The organization representing private transport operators here is blaming the reckless conduct exhibited by public service vehicle (PSV) drivers on the country’s roads on the Ministry of Transport and Works and the law courts.
The Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) is contending that both the ministry and the courts have the power to yank delinquent drivers off the roads, but fail to act appropriately.
“The majority responsibility for the continuing chaos in [the] public transport system must be placed firmly on the Ministry of Transport and Works and on the courts because of poor regulation and ineffective enforcement of the existing laws,” APTO Interim President Morris Lee said.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite recently called on law enforcement agencies to penalize owners of ZR vans in order to effectively stop the culture of recklessness on the road.
Morris said his organization was “alarmed” that Brathwaite would make such a call given that the Ministry of Transport and Works was the issuing authority of PSV drivers’ licences which made the holder eligible to operate a public service vehicle.
“It is its responsibility therefore, to ensure that the people that it licences are suitable candidates,” he argued.
The APTO interim leader contended that owners ought to be able to rely on the suitability of drivers that have been certified by the authorizing entity. He pointed out that the ministry issued and continued to renew those drivers’ licences on an annual basis, even in circumstances where a driver has had multiple convictions for traffic offences.
At the same time, he said, the courts continued to slap the offending drivers on the wrist and set them loose.
“The law courts continue the policy of imposing fines on drivers who have multiple convictions for traffic offences and returning them to the road. That clearly has not had the desired effect of ensuring compliance with road traffic regulations,” he said.
Lee said that the association had for many years been recommending to the authorities the institution of a system of fines, the demerit system which is already written into the Road Traffic Act, and the suspension or withdrawal of the licences of repeat offenders. However, he claimed these recommendations had fallen on death ears.
“We remained convinced that such a change in sentencing policy would in short order, drastically reduce the high level of infractions and get irresponsible drivers off the road,” the APTO boss contended.
He said the association rejected the notion that owners should be held liable when drivers deliberately flouted traffic laws. In fact, he said the association questioned where the vicarious liability would lie if the offender were an employee of the state-owned Transport Board.
Lee noted that in the majority of cases, owners were unaware of traffic violations and convictions of their drivers,
as there was no system in place for them to be notified by
the law courts if a driver were convicted of violating
“How can an owner be expected to take action against a driver he employs, if he is not advised of infractions committed? Further, many insurance companies have strict guidelines for the qualifications for PSV drivers. All drivers are vetted and approved by the insurance companies covering the vehicles and no other drivers are permitted to operate the vehicle as a condition of coverage,” said the representative of private transport operators.
Lee also addressed accusations that PSV drivers had been observed drinking alcohol and smoking illegal substances while operating vehicles. He said his organization had repeatedly called for breathalyzer and drug testing for PSV drivers, but to no avail.
“We have also called for the installation of Global Positioning Systems to be installed as a requirement on all PSVs. This would enable the owners and the insurance companies to monitor and therefore have some control over the operation of these vehicles,” he said.
The APTO head explained that these were the organization’s reason for holding the ministry and the courts responsible for the ongoing chaos on Barbados’ roads.