As many as three out of four conductors aboard minibuses and route taxis are unlicenced – and they are to blame for much of the bad behaviour in the public transport industry, the chairman of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael has claimed.
“We have major issues with conductors not being certified. We believe between 50 to 75 per cent of the persons who work on our PSVs are not certified as conductors,” Raphael told Barbados TODAY.
“The time is upon us that we have to do something about this because these guys that are not legal continue to create issues not only for the public but the drivers as well. Many of them create issues by allowing persons to get off buses other than at a bus stop,” said Raphael, who said that owners were attempting to address the issue.
And the transport leader wants the Government to make it mandatory for anyone trying to buy a conductor’s uniform to produce their licence.
“The way the uniform was dealt with in the past where persons were just allowed to purchase a uniform must stop. I think the authority needs to seriously revisit this. The association is prepared to work with the authorities to ensure that uniforms are being worn only by persons licensed to work on these PSVs,” he said.
But the AOPT head was not absolving the drivers of blame. He revealed that the association continued to be inundated with complaints of loud music being played as well as drivers deliberately causing a backup in traffic by driving extremely slowly in search of fares, a practice commonly referred to as dragging.
“People have been calling to complain about the loud music and some drivers have been seen dragging on those long routes. We are going to be having a meeting with the owners shortly to address these concerns,” Raphael told Barbados TODAY.
Last month owners and operators met with Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Minister of Transport William Duguid over concerns surrounding the introduction of a new fuel tax on July 1. The new levy, which is to raise $80 million annually, replaces the road tax.
PSV owners claim that the levy is already having a devastating impact on their businesses with monthly spending for route taxis jumping to $6,741 from $2,250, while minibus operators were paying $10,861 per month, up from $3,625. But after the meeting Duguid made it clear that any deal was contingent on the privately owned PSV sector cleaning up its act.
“Clearly the public service vehicle [operators] are our partners and they want to have and duly expect a reasonable rate of return on the investments that they would have made over the years in their vehicles and businesses as a whole. As an extension, the Government wants to see order on the roads. So once we can come to that middle ground and help them to get that better rate of return, they must in turn partner with us to give us better order and better control of their drivers,” the minister then said.
“In that way we would be getting closer to a win-win situation,” he added.