By Elesha George
Members of the Public Transportation Union (PTU), an amalgamation of taxi operators on the island, have said that the introduction of a luxury licence plate will not fix the problem of illegal use by non-licenced drivers.
“The real issue is regulations, giving another type of plate doesn’t curb the situation that we are feeling right now, because giving another plate is just giving us another plate to look at, because there is nothing to stop the person that uses the A plate and the C plate from doing the same thing,” said Public Relations Officer (PRO), John Francis.
Cabinet notes published on October, 16th, 2019, stated that “Those who wish to use limousines and other luxury cars to engage in picking up arriving and departing passengers are instructed to get “L” plates. The insurance coverage which “A” plates allow, would not include harm to victims or property should those vehicles have accidents. The Cabinet warns those engaged in the practice to cease and desist from the illegal practice, and to procure the correct registration and insurance coverage.”
Noting that they have had numerous discussions with the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board about the aforementioned challenge, the Union said they were left “surprised” to hear news of plans to institute an ‘L’ plate via the news media, especially since their discussions “had not reached there yet.”
Upon hearing the news, Francis explained that the Union had “a conversation with people from the Transport Board” who claimed not to have any idea regarding the public announcement.
“They don’t know how it got on the news because they have not discussed anything with anybody about an ‘L’ plate,” Francis said they were told.
PTU member, Denley Millet, posited that the government is “not thinking about enforcing the law and that’s where the problem lies.”
He told OBSERVER, “I think the government is thinking of a revenue scheme, but our known problem is regulation, because the person who does a private pick up now isn’t required to have a public service permit and they don’t pay any extra on their licence.”
While the operators contend that introducing this new plate is a good idea in theory, they all agreed that there should be specific requirements in order to obtain such a premium service.
They also spoke strongly of the unwanted competition by unlicenced drivers and laid additional blame on tour agents and commercial business owners, who they said are trying to “wipe out” the need for taxi services by providing combination services.
Javier Stapleton, representing the Eastside Taxi Association, explained how it was that these companies were threatening the business of taxi operators, saying, “We have a system where you would have somebody coming from the Zipline, the taxi gets its little fare of $20-$40 to take them to the Zipline or Stingray City. Now the companies that are coming together, what they are doing, they are telling you it’s a combo, and instead of you [taxi men] taking them to these locations, now they’re sending their vehicles for these jobs. So, they cut your little dollar that you make from the hotel to anyone of these destinations.”
Stapleton, who described the operators as being “under threat” concluded that “Eight hundred of us are just not gonna sit by and watch us not able to feed our families.”