Chaos erupted in the River Terminal this morning, as private public service vehicle operators without a conductor’s licence and badge were ordered by licensing officials to offload their passengers and return to base.
The impromptu inspection by officers of the Barbados Licensing Authority infuriated drivers and conductors who bitterly complained about the situation.
“They are claiming you must have a conductor’s badge to work the van. You can’t work the van by yourself unless you have a conductor badge, which I find is nonsense.
“This is a public service vehicle just like the Transport Board. They carry the same badge as us and they work the bus and they don’t have to get any conductor’s badge,” a frustrated Ophneal Kellman told Barbados TODAY.
He was critical of the sudden inspection, which disrupted the early morning commute in the bustling River Road terminal. Some commuters were forced to wait for approximately three hours as the licensing officials carried out their checks.
“It is foolishness! You can’t just come and stop people from working just so because they don’t have a conductor’s badge.
“If anything . . . you should notify people before but don’t just come and stop people from working just so,” the PSV driver of 23 years stressed.
Jerome Coulthrust pointed out that the identification card, which was given to both PSV drivers and Transport Board drivers, specifically states that “this badge is property of the Barbados Licensing Authority. Barbados public service conductor or driver identification badge. This bearer is therefore licensed to act as a PS conductor/driver”.
Therefore, he argued that there was no need for a separate badge as a driver.
“The conductor badge says you are only a conductor but the driver badge says you are a driver as well as a conductor so I think [this morning’s incident] is unfair,” the Route 6 PSV driver contended.
However, Coulthrust was one of the many operators who rushed to the Licensing Authority’s Pine, St Michael headquarters this morning amid the inspection to acquire a conductor’s licence.
Nonetheless, one PSV driver, who requested anonymity, contended that the Minister of Transport and the Licensing Authority needed to “make up their minds on what they are doing” while complaining that the legislation was not properly enacted by the authorities.
“This topic came up annually for the past two or three years but it was never followed up. If they insist it is in the law that we should pay for our conductor’s badge, the simple thing to do is have it placed in . . . the public domain and give us a deadline . . . and let us go from there, but not to turn up in the morning and just start [ordering us around],” the Route 9 driver said.
“Either get this [the identification card] clarified or remove [the licence to act as a PSV conductor/driver] from here and if you want them to pay separately say it or have a badge designed specifically for drivers/conductors, one for drivers, and one for conductors so if I had to pay for a driver/conductor badge I would pay for it one time and that is the end of that,” he emphasized.
Chairman of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport Roy Raphael told Barbados TODAY that the issue on drivers needing to have conductor licences was raised with the former Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley. However, they had failed to reach agreement with the last Government.
“I believe what is fit for the goose must be fit for the gander,” said Raphael, who noted that Transport Board bus drivers did not carry conductor’s licences.
“If the Transport Board . . . does not carry a conductor, I feel we should be able sit down collectively as a body until we figure this out,” Raphael said, adding that he was prepared to discuss the matter with the new Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid and the Licensing Authority.
Efforts to reach Acting Chief Acting Licensing Officer Virgil Knight for a comment were unsuccessful.
However, inspecting officer at the Licensing Authority Eugene Brewster contended today that the PSV operators were not in compliance with the Road Traffic Act. He stated that the conditions of many vehicles were below par and that a number of the drivers were not following the regulations.
“A lot of them don’t have the required badges in order to work because conductors must have a badge, drivers must have a badge and if you don’t have a conductor the driver should have both badges in order to work,” he said, adding that on “a lot of the vehicles the Route Taxi sign just says ‘Taxi’.
The inspector also complained that some of the vehicles’ plates were defaced and some were not properly painted.
“In terms of the tyres, they are carrying normal passenger vehicle tyres rather than what is required for vehicles that carry a maximum load of 14 passengers.
“[The] seats are in poor condition [and] they are not carrying the fire extinguishers. A number of things are wrong with the vehicles,” Brewster explained.