Fee hikes for annual vehicle safety checks are a balancing act between covering the administrative and inspection costs while not overburdening a public that often resists increases in state fees and taxes, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said Monday.
Statewide public hearings are set for 11 a.m. Thursday to take public comment on the proposed fee increases. The hearings, which will be linked through videoconference from sites on each island, will be held at the Department of Transportation Highways Division office at 50 Makaala St. in Hilo and at Kona International Airport.
“Of course the public doesn’t want to see any fees increased,” said DOT spokeswoman Carolyn Sluyter. “But it is hard for the people that do the inspections.”
A six-month backlog in updating safety inspection reports in the vehicle registration database has prompted the state to move to an electronic system that will add $4.49 to the cost of an inspection and create new requirements for inspection stations. The system means that local inspection stations must train personnel on the use of hand-held tablets and new electronic reporting systems.
The changes, which would bring the cost of inspecting an automobile or truck to $19.19 and motorcycles or trailers to $13.24, are targeted to go into effect before the end of the year. Fees for motor vehicle inspections have not been increased since the 1980s.
The fee increase would be split with the state receiving $1.70, the contractor for the electronic tablets and printer system receiving $1.69 and the inspection station receiving an extra $1.10, said Sluyter.
The electronic system, which will print stickers bearing the registration number of the vehicle, will also deter fraud, proponents say.
The contractor, Parsons, an international engineering and management services firm that does a lot of work for the military in Hawaii, will provide tablet computers, printers and routers to each inspection station. The company’s compensation comes only from its share of the inspection fee, Sluyter said.
Under the draft rules, inspection stations would get to keep $15.80. Hourly fees for work in West Hawaii shops start around $80, and technician fees start around $10 an hour, making it difficult for some owners to justify being inspection stations.
Inspection station owners have complained for years that the portion of the safety check fee they get to keep doesn’t come close to covering their costs.
There are so many problems with the current inspection process that it should be fixed before something new is tried, Raymond Ciriako, owner of Precision Auto in Kailua-Kona, told West Hawaii Today earlier this year.
“The safety inspections don’t work. We need to learn how to walk before we can run,” Ciriako said. “We’re basically helping out the state. We’re still doing the same inspections.”
The proposed rule changes can be found at hidot.hawaii.gov/highways/files/2013/06/HAR19-133.2-to-Gov-6-7-13.pdf.
DOT is accepting written comments on the new rules through Oct. 14. They can be mailed to Hawaii Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Safety Office, Room 511, 601 Kamokila Blvd., Kapolei, HI 96707.