DVLNI – An experiment

You’ll doubtless all be aware of the extensive advertising campaign undertaken by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing people. You know, the one that sings the praises of the all singing all dancing computer detection system?

Well, noticing that they still offer Ye Olde method of detection , I got to thinking that a worthwhile social experiment would be to compare and contrast the old with the new to see if this investment in new technology was not simply a matter of the “emperor’s new clothes”.

My experiment was rudimentary and simple. On Monday 30th of April at approximately 1:35pm I telephoned the offices of the DVLNI to report an untaxed vehicle in my neighbourhood. The woman who took the details (registration, make and model, colour and location) confirmed that the vehicle in question was indeed untaxed and had been for several (see: many) months yet seemed genuinely “surprised” that “the cameras hadn’t picked it up”. I was suitably impressed with her faith in technology yet at the same time I felt perhaps I had identified to her a chink in its armour.

She advised that I “Won’t see anything happening in the next 24hrs as the enforcement team would work with the clampers and the police” to take action.

Quite what this action may have been I just don’t know – because the vehicle is still being driven around untaxed, with no MOT.

This begs the question of how the DVLNI justify spending millions on a scaremongering advertising campaign and a computer system to detect road tax dodgers when they can’t be bothered to act on information given to them by humans.

Furthermore, what would be the legal standing of the DVLNI in the event, God forbid, that this individual is involved in an accident resulting in serious injury or death? Surely this is a dereliction of duty?

It’s my understanding (and I stand to be corrected) that a driver cannot be insured nor a car MOT’d if it is not road taxed and / or vice versa.

Perhaps Brendan Magee would care to elaborate on the matter rather than resting on laurels of old?

Update: Day 8 – still no action!

Update: Day 9 – still no action!

Update: Day 10 – still no action!

Update: Day 11 – still no action!

Update: Days 12 & 13 – still no action!

Day 14 has been and gone and still no sign of any action (certainly no sign of the car having been taxed).

I think It’s time to give them a call and see if the Stephen Nolan show getting involved might “gee them up a bit”.

Day 15 It’s second phonecall time.

9:45am and Jacqueline from the “Enforcement Team” in Coleraine confirms that the vehicle and its lack of a tax disk is indeed known to them as a result of my experimental call on April 30th.

When quizzed about the inexplicably long timeframe she tells me that the inactivity is down to the “clampers and the police” whose job it is to “enforce” and that “they may not have been in the area”. I point out to her the lunacy of the DVLNI asking people to uphold the law and report offenders when they effectively sub contract the work of enforcement to a third party or parties – and the fact that the area in question is one of the most heavily policed in Europe.

She seems perplexed by this and, having been advised of the daily updates on the Angrytown News, goes into somewhat of a flurry resulting in her saying that she was “Going downstairs to get this actioned immediately”.

Go! Jacqueline, we’re rooting for you.

Here’s hoping “immediately” isn’t some sort of Coleraine slang for “As and when my arse could be bothered”.

Further updates to follow (but you knew that already, didn’t you?).

Day 16 – Nothing.

Day 17 – It would appear that, hitherto unbeknownst to me, I have an uncanny gift for the accurate translation of colloquial slang!

Days 18 to 24 – Still no action has been taken. This (along with the car owner) is taking the piss!!

Of the three Jacquelines ensconsed (and apparently doing nothing) in the DVLNI offices in Coleraine I’m unsure which one I spoke to. Perhaps it’s time to draw this debacle to the attention of Mr Magee himself – If he’s as remiss in his use of tax payer’s money as his staff appear to be then I’m afraid I’ll be taxing (pun fully intended) our new minister with doing something about the obvious ineptitude of this particular bunch of incompetents.

I appreciate that the staff have reason to be unmotivated but, assuming this isn’t the first instance of ineptitude on a colossal scale, for the love of God, is it any wonder their jobs are going to Wales?

June 2nd 2007 (33 days) Still no action appears to have been taken, the individual in question is still, this morning, driving around untaxed. I had hoped, foolishly, that those charged with a responsibility to uphold the law would be interested in doing so – sadly it appears they are not.

This entire sorry episode goes to show that those of us who actually pay road tax are “mugs”. All this bluster about computer systems and cameras is nothing more than a facade, a bluff if you like, to scare law abiding people into paying a tax which others flagrantly flaunt and ignore. It defies belief that the DVLNI, despite the initial report, a follow up call and being advised of this blog posting, cannot be bothered to act when appraised of the facts.

The message is clear – they are simply not interested in taking action against non payers as long as there are sufficient numbers of drivers duped into thinking that there is some sort of penalty to be faced / paid.

June 7th 2007 (38 days) Still no sign of clamps, nor a tax disc.

June 14th 2007 (45 days) Guess what? Yes, that’s right, nothing!!

June 19th 2007 (50 days) OK, surely this is some sort of failure / incomptence milestone now?

June 29th 2007 (60 days) Yes folks, you’re reading that right. Two whole months after being reported and confirmed as untaxed and the vehicle is still being driven daily with no evidence that the DVLNI have taken, or are intent on taking, any action.

July 14th 2007 (75 days) Ah well, it’s the 12th holidays – so I suppose we can look forward to something happening when the stalwarts of road tax collection return from their well earned break!

July 23rd 2007 (84 days) I, and I’m sure many others, was struck by the fear of God having heard the very dark, serious and threatening tones of the voiceover on the DVLNI ad which ran just before the six o’clock news on Cool FM this evening. Were it not for the fact that we all know this is a pathetic attempt at coercion by proxy some might consider it to be money well spent.

Here’s a script idea I’ve had for the next run of ads the DVLNI might want to run.

Hi there, this is the DVLNI here. We’re the guys who collect road tax. If it’s not too much bother could I ask you to make sure you’ve paid yours? If, for whatever reason, you’ve decided not to then don’t worry because we don’t act on information received – we’re only interested in scaring gormless idiots with our expensive ads which suggest that we’re proactive in tracking down offenders, thanks. Sorry for wasting your time, and taxes“.

I suggest that they get the Crazy Frog to do the voice – it’ll add to the comedy effect of the message for those of us who see it for the meaningless, worthless pap that it actually is!!

August 7th 2007 (99 days) Well, here we are – one day shy of 100 days of inactivity on the part of the DVLNI, PSNI and “The Clampers”. Is there anyone out there who genuinely believes that any of them are interested in clamping down (pun fully intended) on road tax evaders? I suspect it’s pure luck that this vehicle owner hasn’t been involved in an accident in the 100 day period.

There is the alternative view of course that perhaps because he has no tax, no insurance and no MOT that he is a more careful and responsible driver. After all, if he were to be involved in even a minor accident he runs the very real risk of drawing attention to the fact. Perhaps I’ve unearthed some surreal plan on the part of the DVLNI, PSNI and “The Clampers” to make better drivers of us all by making the prospect of being caught avoiding road tax seem like a distinct impossibility?

Hooray! For the facade of being proactive that the DVLNI are managing to portray.

Brendan Magee and his staff ought to be congratulated.

I’ve sent Brendan an email this evening with the car registration and original report details through his online reporting form just to mark the 100 day point and, somewhat ironically, the message I get is Thank you for using this service. The information you have provided will be examined immediately.”

September 11th 2007 (134 days) Brilliant!!


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