DPS addresses issue of forged medical certificates for commercial drivers
The issue of forged medical certificates for aiga bus drivers was among the many topics discussed during the special meeting held at the Fagatogo Marketplace conference room on Thursday afternoon to discuss safety and legal issues surrounding commercial vehicles.
(See yesterday’s edition of the Samoa News for full details regarding seat belts).
One of the requirements for commercial drivers is a valid medical certificate. This, according to a DPS source, is necessary in order to ensure that the driver does not suffer from any physical or medical ailment that could hinder the proper operation of a commercial vehicle (i.e. vision problems and other medical conditions like seizures, heart problems, etc.)
DPS Office of Highway Safety Program Coordinator Fred Scanlan raised the issue and explained that permits for commercial drivers require a valid medical certificate.
He said that although the form they are using is wrong, this is not where the problem lies. Instead, it is through the exchange of hands from one agency to the next where loopholes are being found.
The proper procedure for obtaining a medical certificate routes the paperwork from the Department of Public Safety to the LBJ Medical Center and finally, the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV).
However, Scanlan explained, duplicates have been discovered and forged signatures have surfaced.
"We want to protect the integrity of the process by tightening up to ensure that everything is done right, and done legally," he said.
According to Scanlan, some people are opting to take the wrong route, taking shortcuts in the process and therefore, producing medical certificates that are forged and essentially, illegal.
"We want solutions," said Scanlan. "There need to be established policies in place that people can adhere to."
He proposed that in order to provide a little control over the situation, a number will be issued to each applicant to take to the hospital where a signature will be required before a representative from DPS will pick it up and hand carry it to the OMV.
Scanlan said not only have they discovered forged medical certificates, some of the paperwork are photocopied and some include sections that have been whited out.
A suggestion was made to have all medical certificates issued once a year, meaning all commercial drivers will apply for their medical certificates in one day— from the doctor to the OMV, "all in one shot."
MCSAP acting coordinator Asulu Faleafine Solo and Lt. Fau Maiava reminded all commercial vehicle owners who were present at the meeting that "it is the owner's responsibility to ensure that their drivers have valid medical certificates."
Besides medical certificates, the issue with certifying local bus builders was also raised. One bus owner said his bus was built by a licensed carpenter, not a certified bus builder.
Scanlan agreed and referred to the Commerce Commission which he said should include the membership of a representative from aiga bus community - an owner or bus builder - who will be the voice of local commercial vehicle owners and operators.
Earlier in the meeting, the issue of requiring all aiga buses to be equipped with seat belts and emergency exits was discussed. Scanlan said all these things are issues that need to be addressed in order for the territory to be in compliance with federal standards and requirements.
He said grant funding is being funneled into the territory to enhance and promote road safety programs but if American Samoa does not comply, the federal funding will be cut—that’s the bottom line.
He said there have been talks about getting rid of aiga buses altogether but “how can we enforce something that has no law specifically pertaining to it?” For example, he said, law enforcement officers can’t ticket bus drivers for not wearing seat belts and bus owners can’t be cited for not having emergency exits installed because there are no laws specifying that these need to be installed in aiga buses.
“We can’t issue citations for things involving a bus that arguably, could be illegal to operate,” Scanlan told Samoa News.
He pointed out that there are statutes in the law that can be amended, and he is pushing for the commercial vehicle community to be represented on the Commerce Commission which he says can pass their own administrative statutes and don’t require Fono approval.
“We need the right people in the right places to get things moving,” Scanlan said. “We can submit suggestions and writings to the Commerce Commission— things that are tailored to us.”
(See Tuesday’s edition of Samoa News for the third and final part of the meeting).
THE NEW COMMENTS PROCESS
To make comments, you will need to register. You can register under your real name or use a 'screen' name. This way, people will be able to follow comments and make comments back and forth to each other. If you choose to use a 'screen name' no one will know your true identity. In either case, no email addresses will be available to anyone. It is an automated process. If you have questions, email: email@example.com
You currently are not logged in, please LOGIN to post comments.