JIS News

Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill has said that the recent passage of amendments to the Road Traffic, and Transport Authority Acts, would better enable law enforcement personnel and the Transport Authority to crack down on the problematic issue of illegal taxis on the nation’s roads.
Speaking yesterday (June 22) at a meeting at the Hilton Kingston Hotel with representatives of taxi associations across the island, Minister Pickersgill said the package of amendments, which were approved by Parliament last month, “will be central to a focused endeavour by the Transport Authority in conjunction with law enforcement agencies to effectively regulate the sector and protect the interests of legitimate operators and the commuting public.”
Outlining the stipulations that the taxi associations would be requested to abide by under the revised Acts, the Minister informed that taxis would be required to: have red PPV plates; the Association’s logo on the two front doors of the vehicle; a number, as each motor vehicle within each association is required to have a specific number; colour coded stickers affixed to the front and rear windshields; the parish lettering displayed as a sticker; and the route destination displayed on both front doors.
“Implementation of these requirements,” he told the meeting, “is already fostering more accountability. Operators are more easily identified. The Transport Authority can now easily identify or track down members of an organisation on relevant matters. This will enable the Authority to carry out its mandate more promptly, effectively, and efficiently.”
Amendments to the Road Traffic Act and Transport Authority Act have further strengthened the seizure powers of both the Authority and the police, and clarifies existing provisions relating to the seizure of unlicensed vehicles, also commonly referred to as robots.
The Minister said the Transport Authority and police had been empowered by the amendments to seize several classes of licensed vehicles.
These include vehicles that are licensed as a stage carriage, express carriage or route taxis but which operate off their routes; vehicles which are licensed as a hackney carriage but which operate as a stage, express or route taxi; vehicles which are licensed as a contract carriage but which operate as a stage, express or route taxi; vehicles which are licensed as a express carriage but which operate as a stage carriage or a route taxi.
In light of the changes made in the Acts governing the transportation sector, Mr. Pickersgill said fines have also subsequently, been significantly increased. For persons found operating without a road license, for their first conviction, a fine not less than $20, 000 nor more than $40, 000 will be levied. A second conviction will attract a fine not less than $40, 000 nor more than $75, 000. In the case of a third conviction, it will see a fine not less than $75, 000 nor more than $125, 000 being levied. Meanwhile persons found to be operating contrary to the road license will be required to pay a fine not exceeding $100, 000.
On the matter of the responsibility of passengers, the Act states that a fine not exceeding $50, 000, will be paid, for persons who utilise public transportation and use obscene or offensive language, entering with a bulky or cumbersome article, not paying the fare, and not showing a ticket. Regarding the conduct of drivers and conductors, Minister Pickersgill explained that “fines not exceeding $75, 000 are provided for in circumstances such as disorderly conduct on a public passenger vehicles, not ensuring the safety of passengers, smoking on a public passenger vehicle, not wearing the designated uniform, and deceiving the passengers about the destination or fare for a journey.”
The Minister told the meeting that the implementation of legislation to oversee the transportation sector was critical, as the numbers of illegally operating vehicles was amassing, and currently is estimated to be in excess of 18, 000.
Estimates, according to him, placed the revenue generated by illegal operators in the region of $4 billion annually.
Prior to the introduction of amendments, he noted that the “lack of effective regulations governing the sector has impacted both the public and private sector operations in the transportation sector in a major way.” The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), he said, has also felt the impact of the abuse meted by the illegal operators on the transportation system.
“The pursuits of persons operating taxis illegally played a major role in the reduction in ridership on JUTC buses from $88.46 million in 2003 to $77.4 million in 2004, a reduction of $11.06 million or 12 per cent,” he said.
Against the background of the amendments being made, the Transport Minister pointed out that “any city styling itself as, or would want to be regarded as a civilised city, must have a presentable taxi infrastructure, which must be safe, identifiable, reliable, clean and affordable.”

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