New BTOA boss: Taxi operators must speak with one voice
Taxi drivers must unite and work collectively if they are to improve the state of the industry, according to the new head of the organisation that represents Bermuda’s cabbies.
Bermuda Taxi Operators and Owners Association president Derek Young believes opportunities for improving the welfare of struggling drivers are available — but that the industry must speak as one voice if changes are to be made.
The BTOA met with Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell and other officials last Friday to raise a number of issues that have left many drivers struggling following a very lean winter. Further meetings are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.
Mr Young told
The Royal Gazette that fare rates, which are set by Government, had not increased since 2008, while expenses such as fuel and maintenance fees had continually gone up.
And he said that, with visitor numbers on a steady decline, already-struggling taxi operators were competing in a shrinking market.
Yet despite the shared hardships, the industry had become disjointed, with firms split over the question of mandatory GPS.
“We realise that the taxi operators are not only essential service providers and great ambassadors for our country, but collectively, we have great economic power,” Mr Young said.
“Putting us together to become one organisation, as one unit, brings us enormous financial power and opportunity.”
The BTOA is now seeking a rate increase from Government so that drivers can charge more for a fare, although Mr Young was keen to point out that the association was aware that the entire Island was struggling financially.
A rebate on fuel is another proposal being put forward, and the organisation wants to see laws changed so that second-hand taxis can be bought from overseas for use on the Island’s roads. Mr Young said that, with a taxi permit costing $95,000 anyone wanting to enter the business needs an initial outlay of at least $150,000 once they had purchased a vehicle. He said he knew of at least eight drivers who have had their vehicles repossessed by the banks after they were unable to keep up with loan repayments.
The organisation also wants annual licence renewals to take place in June, when drivers have more cash in their pockets. Currently, licences and insurance have to be renewed every January, in the middle of the off-season.
And the BTOA has also set up an insurance scheme to provide health and vehicle cover to its members.
Mr Young said that the BTOA now had a “strong, opinionated executive team” that was working to move the industry forward.
“It consists of a younger generation of owners and drivers to the elders who give consulting advice,” Mr Young said.
“I believe this is the team that want the best for Bermuda transportation and I have much faith in them as they assist in keeping the industry on the correct path as we try to ease Bermuda’s transportation woes.
“But now it’s up the rest of the owners and driver’s out there to get involved with the BTOA. Membership in our organisation will be very important. People are always on the outside criticising and giving suggestions when they get together in a small little group. But now is the time to become an active participant in the industry they love so much and give something back. I’m asking all owners, drivers and even members of the taxi dispatching service to finally come together and become one unit. Let’s take our industry back.”