Bad taxis, owners should leave: Council

25/05/2010 10:43

The Consumer Council believes that inefficient taxi operators and their dilapidated vehicles should leave the industry instead of a freeze on taxi permits as suggested by the Fiji Taxi Union. The Council has for long been calling for a total review of the industry. Band-aid solutions such as freezing new permits will not bring about efficiencies in the industry. In fact a freeze will not only prevent potential individuals from gaining a source of income, but also will curb genuine competition in the industry.

The taxi industry is riddled with inefficiencies and shady practices and needs through cleaning up. The majority of violators of road regulations in 2008 were taxi drivers with PSV licenses.

The Council believes that the reason drivers are not making enough money is not because of competition from too many taxis but from the “middle man approach” that is being practiced in the industry. We are concerned that many licensed taxi operators are sub-contracting their taxis and bases to other people on a fixed income for the day. The existence of “middle-man approach” within Fiji’s taxi industry is not only causing inefficiency and low revenue levels for drivers but also becoming a hindrance in them repairing the vehicles because they don’t have enough funds to do so.

The majority of income earned by drivers goes to the taxi owners while the rest is spent on fuel and their own survival. As a result many taxis now running on roads are in dilapidated conditions posing risks to consumers and other motorists. This perhaps is also a reason why many drivers are not operating from their regular base and going to other profitable districts because they want to maximise their income to earn enough to pay the taxi owners as well as themselves. What is worse is majority of these taxi plate owners are employed people. They are in this business for extra cash. The Council strongly believes that the Land Transport Authority should seriously look into this “middle-man approach”.

Furthermore, the quality of service provided by taxi industry is really poor. Consumers have been constantly complaining about the service quality, reliability and safety of some taxis. A significant number of taxis currently in operation are in dilapidated state with no air conditioning, broken window or door handles and general signs of poor maintenance.

The Council has also received complaints on taxi drivers being rude to passengers,refusing patrons desiring short runs, not having adequate change and putting on loudmusic which is a disturbance to consumers. Many taxi drivers also allegedly do notswitch on their taxi meters with the intention to siphon extra money from passengers.

There is no doubt that the services provided by many taxi drivers fail to meet consumersatisfaction. The Council is afraid that freezing new permits will reduce genuinecompetition in the industry hence LTA should thoroughly investigate the practices in theindustry before making any decisions.