KEVON [email protected]
With fuel overheads between $3600-$4800 per month, maxi-taxi operators in South and Central Trinidad say they welcome any assistance from the Government during the COVID-19 period.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley acknowledged the financial fallout operators suffer due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
He announced a one-time fuel support grant of $2,000.Under the Public Health Ordinance (CoViD-19 Regulations) of 2020, public transport operators can only carry 50 per cent of their passenger accommodation. This led to some associations increasing their fares while others battled through the revenue cuts. Those operating the San Fernando to Point Fortin and San Fernando to Chaguanas routes said it is a struggle to get a 50 per cent trip as parts of the economy remains on lockdown, and the government’s Stay-at-Home measures remain in effect.Rudranath Harrichan said drivers along the San Fernando to Point Fortin route spend $200 daily on diesel. Harrichan explained that many passengers were short drops and because many people were not going to work, it is rare to pick up along the way.“That money will help in a sense. It is tough on us with the number of passengers we are carrying, and not everyone is going straight to Point Fortin. Sometimes we get about three passengers during the trip because there are not many people on the roads.
Many of us signed up for grants from the government but have not got anything yet. So we are just out here hustling because we have no choice,” Harrichan said.His colleague Kenneth Williams said given that there were other countries where governments were not in a position to help, he was grateful. Williams said, because drivers did not contribute to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), they were not entitled to the Salary Relief Grant provided by the Ministry of Finance. However, he said drivers want to be part of the NIS. Both drivers were unsure of how to access the grant and requested that the government share the information. Another driver Edward Logie had a different opinion, saying that the government should allow them to increase the passenger accommodation to around 75 per cent. “When I look at how a 12-seat maxi-taxi is, if they allow us to carry nine passengers or 16 passengers in a 25-seat maxi-taxi, we will make more money. That would be better than giving us $2,000. No matter what you do, you will never be six feet apart in a maxi or taxi,” Logie said.Over on the San Fernando to Chaguanas hub, Rick Lall said even if drivers try to disobey the regulations, passengers do not want to enter the maxi-taxis if there are already six people. Given drivers’ lack of options, he said the fuel support from the government would help. Fellow driver Kenneth Barrow said that because of the struggles to get passengers, he welcomes the support.