Hi-tech Licensing Division long overdue

Letter of The Day
Sunday Express
June 3rd 2012
by Rucardo Lijertwood

"Corruption at the Licensing Division will continue unless the archaic system is computerised and modernised,"— so said Transport Commissioner Reuben Cato recently. His comments came after it was confirmed that four Licensing officers attached to the Port of Spain office were detained for questioning by police officers probing corruption in the importation and registration of vehicles.

On Wednesday, February 18, 2009, at the sitting of the House of Representatives, then transport minister Colm Imbert announced that, "Barring unforeseen circumstances, we hope that by the end of this year, 2009, we would be able to implement the new system for renewals, new permits, transfers of vehicles and so on, and then, over the next two years after that, we should be able to fully implement a completely-electronic computerised system for driver's permits and vehicle registration at the Licensing Office".

That was over three years ago, and still nothing, in spite of the availability of hi-tech systems that could be easily implemented. Such systems, known as electronic vehicle registration (EVR) or electronic vehicle identification (EVI), leverage passive RFID (radio frequency identification device) transponders embedded in decals affixed to windshields or other parts of a vehicle.

Fixed RFID interrogators installed at main traffic intersections or alongside roads (and at our soon-to-be-used highway surveillance bays), as well as hand-held readers for use during traffic stops, can read the tags' unique ID numbers and then compare them with information in a back-end database to determine, for instance, who owns the vehicle, whether it is insured and if registration is up-to-date, and taxes and fees are paid up. In addition, tag reads collected over a period of time can help the Transport Ministry better understand traffic patterns and flow.

In more simplistic terms, before a vehicle leaves the port (new and foreign-used), the distributor, foreign-used dealer or owner, must acquire and pay for a decal (birth certificate) from the Licensing Authority. There, the main database is updated with the relevant information—make, model, specs, colour, insurance, and could also include a field for last inspection date to tie into inspection garages when required, etc, and a number assigned to that vehicle—maybe alphanumeric or by county as in Barbados.

The real-time information is relayed to fixed interrogators installed at the relevant ports where the information on the decal will be read and verified before vehicles are allowed to leave the ports. When vehicles are sold or transferred, the transfer form is taken to any office of the licensing authorities for the decal to be electronically updated with the new information. Fixed and hand-held interrogators (like barcode machines) are used during traffic stops or roadblocks.

I am sure a lot of analysis has already gone into the various suppliers and systems that are available, so we need not go through another long pre-qualification and tendering process; just send out the request for proposals to select suppliers as the benefits are obvious.


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