The Department of Motor Vehicles Building features its new LOGO
Fraser was instrumental in having this Department of Government move into his District. It is an absolute first in the District's existance, and is a definite catalist to the further development of the District.
Fraser (photoed below): inspects newly installed Flag Poles
The decision to move the Department here to Pockwood Pond has in
addition to solving the obvious space problem experienced in Road Town, serves as a stimulus to the economy
in the area. It likewise serves as
a catalyst for other forms of commerce, as evidenced by the other developments
being completed next door.
This new building will cater to far more waiting seated
comfortably; there will be more service windows; proper testing facilities; more
privacy; and more services.
DMV BUILDING OPENING CEREMONY
Hon Julian Fraser, RA
Minister for Communications and Works
Representative for The 3rd District
December 20th 2010
Honorable Ralph T. O’Neal; Premier
Members of the Cabinet
Other Members of the House of Assembly
Senior Public Servants
Some of us, not many of us would recall the days when the functions of this Department were executed by the Police. I recall vividly going to the Police Station on Main Street between the Anglican and Methodist Churches to get my license, first for Motorcycle and then for a Motor Vehicle.
Inarguably, much has changed since those days; for we have seen the unit become a full fledge Department that was no longer under the control of the Police / Governor, but instead under a Minister.
We have moved from issuing to successful applicants a booklet as representation of proof of licensure, to issuing a simple Credit Card size document, which is in keeping with what obtains in the rest of the modern world.
We can also recall those yellow sheet metal License Plates with black letters that could no longer fit in the spaces provided by the vehicle manufacturer, thus the current style plates used today.
So one would be hard pressed to find someone who can claim that changes hadn’t taken place, matter of fact I wish to go on record saying that significant changes had taken place. I would like to refer to those changes as the evolutionary period of the Department.
During the time of the 2007 Elections Campaign, members of the Virgin Islands Party, myself included, met at Prospect Reef Resort with a large group of Taxi Operators, and the message was, that the industry was over ran by illegal operators and that they were desirous of a solution.
We made the promise, that if we were elected to Government we would fix the problem.
Well, we were elected to Government, we found the problem, and we proceeded to fix it.
What we found was nothing new to me, because when I got to the Ministry of Communications and Works in 2002 I met the problem there, and when I left in 2003 it was still there.
The problem was that persons were allowed to infiltrate the passenger for hire or Taxi Business, without actually having a Taxi License. They did it by obtaining a Commercial License Plate.
Originally this was allowed with good intentions, since the target was just the Tour Operators, who had the need to move large groups on a prearranged basis, where no fees were collected.
This simply got out of hand when individuals decided to stretch the crack that that special privilege developed within the system, and started Taxiing outright, thus bringing the fight between Commercial Plate users and Taxi Operators to a head.
And who did they expect to fix it? If your guess was the Government, you are absolutely correct.
Just to show you how crafty those individuals were in beating the system, someone wishing to Taxi illegally, would simply obtain a Trade License, for anything, say Landscaping, not picking on Landscapers, and once they present a Trade License to the Vehicle Licensing Department they were issued a CM Plate.
Once armed with this CM Plate, it was then as simple as having it mounted on a Van, a Car, a Safari, or whatever, and they were off Taxiing.
As Minister for Communications and Works, I had two options, one was to leave the situation as I found it, and the other was to genuinely and sincerely attempt to fix it. My decision was the latter.
In tackling the problem I found that it was the Taxi Operators against the CM Plate Users, both of whom saw no room for compromise. The Taxi Operators used the argument that the CM Plates were illegal, and therefore the solution was simple. Just get rid of them.
Of course that could not happen, because by this time a whole new industry had been allow to develop, and businesses were formed and were
operating fully. These people had well established Tour Services; and Shuttle Services in operation.
The CM Plate operators on the other hand, demanded that they be given the same rights as the Taxi Operators, which was the right to collect a fare, pick-up and drop off passengers, control an unlimited fleet size, while at the same time utilizing Non-Belongers as Drivers.
