To the Source,
Recent news reported in the media that the Division of Motor Vehicles has been unable to renew or issue car registrations is distressing. The fact that this problem has persisted since the November rains is even more distressing. This problem is not new at the Motor Vehicle Bureau and happens all too regularly at each of the three island locations. Camera breakdowns, computer breakdowns, funding problems, equipment failures, etc. have plagued this vital government service for donkey years.
It is time for a change, and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs is proposing to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull a plan that will bring that agency into the 21st century. We are proposing to privatize the inspection of private motor vehicles by certified garages.
This system of inspection has proved very successful in the States, and there is no reason we can't do it here. It will provide better service, tax revenues to the government and more thorough testing procedures.
DLCA's Division of Weights and Measures and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement inspectors would certify and regularly inspect these certified garages for compliance to regulations. The Motor Carrier department inspectors would continue to do inspection of commercial vehicles, ensuring that all taxis, commercial trucks, backhoes, etc. meet federal Department of Transportation standards and local regulations. In all cases DLCA will be notified electronically when a vehicle has been inspected and approved for issuance of a valid registration.
The issuance of drivers' licenses can be done electronically. With the exception of your initial license (when a photograph is necessary), all documentation and data gathering can be done online. All other services provided by DMV can also be done electronically from anywhere a person has access to a computer and Internet service. Those needing to come into the office will still have that access; however, all data will still be captured on the Internet and transferred to our secure internal database.
Recent comments about losing the DMV data during the floods is just poor management procedures. Our agency has redundancy with all our data and stores it in many separate locations to insure its protection.
DLCA is in the initial planning stages of an online licensing outreach capability. Part of our original three-stage plan (Web site development, online licensing, and public access) to introduce e-government to the Virgin Islands was to set up licensing kiosks in malls, government offices, libraries and other public locations. This would enable those without access to computers to avail themselves of the ease of licensing online.
The addition of driver's license renewal and related services to this database request would be simple and cost effective. The designer of our current software for our licensing network proposed a similar program for the Motor Vehicle Bureau some time ago but has not heard back from them. He assured me that within 90 days DLCA could implement this program through our current Web site and database system.
DLCA is the pioneer in Web-based solutions for faster, more cost-efficient and user-friendly delivery of government information and services. I can assure you that for the Division of Motor Vehicles to start from scratch in providing these improvements and services, they are many dollars and months, if not years, away from implementation. Why reinvent the wheel?
DLCA has spent the time, done the research, experienced the trial and error, invested the money, and has current online experience to get the job done. The 36 current Motor Vehicle Bureau employees (on the Police Department payroll) could be redeployed to do police work, adding to the capabilities of policing our islands. DLCA would need only six additional employees to handle these additional responsibilities.
These new jobs would be for inspectors of garage facilities for car inspection compliance issues. Our current licensing staff can handle the licensing data entries and electronic issuing process. The only additional costs for DLCA would be hardware and software upgrades, at well under the $100,000 proposed to buy new equipment for DMV. The current DMV budget is just under $1,000,000, and if you add additional costs for building upgrades and plant improvements, it skyrockets even higher. Spend that money on police equipment and new recruits, and let us do what we do best — licensing!
We, of course, would eliminate some of the unnecessary steps currently required to secure a valid Virgin Islands license. There would be a one-time test for new drivers in the Virgin Islands. Anyone possessing a current valid license from another jurisdiction would merely have to produce that license and receive a copy of the Virgin Islands Rules of the Road. Once done, the applicant will be issued a valid Virgin Island license.
It makes no sense to me or to the many others that I have consulted on this issue to make someone who has driven for many years to sit a test again. A booklet with all the pertinent Virgin Islands laws and regulations should suffice. Additional conditions and restrictions would apply to drivers over 65 years of age (vision tests); drivers with serious traffic violations such as moving violations, driving while under the influence, frequent accidents, etc.; and those under 21 years of age.
Licensing anything should not be an obstacle course. The process should be effective and efficient. Revenues (fees, penalties and miscellaneous collections) should pay for the expenses of the agency providing the service and contribute to the General Fund for those expenses incurred by non-revenue-generating agencies.
Recent announcements by the Police Department that a major overhaul is being planned for Motor Vehicle is "a day late and a dollar short." Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars is not the solution. We would only get a more expensive "Window A," "Window B," "Window C," and "Window D." Our solution would have no Windows; only satisfied customers.
Andrew Rutnik, Commissioner
Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs
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