Looking at a similar V2Gov system in Australia, Kelly Kimball questions how Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens will fare once stickerless car registration goes into effect.
By Kelly Kimball, Chairman & Co-Founder, Motor Vehicle Software Corporation (MVSC)
December 30, 2016 is the last day for Pennsylvania drivers to get actual registration stickers on their cars. By the next day, December 31, the state is eliminating the need for hard copies on automobiles. It’s smartly going fully digital with the introduction of Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) technology in its police vehicles and on the roads. This system electronically reads an automobile’s plate to determine whether it’s expired, among other things. By going stickerless, the state saves up to $1 million per year. The benefit to drivers is the ability to renew their registration online via computer or mobile device in addition to traditional mailing. They then have the option to immediately print out and sign a valid updated reg card if they so choose. The digital choice adds convenience and speeds up the process for vehicle owners, the DMV and law enforcement.
This is a great solution to a system that is too often stuck in a bottleneck of paperwork and bureaucracy. And there’s probably no bigger champion for moving to eGovernment today than I. This Penn State University-researched program doesn’t just take care about process gridlock. It makes money for the state with the savings in admin costs and the fees collected on expired plates. Cops will be able to catch violators sooner and immediately start charging penalties before drivers even notice. And this makes me think of a similar system being implemented Down Under.
The state of South Australia (SA) is now stickerless and it’s making that region a lot of money. It began back in 2011 and in that year alone, the number of unregistered and uninsured vehicles rose 50 percent from the previous year and the government made $12 million AUD in late fees. As of 2014-2015, those figures hit $19 million, all of which is good news for SA’s bottom line. It’s also saved up to $2 million per year in administrative costs since going digital. But, as I really thought about it, I started wondering where – or, better yet, who – those penalty fees are coming from.
Residents of SA are hit by as much as $1,000 in late charges – $404 for an expired car registration and $696 for being uninsured. Of course, if you’ve got the money, you probably won’t incur penalties or paying them is no big deal. But if you don’t, then that $1,000 (which translates to approximately $1,300 USD) hurts a lot.
Ever since reading about SA and learning more about how much money it’s taking in, I’ve been struggling with what this means for so many people already burdened by more financial obligations than they can handle.
It’s possible that the ALPR system will work so well that any Pennsylvanian driving with an expired car registration or lapsed insurance has a 100 percent chance of getting caught. The readers automatically send that information to state authorities and penalty fees are immediately calculated, bills and citations quickly sent out. Just as in South Australia, Pennsylvania is planning to catch expired registrations faster, imposing more late charges that compound over time. And that takes us to the “who” of that money. Because, as is usually the case, it’s an area’s poorest, most economically-strapped drivers who are most hard hit with things like expired registration and uninsured penalties.
When using technology to enforce compliance, governments need to take a look at why people aren’t abiding by the new laws and regulations. If every single offending driver actually intends to skirt the law then simply implementing new technology would take care of the problem. But noncompliance isn’t that simple. It never has been.
More often than not, there’s no malice, no hidden agenda and nothing duplicitous. It’s as simple as that annual lump sum fee’s being too much to bear when faced with having to choose between feeding the family this month or paying yearly car charges. There are times when the money just isn’t there, no matter the intent. And when that happens, piling on more financial woes creates that much more angst and confusion, even leading to more penalties and infractions. It’s the domino theory.
But there is a solution to all of this. It’s something SA is now doing and it’s simple.
In SA, drivers have the option to choose an automatic monthly debit from their bank or credit cards to cover their car registration and/or license renewal fees. The ability to amortize payments over time sets drivers up for success in complying with the state’s regulations. It also alleviates the stress that comes from worrying about losing reliable and, often, the only form of transportation to work in order to make money to survive.
Everyone knows that failure to pay your car registration on time quickly turns into a nightmare of escalating late charges. With new license recognition, there’s the added potential for being stopped by authorities and the penalties that can result from traffic tickets and perhaps even having your car impounded. Who can afford towing and storage costs when they can’t even make enough to cover the registration fees in the first place?
Just as Pennsylvania is following SA’s stickerless example, to a certain extent, it can also easily set up a monthly payment option for its drivers. It gives everyone a chance to successfully handle his or her renewals. Sure, it’ll require certain administrative responsibilities that are irritating to state officials and, yes, it may mean millions instead of tens of millions being funnelled into the coffers. However, as shown by SA’s system of fee collection, dollars are still being saved and earned. Ultimately, the monthly amounts paid will bring in substantial monies compared to lump sum payments that, traditionally, are a cost savings for the payor. Compensation stretched out over time always includes more incremental fees thrown in–minimal, for sure, and Pennsylvania’s fees are far lower than that of SA. But those dollars do add up and they will benefit both the state and citizens in the long run. Trust me.
I know V2Gov technologies are important and can streamline processes for states, businesses and drivers. Our entire company is based on the belief that these innovations are making a brighter future possible in the automotive world. But we’ve also built our business on doing what’s fair, what’s right for everyone, not just that fabled 1 percent. PennDOT’s V2Gov car registration process must work for every economic level. It’s my hope that PennDOT and the state’s legislators take a deeper look at how to best serve all Pennsylvania drivers through improved technology. If they stay mindful of the true cost, then a digital disruption isn’t so hard on those already living the harsh paycheck-to-paycheck reality.
Kelly Kimball is chairman and co-founder of California-based Motor Vehicle Software Corporation (MVSC). More than just a technology entrepreneur, Kimball is a political strategist, a sought-after lecturer and a visionary startup pioneer. In 1991, Kimball founded SDR Technologies to create the country’s first electronic filing systems for political reporting. Widely recognized as a pioneer of eGovernment, Kimball has been a frequent guest on CNN, CNN Money, Fox News and ABC’s World News Tonight. As chairman of MVSC, Kimball forges strong relationships between government and business enterprises so consumers can transform paper trails into fair, fast and easy-to-use digital transactions.