This too could not obtain, for this would have meant the creation of a Super-Taxi Service giving them dominance over the industry, when in fact the intent is to maintain the reverse.
What we did over a period of months of discussions with the Industry Professionals, and related Associations; together with several other Meetings, was to create a new Passenger Transport Category called LIVERY”, with four distinct groups, namely: Bus, Limousine, Tour, and Shuttle, each to accommodate the specific service stated.
With this new system, the rules for these services are spelled out in Legislation, and there is no ambiguity as to whether they can or cannot TXAI.
In our view, both sides were able to survive, but under separate identities with very different mandates.
This Legislation came into effect on August 31st 2009, and with the cooperation of all involved, I continue to make adjustments where necessary.
Today we can boast, that while not at 100% yet, we have been able to clean up the industry by as much as 98%, the other 2% will come when the Taxi and Livery Commission is formed.
With the Department’s move here today, I am pleased to announce that the Secretariat for the Commission will have its presence established with limited operations as it awaits the formation of the Commission.
I am also pleased to announce, that I have Designated The Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Communications and Works Ferdinand as Director of the Secretariat.
Ms. Ferdinand has been the Pilot of this entire revolution that has taken place with the Motor Vehicles Department, from Draft Legislation, to Passage, to Implementation; and to what you see here today.
No one else knows better what is left to be done than Ms. Ferdinand. Likewise, no one else knows better, the provisions of these Revised Legislations than Ms. Ferdinand. In other words, Ms. Ferdinand is the face of this revolution.
And that is why she will be moving down here, at least in the initial stages of the transition to make sure that the Agenda of the Minister is understood and carried out.
Just Saturday Night a Taxi Driver informed me that even after I had made clear, publicly that the Taxi Drivers who wish to obtain a white plate are free to do so, they were still being told at the Department that there was no option.
That type of misinformation I hope to avoid by having her presence here on site.
The Ministry has also implemented a series of other initiatives in order to make the Department more visible and user friendly.
In an attempt to exercise better control over the Identity of Motor Vehicles, we have introduced a new License Plate numbering system for Non-Commercial Vehicles together with a different color scheme.
That new scheme allows us to match the number of vehicles that are actually on the road, with the numbers being displayed on vehicles.
For example, the License Plates at one point being used were up to PV 25000 plus, when in fact there are less than 15,000 such vehicles on the roads.
We have also introduced a Personalized Plate; a Professional Plate; and a Plate for Government Statutory Bodies. And of course, there is the Taxi Plate which features the Baths in Virgin Gorda as the background.
Government has a responsibility to the people it serves, and part of that responsibility is to ensure that people are provided with an adequate supply of goods and services in a satisfactory manner; another part of that responsibility is to find ways to stimulate economies for its Citizens.
I see this move here to Pockwood Pond as fulfilling those two basic needs.
People complain about the services at the Department, they complain bout the attitudes of the staff, but no one ever mention the conditions under which the staff is asked to deliver the services requested.
It is no secret that the past location had out lived its period of usefulness. My wife one day commented to me that one day she went to the Department and enquired of two young ladies as to how they were able to fit into a shared space, let alone do their work.
The truth was that one had to wait until the other left the space, in order for them to utilize the single desk and chair.
While at times the waiting line may number as many as fifty, the waiting area could only accommodate five or six, so people found themselves out
the door, and many times down the stairs waiting to be served.
One day a Member of the House of Assembly, who shall remain nameless, commented to me that they had gone to the Vehicle Licensing Department and stood in line for over thirty minutes, and not even received as much as an acknowledgement, so they left.
Upon learning of their experience I arranged for the appropriate treatment to be meted out to the Member.
Staff being asked to deal with matters that are not clearly supported by Legislation, also created frustration, and it is not always possible to mask frustration, in which case the customers are the victims.
The Department not being equipped with modern Motor Vehicles
Department technology is in itself frustrating, both to the Customer and the
Staff, for it results in unnecessary waiting time, and more work for the
As long as we are unable to reduce wait time, we will continue to be criticized. We therefore must see to this facility being fully computerized, and fast.
