Transport Minister Renward Wells.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TAXI drivers want the government to stop saying it is illegal to sublease licence plates because doing so prompts panicky plate owners to retrieve their plates from lessees.
Transport Minister Renward Wells said on Tuesday that the Minnis administration is gearing up to deal with the long-standing issue of taxi plate leasing, noting it is illegal to lease government issued plates.
“You are supposed to be the individual who either owns the plate or you have yourself a company and so you’re not supposed to be subleasing,” he said. “That law should’ve been enforced, so it is the intention of the government…to enforce it.”
Yesterday, taxi driver Dwayne Darling said when the minister made a similar declaration in May, the owner of the licence plate he was leasing took it from him.
“The people got panicky and antsy and took it back,” he said, saying this caused him hardship. “So now my bus still parked up home without a plate. I’m leasing a whole car now for like $400 a week, which is so difficult, especially at this time a year when no business is around. I had that plate for almost five years.”
Yesterday, Taxi Cab Union head Wesley Ferguson said in view of Mr Wells’ recent comments, he expects a similar problem in the coming days.
“He is going to cause a lot of taxi drivers to be out of work,” he said. “He has alerted the people who are leasing these taxi plates to safeguard themselves by putting those plates on their own cars and putting drivers out of work. This is not what the union wants. The minister was way out of line in making that announcement prior to any attempt by the union to meet him and find out what was going on. Numerous people lost their plates last year when he said the same thing in October. He did it again just before the licensing period in May and as a result of that announcement taxi plates were taken from taxi drivers again.”
Taxi drivers have long complained about the cost of leasing plates and want the government to lift the moratorium on issuance of new plates.
Since the Minnis administration came to office, the government has conducted an audit of taxi plates to show who owns the items. Mr Wells told reporters on Tuesday it is unlikely that audit will be released to the public.
Taxi drivers claim many prominent people own taxi plates. They believe the status quo is maintained because of the prominence of the people who own the plates.