Vehicle Inspections Across Countries

Salar Komeyshi |

There is no global standard for vehicle inspections. Requirements vary by country and industry, and differ depending on whether the inspection is for roadworthiness, insurance purposes, or fleet management.

This article provides an overview of the mandatory vehicle inspection landscape, focusing on regulations for roadworthiness through Periodic Technical Inspection (PTI). Additionally, it examines how public institutions and the automotive industry are moving towards standardized processes to address the challenges of divergent inspection criteria.


In the US, there are no mandatory Periodic Technical Inspections (PTI), so only about half the states have implemented them independently. Most countries, however, require periodic inspections, with varying guidelines regarding frequency, test content, and inspector qualifications. In some countries, like Denmark, private companies perform scheduled PTIs at their own sites with varying prices. Others centralize the service through a single private company, as in Spain, or integrate it into the governmental public structure, like in China.

International Organizations Strive for Harmony

Driven by global cooperation to reduce the effects of climate change, international organizations like the European Union and the United Nations have developed legal frameworks and guidelines to standardize vehicle regulations regarding road safety and environmental impact among their member states.

The EU has established a roadworthiness legislation package that sets ground rules for periodic vehicle tests, including a detailed list of minimum requirements regarding inspection frequency, test content and methods, testing center and equipment characteristics, and inspector competencies.

The UN’s World Forum for the Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) has developed Global Technical Regulations (GTRs) with standardised performance requirements, focusing on Light Vehicles Test Procedures (GTR number 15). Unlike the EU directive, UN regulations are not legally binding, so each country can choose if and how to apply them.

Different Industry Standards

Different industry standards in the automotive sector create a complex web of relationships between local and global actors. Vehicle inspections typically involve three main industries: automotive, logistics, and financial services. Best practice standards follow from the requirements of the relevant parties in each situation.

The Automotive Industry and Safety Standards: Your Basic Vehicle Inspection

At its core, a PTI ensures the vehicle is safe to drive on public roads and within acceptable CO2 emission limits. It is a detailed and methodical procedure, but the rulebook differs in each country.

Many public institutions and private inspection companies worldwide have joined an international association, CITA, which serves as a professional forum on all matters related to mandatory road vehicle compliance. The goal is to make sense of legal requirements, technological advances, and industry challenges, and to agree on common strategies for regular car inspections.

The Financial Industry and Costing: Car Rental or Car Accident

Regular safety inspections are the baseline. A functional car in good condition undergoes a check-up to ensure all components are in good order, avoiding safety issues and accidents. In the event of a car accident, the vehicle must pass several inspections before it can return to circulation. The first inspection assesses damage for insurance purposes, focusing on costs rather than safety. The second inspection is a high-level PTI performed at a certified center, focusing on structural damage and repair quality.

Attention to detail is even higher when renting a vehicle. Car rental insurance providers demand detailed inspections to note every scratch, bump, tear, leak, or noise before and after handing a car to a new customer. Each new damage is catalogued and priced, and a bill is sent to the customer. This practice also applies to car-sharing services and leasing.

Logistics Industry and Liability: Car Damage During Transportation

For logistics, liability is the main concern. Beyond repair costs, if goods are damaged during transportation, they might not be accepted upon arrival, causing economic loss and damaging trust and reputation. Accurately assigning responsibility for any damage is crucial in routine handovers and regular fleet inspections.

The Association of European Vehicle Logistics (ECG) and the US Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) represent the two largest markets for finished vehicle logistics. They have collaborated since 2007, developing processes and manuals together. This includes detailed documents on digital handover manuals, visual inspection guidelines, and transport damage reporting. They have also created standardized damage codes shared worldwide across the supply chain.

The Importance of Vehicle Inspection Standards

Periodic Technical Inspections (PTIs) are performed by many companies worldwide daily. The rulebook for inspections is precise, with numerous checkpoints to ensure the car is safe to drive and complies with national and international environmental requirements. Inspections related to insurance claims or supply chain logistics are even more detailed to accurately budget repair costs and damage compensations, and to determine liability.

Standardization in a globalized world facilitates smooth supply chain management, transparent international legal compliance, and easier B2B collaboration. For individuals, standardization means transparency, helping protect against unexpected or unjustified costs and liabilities.

The Contribution of AI-based Solutions to Standardization

Both private and public actors aim to achieve a common language for vehicle inspections globally. Ensuring quick, easy, and accurate data sharing is a challenge.

Digitalization has been key, with previously physical data now readily available in digital databases. Artificial Intelligence (AI) enhances the ability to process large amounts of data into valuable insights. For example, focalx’s Machine Learning (ML) solution creates accurate reports on each car’s condition, providing a rich database for better fleet management decision-making.

ML tools like those we developed at focalx are highly adaptable, incorporating industry standards and legal requirements. This flexibility makes such solutions valuable for standardization, applicable in various scenarios. An AI trained to locate, categorize, and log car damage can be integrated into different workflows and systems, benefiting PTIs, car rental handovers, car-sharing services, and corporate fleets.

Developing an AI solution that works across various vehicle inspection frameworks presents challenges. At focalx, we have created a unique tool, developed with customer feedback, to produce accurate models capable of examining any vehicle in different visibility conditions, detecting and categorizing numerous damages while ignoring irrelevant inputs like shadows or dirt.

Conclusion

Periodic Technical Inspections (PTIs) are mandatory in most parts of the world, although rules vary by country. International organizations like the EU and the UN are working to harmonize the process through global legal frameworks. While PTIs are the most regulated area, other types of vehicle inspections, such as handovers, fleet management, and insurance claim inspections, also benefit from standardized procedures.

International private associations in the PTI sector and logistics industry are incorporating legal requirements and developing industry standards to combat climate change, ensure car safety worldwide, and facilitate international business.

The journey towards standardization is accelerating due to advancements in digitalization. AI-based solutions offer flexibility, speed, and accuracy, aiding in sharing and analysing data, and developing and applying standards to various vehicle inspection scenarios.