Driver's licence backlog - ITA vows to clear by September

Observer senior reporter

Friday, July 24, 2020

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A HUGE pile-up of driver's licence applications is currently causing delay in the operations of the Island Traffic Authority (ITA). But the agency is hoping to clear the backlog by September.

The problem began the end of March when the Ministry of Transport and Mining suspended driving examinations at the ITA depots islandwide, including testing for the provisional drivers (learner's) licences, yard and road tests, for a period of 14 days.

The changes were seen as supporting the precautionary measures which had been introduced to protect customers as well as employees from the spread of the novel coronavirus, and in keeping with the Ministry of Health and Wellness guidelines.

The ITA resumed testing on June 8, but a month later under the new appointment protocol, there had been an extremely high volume of requests leading to a significant delay in responses.

The ITA reported recently that due to the high volume of requests, the anticipated two-day response time, which was originally outlined, is now taking as long as two weeks for an appointment date to be confirmed.

The ITA said, however, that as it continues to work on a platform to further manage the booking of appointments, it is appealing to the public for patience as the depots manage testing along with other responsibilities.

Acting director at the ITA, Donald Henry, confirmed yesterday that there has been a backlog for some time which has been blamed primarily on the need to follow the protocols instituted by the Ministry of Health to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“There was an unexpected rush. I couldn't say exactly why it was happening, but we have to maintain social distancing protocols to protect workers. We also need to treat with the people who need our services, even though we have not been operating at full capacity due to the pandemic,” he told Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.

“Before this, people could just walk into the depots to deal with their licences, and we could accommodate an unlimited amount of persons. We could accommodate 10-15 people at the same time at Swallowfield and up to 20 in Spanish Town, but maintaining social distancing has cut that by about 50 per cent,” he added.

He said that, in addition, the introduction of online applications has tremendously increased the number of applications flowing into the depots.

“We are getting a flood of applications and we are trying to treat with it, but the situation is the same as the lines at the banks. We are no less, since the pandemic caused the backlog,” he aid.

Henry also noted that since some depots, like Swallowfield, Montego Bay (Flanker) and Spanish Town, are so overcrowded consideration could have been given to sending some of their customers to the depots that are least used, but the legislation would not allow that.

“You have to apply in the parish where you live, so we couldn't use facilities like Morant Bay, Port Antonio and Lucea as options. But we are working tirelessly to get the numbers down to what it was earlier. So I am hoping that by September things will return to normal,” Henry said.

“We hear the cry out there, and we are doing our utmost best to save the public from the extended wait. We are even working on weekends, and we try to respond to every call, but with the online service we are getting applications seven days a week, instead of five,” he told Auto.

“We are working on it, and I am saying to the public just bear with us a little more,” he added.

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