Maxi drivers are calling on the Government to raise the amount of passengers they are allowed to carry from 50 per cent to two thirds as opposed to the $2000 fuel support grant being offered by the Government.
The grant, which was announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday, was discussed by several red band maxi drivers at City Gate yesterday.
Many of them felt the money would barely cover their fuel expenses.
“I think some of us do like $300 a day in Diesel,” said Gerald Williams, a maxi driver for 25 years.
“It’s less people they carrying and they have to make more runs,” he said concerning the cost of filling up versus the revenue earned per day.
This concern about revenue proved to be a bigger concern, as drivers expressed more interest in having the regulation concerning the amount of passengers they could carry raised from 12 passengers to 16 passengers in 24 seater maxis.
“We are asking for 60 per cent and the reason for that is we are seeing enough social distancing being carried with 16 passengers if everyone sit to a seat,” said Terrence Bryon, who felt that such a change would be a bigger help.
“We believe that 16 passengers is comfortable enough for us right now, the 75 is good whenever that time is. But the 16 for now for me is much more comfortable than $2000 dollars, because $2000, we burning like $175 to $200 in fuel (per day),” he said
Under this arrangement, all single seats would be occupied while double seat swould have one occupant. The back seat which could house four people, would instead hold two at each end, allowing for social distancing, Byron said.
However Byron admitted that currently, drivers struggled to get a trip of 12.
“We under the 50 per cent barrier right now and everybody believe we at 50 per cent but we are way under 50 per cent at this point,” he said.
This was the harsh reality experienced by driver Dale St John, who came out to work the Arima to Port- of- Spain route for the first time since the lockdown began. He had spent the last two month staying at home with his young daughter.
“I came down from Arima with three passengers,” he said, “Remember this is Sunday, no church, hardly anybody coming out. For the stay at home, you can’t really get much,” he added.
“You might get the 12 in town, but when you up in Arima to come back down you running empty or at most three or four people,’ said Williams.
St John was among several drivers who spent long periods waiting at the transport hub waiting on the handful of commuters who were traveling.
The wait was so long many drivers opted to wash their vehicles and discuss other concerns such as potential clashes between maxi-owners and drivers concerning the grant, as some felt owners may pocket the grant instead of allowing drivers to utilise it.
Guardian Media attempted to call Route Two Maxi Taxi Association President Linus Phillip for comment on the situation, but calls went unanswered yesterday.