Taxi drivers 'losing patience’ over talks on 20% fare increase
Cab drivers are urging the Government to allow a 20 per cent increase in metered fares.
The Bermuda Taxi Owners and Operators Association also wants the surcharge for late night working to start at 9pm, rather than at midnight.
The BTOA insists it is unfair that 600 taxi owners, and 4,000 operators, have not seen a rise in metered fares since May 2014.
While 4,000 people have a licence enabling them to drive a cab, there are 600 permits in operation and no new ones have been issued since 1988, a spokeswoman for the organisation said.
Ricky Tucker, vice-president of the BTOA, said the association was “losing patience” with the Ministry of Transport over the situation.
He told The Royal Gazette: “It’s been eight years since there has been a rise, it’s very unfair as the cost of everything else is going up.
“And, also we are the only industry where you have to work into the next day to get overtime.”
He added: “The BTOA is requesting a 20 per cent increase on the meter in addition to assurances of a rate increase every three years.
“We are aware that there are dispatch companies using apps that are charging more than the regulated, legal rate, making it an unfair playing field.”
He added: “We know there are members of the public who believe they know what’s best for the taxi industry, but most have not served in the business outside of being a passenger.
“We are prepared for the criticism and, or, pushback we may receive; however, we believe it is incumbent upon us to bring our issues to a public forum if we are to continue to provide the quality service that all owners and operators strive for.”
Mr Tucker said the association was close to a deal with RUBiS and Sol over a proposed fuel rebate for drivers, but they need David Burt, who is finance minister as well as Premier, to sign it off.
The BTOA vice-president said the organisation was having difficulty getting a meeting with Mr Burt.
He said: “We are just getting the run around. I don’t know why he hasn’t met with us. We really need a fuel rebate, some drivers are spending $120 a day on gas.
“With many operators fuelling up every, or every other, day, we are hurt most at the pump. We are grateful to the companies that currently offer us a discount when paying cash.
“However, we would like the return of a fuel rebate that is better geared towards reimbursing the person behind the wheel.”
He added: “We have sought clarification on the return of a fuel rebate from the (transport) minister, who referred us to the minister of finance, who sent us back to the Transport Ministry.”
Mr Tucker said the association had met Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, four times since November to discuss the situation.
But they still had concerns about moves to expand the taxi trade.
Mr Tucker said: “Although we are appreciative of the ministry’s time and focus on improving the industry through modernisation, there are several issues that need to be addressed before adding to the existing numbers, in an industry where the department responsible for enforcing the laws governing the industry seems woefully understaffed.
“We are extremely concerned by the inability of the Transport Control Department to identify and address the reason why approximately 50 taxis have been off the road for an extended period, some for years.
“A solution from the minister is to allow a permit owner to add additional vehicles of any public service vehicle class under their existing permit.
“We feel that our infrastructure cannot sustain the number of vehicles this type of proposal would allow, nor does it provide an opportunity to the many operators who wish to become first time owners.”
Mr Tucker called for a central digital dispatch system to be brought in across Bermuda.
He said: “We feel the time has come for a robust think-tank to see this idea to fruition.
“We are certain this would alleviate many of the inconsistencies potential passengers receive when trying to order a taxi.”