St James cabbies protest
Over 100 members of the St James Taxi Association, who ply the Montego Freeport to Downtown route, withdrew their services this morning, impacting scores of commuters.
The drivers are upset about stiffer penalties under the new Road Traffic Act, which came into effect on February 1.
They charge that the changes are affecting their livelihoods.
“The problem we have is constantly being abused of operating contrary to our licence. If we are seen in an area with one passenger, and that person could be a relative, the fine is $34,000,” lamented taxi operator Ernest Brown.
Similar sentiments were raised by other operators.
Among the concerns of the operators is the vexed issue of the car safety restraint system in public transportation vehicles, which carries a $5,000 fine.
Brown admitted that last week he refused to carry a woman and her child before the Government decided to delay enforcement of the new law.
“Our issues are many,” he said, arguing that not only are the fines heavy, but on top of what is now being imposed, operators are expected to pay wrecker fees while robot operators are not subjected to the same rates as those who follow the books and get licensed.
“They are paying $3,500 if they breach the law,” he argued.
Brown also said that if operators try to reason with the police they are told to go talk to the judge when they get to court.
Another driver, who goes by the name Miguel, wants the act delayed until the infrastructure is in place to accommodate what he tagged Americanised laws.
“The fines are too high with all of what we are going through in relation to yearly expenditure. You can't seize a man's vehicle saying he is contrary to the terms and conditions, you ah go write him a ticket fi $30,000, and you still a guh lift up the vehicle pon the wrecker. You have to pay pound fee, wrecker fee and fine,” he argued.
According to the drivers, the wrecking fee charged is based on the mood of the company.
“We are going continue to protest until someone comes to speak to us,” Miguel promised.
The drivers said that roads leading to the transportation centre are in deplorable condition and that after 6 p.m. when it gets dark they are unable to operate there because it is unsafe.
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