and all coach builders would have been reduced to just vendors to chassis manufacturers who number only in single digits nationwide, notes Mr.Muruganandam.

The Central government’s idea is that public must get safe and quality coaches for mass transport and seen in that sense it is a welcome development, Mr.Thangaraju says.