Letters to the Editor

Reorganise or close the Transport Authority

Friday, December 14, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

Head of the Police Traffic Division, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, has said, "We are going to ensure that they are in full compliance of the Road Traffic Act."

Most of the commercial vehicle owners are small business operators - from observation most large firms have their fleets carrying commercial "green plates".

The fee charged at the Transport Authority (TA) for commercial vehicles is $14,000, and plates of whatever colour are issued by the tax offices. To license a three-ton van at the tax office costs $10,500. The TA fee expires March 31 each year, so if you pay now you would be getting three months for your $14,000. It is not prorated like customs duties, vehicle insurance or your licensing fees.

I would recommend that:

* The responsible ministers, Omar Davies and Peter Phillips, review the policies of this department, because they have implications for production and productivity in Jamaica, where so many workers depend on public transport. A concessionary duty rate of 20 per cent or duty-free importation of vehicles by holders of valid commercial licences and registered functional businesses should be allowed.

* The TA's function of collecting fees be transferred to the more efficient Tax Administration Department.

* The responsibility for planning and influencing transport policy from a more scientific basis be moved as a department to the Planning Institute of Jamaica instead of the present approach.

* The qualified "enforcers" on the road could be incorporated into the Jamaica Constabulary Force or the ISCF and create a Public Transportation and Litter Division of the JCF and ISCF combined.

* Seizure of vehicles should be determined by some higher competent authority like the courts.

* A special commercial vehicle licensing fee should be considered: the regular licensing fee could be moved up by 10 or 15 per cent, with an increase of not more than 7.5 per cent per year.

* All vans, pickups, trailers and trucks should attract a commercially prorated licensing fee, no matter the colour of the plate. This would mean a rollback of the rates for some vehicles.

* Fees should be also be prorated in terms of date, public commercial, private commercial, size of vehicles and the option of quarterly or half-yearly payments instead of the present mandatory yearly payments.

There could be an added feature of a monthly rate, weekly rate or a daily rate for people who engage in temporary or periodic commercial activity. This would eliminate the small farmer 's vehicle being seized while taking a bag of feed for his pigs or for transporting a refrigerator just bought at an appliance store.

Make these fees available at the tax offices, post offices or at any of the money-collecting agencies. That would enable more people to operate within the Road Traffic and Transport Authority Acts. Charges could also be reduced while increasing collections more efficiently with less trauma and administrative costs.

The TA increases bureaucracy, thus increasing the cost of doing business. This should be regularised as part of the tax reform package. Cost savings on stationery, energy and manpower are a win-win for the government and the tax-paying public.

Senior Superintendent of Police Radcliffe Lewis would do less ranting if the government decided to re-arrange, re-organise or close the Transport Authority.

Michael Spence

Kingston 6






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