By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMIAN taxi drivers yesterday urged the Government to end the two-decade old moratorium on new plates, with the union's newly-elected president describing reform as a "daunting task".
Wesley Ferguson, the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union (BTU) chief, told Tribune Business that ending the moratorium on issuing taxi plates was a key issue raised by drivers and other stakeholders during a Town Hall meeting with Renward Wells, minister of transport, on Monday night.
"Their main concern right now is agitating for the lifting of the moratorium," said Mr Ferguson. "There were about 400 drivers in attendance at the meeting, and I would say about 70 percent of them indicated they were leasing taxi plates.
"There were numerous complaints raised about the leasing of plates and how much that is costing drivers. The minister gave his assurance that he would take the issue to Cabinet and agitate for some relief. He indicated that there are about 900 taxis in operation, and 1,135 plates have been issued. You're talking about 235 taxi plates that are in question."
Mr Ferguson added that taxi drivers also expressed concerns over constant "harassment", saying they needed "some relief from harassment and disrespect by law enforcement and Road Traffic officials, and even the public.
"Once you have that taxi plate on your vehicle it's like you're a target," he said. "We have drivers paying to lease plates, you have to pay for a public service badge and regular driver's license, bridge tools, airport user fee, gas, Business License and after all of that we get disrespected and ostracised by the public, the Road Traffic Department, security, police, you name it."
Mr Ferguson said his goal is to revitalise and rebrand the industry. "Right now the taxi union halls is in shambles," he added. "We are in dire straits. I took on this task and this is a mountain, to put it mildly. When you talk about the complaints and issues on this industry, to get drivers motivated and address the complaints and problems is no easy task."