Taxi drivers want to know where they stand
Embattled taxi drivers are urging Government to partner with their industry and help pull their business back from the brink.
Bermuda Taxi Operators Association (BTOA) president Derek Young said the group’s 75-strong members were keen to see action from Government over the summer, before the onset of what’s expected to be another lean off-season.
“This has no doubt been the worst off-season we have ever experienced,” Mr Young told
The Royal Gazette, guessing that drivers’ incomes had fallen by as much as 50 percent since 2008.
With the nascent Taxi Authority seemingly out of commission since the election in December, the BTOA has stepped in to fill the gap.
Mr Young, who sat on the Taxi Authority board under the previous government, said the organisation — intended to unite the Island’s disjointed taxi industry — appeared to have become a political casualty.
“Halfway through the process, the election was called, and after that the Taxi Authority appeared to be disbanded,” he said.
Asked if the Authority would be revived, the Ministry of Transport didn’t comment — but a spokesman said Minister Shawn Crockwell had been “proactive in meeting with all dispatching companies as well as the BTOA and also in instructing his technical officers to meet with individual owners, operators and dispatch companies as well as liaising with the BTOA.
“Following these meetings the Ministry will propose policy, legislative, and other considerations that will be discussed and circulated with stakeholders. Until then it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
BTOA want Government to make a final “once and for all” decision on the contentious issue of GPS, Mr Young added. With supposed penalties for non-compliance, he said, “we just want to know, either way”.
Squeezed between rising prices and the contraction of Bermuda’s economy, taxi drivers should also be given the right to purchase second-hand vehicles from overseas, he said.
And competing forms of transport such as minibuses and water taxis must be put under regulation.
“We have no problem with competition — as long as it’s fair and across the board,” Mr Young said, pointing out that taxis have to pay up to $100,000 for a permit.
“How much does a minibus pay? How much does a boat that classifies itself as a taxi pay, to do the same work as a ‘real’ taxi? Someone do the maths and tell me if it’s fair game.”
For the meantime, with no umbrella organisation for the industry, the BTOA tries to unite the different owners and operators.
A group insurance programme offering major health insurance cover to paying members is expected to go ahead in July.
But the organisation is not officially recognised by Government.
“We put the group together ourselves as an entity looking after the best interests of the industries — but we still have to drive our taxis,” Mr Young said.