The days of Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers running from bus to bus after racking up offences are numbered, as the PSV operators take on a different approach to hiring.
In addition, Chairman of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael said the association would be seeking to set up a fund to help operators modernize their business.
Raphael said while there had been an improvement in the behaviour of PSV operators over the past few months, there were still some who continue to flout the law, adding that the hands of the AOPT were tied because “we are not the regulators”. He insisted that it was necessary for Government to work closely with the private operators in order to “root out the bad elements in the system”.
“There are some people out there who take it upon themselves to continue to break the law. We definitely know who those persons are but we cannot do anything about it because we do not have the different types of legislation that would see us taking them off our books and off the roads. We do not have those powers. We rely heavily on the Transport Authority,” he said.
However, the PSV official said within a matter of weeks a “PSV Bureau” would be established to give perspective employers of PSV drivers and conductors information on those in the industry, and give prospective drivers a “clearance”.
“The problem is that we have people moving from van to van and creating some problems for us,” said Raphael, who pointed out that there were still drivers racking up offences and just changing who they were driving for without them knowing.
He said as part of a pilot project for the establishment of the bureau, the association would be doing background checks on about 80 people.
“So, for example, if a guy left your van you are required to call in to the bureau and give information about him. And if a guy wants to drive for you, he will then have to contact the bureau to get clearance, just like how the insurance do regarding accidents,” he explained.
“So if you drive a ZR and you no longer work for the person you are required, if you are one of our members or not, to give us a call and say why that person left you in the first place. So when the next person comes to hire you they will ask for a clearance and we give it based on the person’s ability, issues they had with the previous employer or traffic offences,” he added.
Raphael gave the assurance that this would not prevent people from finding a job.
“It does not stop the person from being employed, but at least to employ [someone], you will have an idea of who are employing,” he said.
With a number of ZR vans being second-hand purchases of what used to be taxis, and most of them being over five years old, Raphael said AOPT was seeking to establish a special $5 million fund so that operators could upgrade their buses and even go into the electric space like Government was seeking to do.
Without divulging details, he said to get the funding he would be approaching a major funding agency with a comprehensive plan.
“A lot of emphasis will be placed on electric vehicles,” he said, adding that several private operators were already “working closely with a source”.
A pilot project for electric vehicles in the PSV space could be introduced in as little as three months, he said.
“The thing is, we want to save energy. A lot of our earnings go into fossil fuel, into buying diesel. If we can get an electric bus and show our [PSV] operators out there it can work, I guess some people will get to like it, so we are looking forward to our first electric bus,” said Raphael.
Pointing out that some routes were now benefiting from longer operating hours from the PSV operators, Raphael said the association intends for more destinations to benefit from the same, adding that upgrading the fleet would assist with this.
“So once we get that $5 million, it will be available to all PSV operators, which also include taxis, ZMs and mini buses,” he added.
With Government to embark on a second round of cuts from the Transport Board, having already retrenched some 50 people from that agency, Raphael said he was hoping that some of them would consider taking up driving for a PSV owner or even get their own.
“We are going to start a training programme very shortly to assist those persons who want to get into this industry. Since the BERT programme started, we have not seen any increase in persons running to us saying they want to drive a PSV, but we are hoping though, that with the retrenchment at the Transport Board some of the displaced workers will join us,” said Raphael.
He said the stigma associated with the profession could be preventing a lot more young people from entering the industry and he was hoping that could change soon.
“Working as a PSV driver is a very good career. You get to meet persons, learn more about the island, it is just that we have to do a lot of training especially in the area of customer service. (MM)