JIS News

Managing Director of the Transport Authority, Joan Fletcher, has warned that the government was adopting a zero-tolerance approach to breaches of the recently-amended Road Traffic and Transport Authority Acts and has called on all taxi operators to regularise their service or face penalties.
“As it is now, the law is in force and the Transport Authority and the Police are on the roads, so we are encouraging operators to come in and legalise their operations,” she said.
Mrs. Fletcher, who was speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, noted that the legislation have been amended to address the various ills plaguing the public transportation sector including “licenced operators who fail to operate within the terms and conditions of their licence, and unlicenced operators, usually called ‘robots’, who operate within the sector without a licence to do so.”
“The laws, as they were, were woefully inadequate to address this growing problem, and so a decision was made to amend the legislation to put more teeth into the provisions,” she observed.
The long-awaited amendments, which were enacted in June 2005, serve to strengthen the monitoring capability of the Transport Authority and the police. “It also affords greater protection to the legal operators,” Mrs. Fletcher noted.
The Transport Authority Act specifically deals with public passenger vehicles. The Road Traffic Act, on the other hand, has provisions related to public passenger vehicles, but is in fact a broader piece of legislation covering motor vehicles generally.
Under the previous provisions of the Transport Authority Act, a Transport Authority Route Inspector or Police Constable was empowered to seize a vehicle used “as a public passenger vehicle without a road licence being issued in respect of that vehicle to be so operated or used”. However, because the legislation was open to different interpretations, the Transport Authority was exposed to numerous claims and lawsuits for unlawful seizure.
The amendments to the Act were therefore intended to eliminate these ambiguities, and to make the provisions for seizure more explicit.
“The law allows greater control and monitoring of licenced vehicles while providing increased sanctions against illegal robot vehicles, so in this regard, the Road Traffic Act and Transport Authority Act were amended to specifically strengthen the Transport Authority and police seizure powers, to clarify existing provisions related to the seizure of unlicenced vehicles and to increase the fines,” explained the Managing Director.
Elaborating on the seizure powers as now outlined by the amendments, Mrs. Fletcher informed that the Transport Authority Inspectors and the police could now seize “vehicles found operating without a licence in the public passenger sector; vehicles, which are licenced as Stage Carriage, Express Carriage or Route Taxi, but which operate off their routes; as well as vehicles, which are licenced as Hackney Carriage, but which operate as a Stage Carriage, Express Carriage or Route Taxi.”
“Vehicles, which are licenced as Contract Carriage, but which operate as a Stage Carriage, Express Carriage or Route Taxi, and vehicles, which are licenced as Express Carriage, but which operate as a Stage Carriage or Route Taxi” can also be seized, Mrs. Fletcher explained.
The Transport Authority Managing Director also clarified the classification system used for public passenger vehicles.
Under the amended Road Traffic Act, a class of licence called ‘Route Taxi’ has been created, to mean a motor vehicle adapted for carrying no more than ten passengers along a designated route, but which is allowed to pick up and set down passengers along that route.
Stage Carriages refer to larger vehicles (carrying more than ten passengers), which operate along a route and manner similar to the route taxi.
The Hackney Carriage is the vehicle that is traditionally called a taxi in Jamaica. These are the vehicles that are often used by taxi companies. They can be hired on any thoroughfare or place frequented by the public and have a seating accommodation of not more than four persons.
An Express Carriage is similar to the Hackney Carriage, in that a passenger or passengers can hire it, however, this operator must have a number of pre-determined stops and is not allowed to set down or pick up passengers outside of those stops, Mrs. Fletcher explained.
Meanwhile, the Transport Authority is seeking further amendments to the Road Traffic Act to provide for the removal of musical equipment on buses. Recent changes to the Act has made it illegal for music to be played on public buses. “We have asked for some further amendments to be done to the regulations to allow the magistrates to order that the equipment be removed from the buses where they are found to be in breach,” stated Dian Watson, Legal Officer at the Transport Authority.
As soon as the additional amendments are made and gazetted, Mrs. Fletcher assured that the Transport Authority, along with the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) would begin to take action against the offenders.