The BVI is small when compared to other places, but no one can deny that we are playing on a Major League Field.
That point can best be made through simple reference to the performance of our Financial Services Sector; our Telecommunications Network; and the presence of the Commercial Court.
Those are the types of Businesses we are attracting to the territory, and when people come here, that’s the type of services they expect.
The decision to move the Department here to Pockwood Pond has in
addition to solving the obvious space problem experienced in Road Town, serves as a stimulus to the economy in the area. It likewise serves as a catalyst for other forms of commerce, as evidenced by the other developments being completed next door.
This new building will cater to far more waiting seated comfortably; there will be more service windows; proper testing facilities; more privacy; and more services.
Some has gone as far as to criticize the move to Pockwood Pond by saying that it is too far, but some of these people are guilty of bypassing the opportunity to catch the ferry in Road Town, and drive to West End to catch the same ferry to go to St. Thomas. Just a small observation, and
there are many more.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t take the time to acknowledge some people whose lives I have disrupted on this journey, one such person is Mr. Nyadu of the Attorney General’s Chambers.
That gentleman has been angered, though not visibly, cajoled, praised, and thanked for his wisdom and willingness to please. I know of the marathon sessions he and Ms. Ferdinand has been having, even while back in his native Ghana on leave.
It is in working with that Department I learn to appreciate that words do matter, so when I dig my heels in for words like Belonger; Virgin Islander; May and Shall, I had better be prepared to convince the Draftsman of my reason.
We at the Ministry felt that the limits to which this Department are being extended in order to include, but not necessarily limited to:
The Administration of Road Traffic Markings; The overall vision for Public
Transportation including Taxi and Livery Services; responsibility for all Motor Vehicles matters; Traffic Regulations, and Enforcement, that the Name Vehicle Licensing Department was not representative of its functions.
Thus the change in name to Department of Motor Vehicles: a name that is all encompassing.
None of what you see hare is by chance, careful considerations has been given to each and every decision taken in these developments, including
the potential consequences.
I recall one of our first decisions when the thought came to take this
Department to the 21st Century; was to send both the Chief Licensing Officer, soon to be called Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, and Deputy Secretary Ferdinand to do a review of a similar facility in another jurisdiction. They wisely chose Tallahassee Florida, for the dividends continue to flow.
In addition to seeing first hand how a modern facility operates, they were able to go behind the scenes and learn what it takes to make it work.
They were also fortunate to attend a conference on how the vast networking of Automobile Registration ties in on a national level, and meet the major supplies of the various systems within the operation.
With that background and knowledge, they were able to convince me of the need to broaden our base, become more proactive, include the community by adding more services, and change our image.
To that end: a new building, more space, more services, new attitudes, and a new name, for us mean better service to our customers.
In closing, let me acknowledge that a major part of the issues experienced with traffic matters comes from lack of enforcement, and that we are
determined to seek a solution to that vexing problem.
We continue to have difficulties after having put laws in place and having to see them violated at will. Taxi Operators complain about violators of the Tariff; Drivers continue to deface License Plates; Drivers stop anywhere anyhow obstructing traffic; Drivers running Red Lights; vehicles on the roads without insurance; people transporting waste and other materials improperly, and on and on the complaints continue.
As you will recall, I took a Bill to the House of Assembly seeking to reinstate the Traffic Warden System within this Department, but was
withdrawn due to some opposition to the provision granting the Traffic Wardens powers equivalent to the Police as pertains to Traffic.
My views on that matter remain unchanged, and until such time as this Department regains some level of control over the enforcement of Traffic
Laws, nothing is going to change. Speed Bumps are not the answer, even though they remain our best option as of now.
To that end, the Ministry is currently in the process of preparing Comprehensive Draft Legislation for the proper establishment of a Traffic Wardens Unit, and expects to have them Introduced in the House of
Assembly before year’s end.
I thank you all for coming, enjoy your tour of the building, join us for refreshments, and have a pleasant evening.