Long, draining, inefficient… These are a few words to describe the car checkup process in Lebanon. Most countries require car owners to submit their cars to a periodical mechanical check up to increase road safety. Cars that are up to the standards are given a license or a sticker that proves that these obligations were met. In Lebanon, the government contracts with one private company to do car checkups and mechanic licenses. So what are the consequences of allowing one company to do the job? And are there any different examples of how to run these checkups?
Since the contacted company has the monopoly of offering the service, long waiting hours for clients, low productivity, and infractions become the norm in these facilities.
First, monopoly means there is no competition and no strive for differentiation or excellence. No matter what the quality of the service is, the car owners have nowhere else to go. Being denied this choice, they cannot resort to better alternatives in case they had an unsatisfying experience at the cars checkup. Being protected from competition this company has few subsidiaries that are unable to absorb all the demand on car checkup. So, in all regions of Lebanon long queues and many hours of waiting become inevitable.
The situation gets worse. Many citizens unlawfully postpone this process or send other people to complete the car checkup on their behalf in return for a certain fee. This situation is therefore causing discomfort and incurring extra costs to citizens.
Second, this company being the only resort to people, not much attention will be paid to optimize employees’ performance. That is, most employees would not give their full potential because it would not make a difference. Whatever their behavior is, car owners are obliged by law to come and have their cars checked. In fact, the lack of standards to measure up to and the of incentive to control the quality of the service offered, car checkup employees will become demotivated, unproductive and indifferent. Then again, citizens are going to be suffering and not getting the value of their money.
Third, long queues exhausting and costly processes will lead car owners to seek detours to get things done. This opens the door to many people around these facilities to earn money from illegal business. Which means that customers would have to pay their regular fees in addition to other “getting things done” fees. All of this comes in exchange of a less than perfect service and more likely with a licensed but unsafe car.
Car checkups are machine and labor demanding processes. It would be useful to explore how other countries tackle this issue. In the USA for example, licensed mechanic checkup is open for any garage to apply and get a permit. This is a case of open market and healthy competition: everyone wants to give the best service for the lowest price. And the customer has the free choice to go to any garage and get the sticker. Moreover, Checkups are operated in a decentralized way which saves the people the hours of hard time, and saves the government the expenses related to this process.