Taxi chief backs conduct code to eliminate all ‘undesirables’


Tribune Business Reporter


The Bahamas Taxi Cab Union’s (BTCU) president has backed the proposed new “code of conduct” for drivers as a way to remove an “influx of undesirables” from the industry.

Wesley Ferguson told Tribune Business that he had supported the introduction of such a “code” since 2020 as a means to improve the behaviour and conduct of drivers. He argued that its introduction has become more urgent due to the issuance of several hundred new taxi plates since the Davis administration took office, which has over-saturated market with too many drivers chasing too little business after the moratorium on new entrants was lifted last July.

“We had a meeting with the Ministry of Transport. The minister (JoBeth Coleby-Davis) came out of hiding because she realises what she did. She has to basically now make amends with the union because they’ve been doing some stuff that is detrimental to the taxi industry,” he argued.

“What happened is that with the new influx of all the taxi drivers, we have an increase in undesirables and, for the most part, we don’t even know who these people are. Some of them have ankle bracelets on, some of them have criminal records, and they are from all walks of life, and even some with drug use who are drug dealing or drug trafficking to passengers.”

The “code of conduct’s” introduction for taxi drivers was announced by the Road Traffic Authority last week at the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) board of directors meeting, as both the Government and that industry explore how they can improve the visitor’s transportation experience as well as hold taxi franchise owners, drivers and plate owners accountable for their behaviour.

Mr Ferguson said there is “no recourse for bad behaviour” by drivers. Lanecia Darville, the Road Traffic Authority’s chairman, last week said the regulator agreed with the tourism sector’s call for professional standards to be imposed on taxi franchise holders and drivers - with unspecified penalties for violations - as part of the drive to improve the transportation experience for visitors.

Noting that there have been “persistent issues” involving the taxi sector’s interaction with tourists, she said that if the Government were to agree the fare increase that drivers have been demanding then it would want the sector to work with it to improve standards and conduct “in return”.

Mr Ferguson said: “We have a press conference next week some time, and we will invite the press to announce the fare increase. We have been engaged with the Ministry of Transport on this, and we feel it is the right time to make the move and increase the fares.”

With visitors frequently complaining about high taxi fares, and alleging they are being “overcharged” and unable to obtain fee schedules, Robert Sands, the BHTA’s president, said the sector’s collaboration with the Government in bid to improve the ground transportation will be “pivotal for the future success of the [tourism] industry”.

With the Association’s transportation experience committee now meeting regularly with the Ministry of Transport and Housing to tackle the issue, he added: “It’s going to make a significant difference to the experience of visitors in this destination. It’s no use to continue to bring more of those people here and send more of them away dissatisfied.”

Ms Darville, acknowledging that it is critical for The Bahamas to “elevate the transportation experience”, said the Road Traffic Authority is already reviewing a draft “code of conduct” for taxi drivers that has been prepared by the BHTA with the “ultimate intent” for it to roll-out industry-wide. She added that drivers and franchise holders could be required to sign up to the code, and agree to abide by it, when they come in bi-annually to renew their licences.

“We know there have been persistent issues with the the transportation experience, particularly from the visitor perspective, for quite some time,” Ms Darville said. “We’re mindful that transportation is essential to our economy, and tourism is the big driver of our economy.

“At the Road Traffic Department and Road Traffic Authority, for too long the focus has really been more so on regulating the vehicles as opposed to regulating the drivers as well as the experience itself. The question is how we can do that.” Ms Darville said the Authority and transport officials “heard a lot of concerns and challenges” when they met with the BHTA committee in March, but also proposed solutions as well.

“One of the things you had all suggested, and we completely agree, was the introduction of a ‘code of conduct’ for taxi franchise holders and drivers,” she added. “We would since have received that draft from you, and are in the process of reviewing that because what we intend to do is ultimately adopt it and it will be promulgated through the Road Traffic Authority.

“That, we expect, to outline core values and behaviours of franchise holders and drivers. Currently, in most countries, there are standards for professional conduct but I think locally that has been a matter of culture, and there are a lot of practices that are completely unacceptable that are impacting the experience.”

Ms Darville said all taxi drivers and franchise holders will have to sign up to, and agree to be bound by, the proposed “code of conduct” with the Authority still assessing how best to implement and enforce this. Requiring persons to sign up as part of their bi-annual licence renewal process is presently the preferred method for this.

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