The Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing has suspended some garages from doing inspections in the wake of claims they were passing non-roadworthy vehicles, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said Tuesday.

Privately owned garages began performing vehicle inspections in Cayman in 2007 as lines lengthened at government vehicle licensing facilities in George Town and West Bay.

Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing Director David Dixon told the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee that a dozen private garages do inspections on the government’s behalf.

However, Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo said he was aware that some businesses are not operating above-board.

“What some are in the practice of doing is saying, ‘I’ll pass [the vehicle] for you, but you need to come back and fix these problems’ … making a little business out of it. It may not be rampant, but it does occur.”

Mr. Tibbetts said the government licensing department is well aware of the issue. “The fact of the matter is, some garages have been suspended already,” the minister said, without identifying which facilities have lost their inspection permissions.

Spot checks

Mr. Dixon said the department can “spot check” vehicle licensing operations at garages. If the businesses are not meeting safety or vehicle inspection requirements, their inspections can be suspended for anywhere from three days to six weeks or for an indefinite time, he said.

“Once a garage is found not to be compliant, they are struck off for a period of time,” Mr. Dixon said.

Minister Tibbetts said the spot check process might be seen as an “honor system,” but he indicated it is difficult for the vehicle licensing department to do more with the resources available.

Mr. Dixon said that once a vehicle receives an inspection sticker, the department has no authority to “enforce” issues regarding vehicles that are not roadworthy. However, he said the department can do spot inspections of vehicles if it receives a complaint from the public.

“I wasn’t aware you could do that,” Finance Minister Marco Archer said. “I hope the listening public got that.”

Tailpipe emissions

George Town MLA Winston Connolly asked if Mr. Dixon’s department could check vehicles for things like tailpipe emissions during annual inspections.

Mr. Dixon said mufflers and tailpipes are examined for cracks and no vehicle would pass inspection if was emitting large amounts of black smoke from its exhaust. However, the department does not have the equipment or the legal mandate to test for tailpipe emissions.

Minister Tibbetts said emissions legislation would be required before government could take such a step, and that certain testing equipment would have to be procured. Vehicle licensing staff would also have to be trained to use the equipment.

“It is something that we aspire to, but I don’t see it happening in the immediate [future] because we just don’t have the resources to make it happen,” Mr. Tibbetts said.