Mon | Aug 10, 2020

VIDEO: Expenses driving taxi operators out of business

Published:Friday | July 31, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Taxi operators have been calling for a 60 per cent reduction in the gas tax or the granting of a fare increase.

Jonielle Daley/Gleaner Intern

Heavy financial losses attributed to an uneconomic transport model are forcing cab operators to turn in their public passenger vehicle (PPV) licences, a leading taxi lobby has said.

Director of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Services (TODDS), Richard Thompson, is calling for a 60 per cent reduction in gas tax or the granting of a fare increase which has eluded transport operators for more than seven years.

TODDS President Egeton Newman has also expressed concern for the number of licences being granted in the urban area, citing an oversaturation of routes.

That policy, said Newman, presented an existential threat to taxi operators and fuelled chaos and indiscipline.

WATCH: Taxi operators plead for help

Newman has suggested that a national survey be conducted to determine the issuance of route licences on the basis of optimal commuter-operator ratios.

However, Transport Minister Robert Montague has aggressively pushed for the removal of barriers in the licensing regime, arguing that giving applicants free rein would allow market forces to determine taxicab density.

That policy shift has been confirmed by Petra-Kene Williams, manager of corporate communications at the Transport Authority.

Williams said that the use of route licence surveys has been discontinued.

"There is now a market-driven approach to public transportation and no longer a demand-and-supply service," she told The Gleaner in a telephone interview Thursday evening. 

"Therefore, the market will settle eventually, meaning some persons will fall out and others will remain." 

Williams said that few permits were being offered in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region, with routes exclusively licensed to the JUTC.

Additionally, there has been no issuance of licences to chartered transport operators since 2019, said the communications manager.

Meanwhile, Thompson is lobbying for licensing to be tied to membership in taxi associations, a move he believes will improve the regulation of the industry.

"Licensing can be regulated through an association, where you can recommend a person for a licence. It’s important that we get our drivers trained and uniformed,” he added.

Taxi operator of 40 years, Rodolph Crooks, is among those who have called it quits.

He said that he has sold all five of his cars.

“The sector is in serious trouble. We need a fare increase," said Crooks, citing the ramshackle financial state of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, which has been cited for a raft of costly breaches in a recently tabled report by the Auditor General's Department.

“For me, it’s a business, it’s not a hustle. This sent my children to school overseas,” he added.

Although taxicab operation has been his only source of income, Crooks said that the writing was on the wall.

“The business not going anywhere. There is nowhere in the world you can have a business and survive (nearly) eight years without getting some form of increase in salary,” he said.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com

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