New Public transportation regulations in effect, Oct. 1
With the Commerce Commission board failing to meet a quorum, Gov. Togiola Tulafono says there is not much anyone can do unless there are members of the board to address pending issues.
Among those issues was the request for a temporary delay in the implementation of public transportation regulations that went into effect on Oct. 1, said a senior government official late last week.
Togiola had nominated Vaiausia E. Yandall, Fa’alae Tunupopo and Foinu’u Folauo’o as new members of the Commerce Commission, the government agency charged with overseeing public transportation such as taxis and aiga buses.
However, the nominees failed to muster a majority of “yes” votes in a Senate confirmation hearing and were all rejected on Sept. 26. This left the board with no quorum to take up any new business or delay any pending regulations already approved.
A fourth member of the board is a member of the private sector. Also on the board is one representative of the Commerce Department and one from the Department of Public Safety.
The senior ASG official says that the three nominees rejected by the Senate were very active on the board and they were still in discussion on a number of issues.
“The Commission is now on hold to see if the governor will resubmit the same individuals or new nominations for a special session,” the official said. (The governor had said that he plans to call a special session to convene on Oct. 22, but the agenda of issues for Fono consideration have yet to be made public.)
On his radio program two weekends ago, the issue of banning dark tint for commercial vehicles — namely taxis — was raised by a caller, who identified himself as a taxi driver. Similar calls were made to the radio program prior to Oct. 1, the date to begin enforcing this regulation.
Taxi drivers who called the radio program urged the Commerce Commission and the governor to reconsider this decision, saying that they need tint to keep their taxis cooler inside and there are many customers who prefer a tinted and air conditioned vehicle.
Togiola said that the three nominees were rejected by the Senate and this means that the Commission cannot convene to discuss the tint issue until the Fono returns in January.
The governor also pointed out that there is a clear misunderstanding by taxi drivers, who complained that the government is prohibiting tinting on commercial vehicles. He said this is not the case, adding that the regulation is to ban dark-tinting of windows and it's for safety reasons.
He said the ban of “very dark” tint is because drivers cannot see outside to their side view mirror or from the inside back view mirror at night, making driving hazardous. For example, he said, there are cases where a person or vehicle close to the dark tinted taxi got hurt because the taxi driver couldn't see clearly at night from inside the taxi.
The governor also said the very dark tint applies across the board for personal and commercial vehicles and one of the vehicles for the Government Housing is affected by the law and the dark tint will be removed.
Among the Commerce Commission rules that went into effect on Oct. 1 is the prohibition of smoking in commercial vehicles. Another rule requires drivers to post inside the commercial vehicle photo identification and also provide their rate schedule upon request by a passenger.
Another rule sets the maximum occupancy limit in buses and prohibits passengers from standing, or sitting on the floor or steps of the bus. Under amended rules, a commercial vehicle will include pickup trucks carrying placard-able amounts of hazardous materials.
A complete set of new rules can be obtained from the Department of Commerce at the A.P. Lutali Executive Office Building in Utulei.