A number of taxi drivers here say they have one thing on their minds right now: a fare increase.
While largely ignoring the increased fines announced by Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid when he introduced the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2018 this week, the taxi drivers said their primary concern was the fuel tax which took effect on July 1.
They said the levy of 40 cents per litre on gasoline and diesel, which replaced the road tax, was proving to be a drain on them at a time when business was already slow.
“We need an increase in taxi fares. That is what we want to see,” one operator who wanted to be referred to as Big Juice told Barbados TODAY.
“Give us an increase and that will take care of the increase in the fuel tax,” added Big Juice, who has operated from Accra for the past 15 years.
Most of the drivers who spoke to Barbados TODAY preferred anonymity.
However, they complained that the new road tax was already a burden, driving up the amount they spend on fuel per week by up
The taxi drivers said prior to the introduction of the tax they spent between $250 and $400 on petrol each week. Now, they said, they were forced to fork as much as $600 per week at the pump.
“Mine is doubled. Now I put in about $600 a week,” one man shouted.
“They [Government] need to talk about increasing [taxi] fares. Business drying up,” he added.
Another driver, who wanted to be identified only as Anthony, pointed to the situation at Grantley Adams International Airport where he said taxi operators were having a tough time getting a fare.
“Business terrible,” Anthony said.
“Go to the airport between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and you will see where the people going . . . . All they going in is big [tour] buses. Taxi men park at the airport a whole day and do only one job. If they want another one they have to wait for the late one [flight] that come in. All them coaches there carrying away the people. The taxi men can’t get nuh work. That is how terrible it is.
“I believe we should get an increase in taxi fare. The situation is terrible. An increase would help us to cushion it,” he said.
Ernest Nicholls, who has been a cab driver for over two decades, would not say how much more he was paying for petrol since the introduction of the fuel levy.
However, he stressed that business was “poor right now” and the fuel tax was not making things any easier.
“Let people pay the road tax and let the gasoline stay the same way,” Nicholls said.
There was mixed reaction among the cab drivers to Government’s decision to increase fivefold, the fines for anyone found driving without basic insurance.
Under the Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2018, which was approved in the Lower House on Tuesday, the penalties for driving without third-party insurance – or for failing to produce the soon-to-be introduced insurance sticker – increased dramatically from $1,000 to $5,000 or 12 months imprisonment, or both.
Some, such as the driver known as Big Juice, believed the changes would have the desired effect.
“I don’t mind it. You have people driving ‘bout without insurance and killing other people and getting off scot-free,” he said.
“It will force people to comply. . . I don’t see nothing wrong with it.”
However, another driver who did not want to be identified, told Barbados TODAY the increase in fines would do little to prevent the lawbreakers from going on the road.
“I don’t think it really will deter people unless they come up with a foolproof way to ensure you really paid your insurance,” he said.
“I feel it should be $10,000. It is too low . . . it should be $10,000,” another chimed in.
It was only yesterday that the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) said it would continue to demand an increase in fare for ZRs and minibuses.
“That [bus fare hike request] is still very much on the table,” Mark Haynes, the AOPT public relations officer told Barbados TODAY.
“As you know, the cost of the fuel tax [which took effect on July 1] has really placed a burden on the sector. We have that still on the table and we are in talks with the Government on an increase. We have been asked to submit proposals and we acceded to Government’s request,” Haynes stressed.
The PSV owners have complained that the fuel tax was having a devastating impact on their businesses with expenditure for route taxis increasing to $6,741 from $2,250, while minibus operators are forced to fork out $10,861, up from $3,625. There have been reports lately of a likely increase in fares from $2.00 to $3, and the AOPT spokesman said he was looking forward to hearing from Government in short order with respect to the contentious issues.