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Nov 26, 2003

Transport officials ready to regulate taxis

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It is an issue that has been bubbling for years and it appears that to its credit, government is now ready to tackle the problems in the taxi industry. Today officials from the Ministry of Transport met with taxi drivers to seek consensus on how to regulate a business that has been the last bastion of rugged individualism. Patrick Jones reports.

Taxi Driver #1

“Most of the chauffeur’s them that I see, and taxi drivers where I travel–because I travel a lot, short pants, nice clean shirt, nice tennis or shoes. Dah wah chauffeur. Your chauffeur should be as comfortable as he performs his job.”

Taxi Driver #2

“We’re talking about the tint, but I think I have to drop back a little because if you notice we’re talking about taxi and we noh the talk about different models of vehicles.”

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Even after nine countrywide consultations with taxi operators, there were still issues that generated spirited debate.

Over twenty problem areas were identified for correction under a proposed national taxi policy, expected to be ready for implementation early next year. These include: criteria for obtaining an operator’s license, a national dress code for taxi drivers, and the road worthiness of a public service vehicle. Chairman of the National Transport Board, Carlos Santos, says the discussions were fruitful.

Carlos Santos, Chairman, National Transport Board

“Some of the points that generated the most interest, and probably the most discussion, were things like what age should people have when they get too old to drive, or the issue of tinting, and certainly the issue also of police records being required of people who want to become taxi operators. But I think that in general, in essence we tackled these issues head on with the taxi operators and I feel good that we discussed them thoroughly and we came up with recommendations that bear their approval. And I think that makes sense as well.”

The consultations started in August in San Ignacio and ended last month in San Pedro. Santos says the high turn out at each of the meetings indicates that operators are serious and want to play an active role in regulating their industry.

Carlos Santos

“I think if you ask them, they will tell you categorically, yes because they said it and they continue saying it. They said it towards the end of the session; they thanked the government in fact for coming up with the idea of a taxi policy that will be to the benefit of everybody. We all agreed that we will take up all the recommendations they made. We’ll incorporate it into a report that we will submit to the Ministry of Works, Transport, and Communication which will then be prepared in the form of a Cabinet paper, and will end up at the Cabinet level for a national taxi policy, which would come into effect some time next year.”

The draft of that report, which will go to the desk of Minister of Transport Vildo Marin, was circulated to taxi drivers from all over the country this morning for amendments and approval. After two hours of discussion most of the recommendations were approved without changes. Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Among the far reaching changes the new national taxi policy will usher in is the requirement that the age for taxi drivers be twenty-one and over, with a mandatory three years driving experience needed before a permit is issued. Licensed operators, upon attaining the age of fifty five, will be required to submit themselves to medical certification every two years.

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