Cabbies feeling the crunch, says Newman

By Kediesha Perry
Observer writer

Friday, March 20, 2020

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EGERTON Newman, president of the Transport Operators Development Sustainable Service, is bewailing the fact that the onslaught of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has exacerbated their call for a fare hike.

“We are asking the Government for a fare increase of 100 per cent. At this point, if we get 50 per cent, we will take it because we are losing up to 150 per cent profit. JUTC [Jamaica Urban Transit Company] buses are making up to $230 per person, while we remain at $100. The taxi operators are complaining... We have been requesting a raise for seven year,” he told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine yesterday.

On Monday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that in an effort to curtail the spread of the COVID-19, taxis will be required to carry one fewer passanger than they are licensed to. In addition, all JUTC and Montego Bay Metro buses were required to carry seated-only passengers. The measure became effective on Wednesday.

Newman said that he and the 7,000 members of his association clearly understand the Government's reasoning behind the new regime. However, he says providing sanitisation for passengers is also hurting drivers financially.

“We accept the Government's command and we understand that they had to swiftly implement this plan because, of course, it [coronavirus] is a global crisis. We have to provide hand sanitisers for passengers and even that is weighing on the pockets. So, we are asking if the Government could provide sanitisers,” he said.

To top off their woes, the president said banks will not accept late payments from affected drivers.

“Some operators are complaining about their bank loans and having to meet deadline. It would be ideal if banks could hold off a bit; perhaps provide a grace period for drivers to gather the money to make their payment,” he said.

The last time a fare increase was approved was 2013. Base rates moved from $66.00 to $82.50.

While taxi operators are eager to get another nod, Newman warns operators against jumping the gun and reminds drivers that increasing fares without consent from the relevant authorities is unscrupulous.

“Overcharging should not be done. Up to Wednesday morning, I had to talk to some taxi drivers on the Spanish Town to Linstead route because they were overcharging passengers. I am saying to the drivers, stop doing this.

We understand the concerns, but this should not happen,” he added.

Alongside taxi operators, civilians in multiple sectors such as tourism and entertainment have been feeling the economic blows.

Since the virus washed upon Jamaica's shores on March 10, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, have implemented a no-large-gathering policy to curtail the virus's spread.

Jamaica currently has 15 confirmed cases and one fatality relating to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The 79-year-old victim, who hailed from Clarendon, died at the Mandeville Regional Hospital on Wednesday.

Newman is suggesting that some taxi drivers take this period to work on their vehicles.

“If you see that it is better to park your vehicle at a garage or at home, do that. Fix whatever needs to be fixed; because it will cost you more to be on the road; possibly causing damages to your vehicle, and not even making enough profit to fix it,” he said.

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