Taxi drivers criticise demerit point system

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President of the TT Taxi Drivers Association Adrian Acosta. –

Adrian Acosta, president of the TT Taxi Drivers Network, says some taxi drivers are losing their licenses without crossing the maximum number of demerit points.

On Thursday during a protest at the Ministry of Works and Transport in Port-of-Spain, Acosta said “The point system, as it stands used to be that 14 points would get you a disqualification without consultation, or adequate consultation, however, there are drivers getting disqualified for having ten points.”

Assistant secretary David Mack added that while drivers have contested this in court and won, the demerit points are not removed.

“We have people who have gone to court and won but the points are not erased because there is no system to have it erased. The magistrates tell you they have no power to disqualify the points and when they are questioned, they don’t know how it will be removed.”

This, in turn, leads to an accumulation of points that further increase the chance of their licenses being revoked, Mack said.

Acosta said the demerit point system accounts for trivial things it should not which in turn has long-term consequences on drivers.

“They are doing it in a very ad-hoc manner because most of the things they charge for, should not carry points. It should just be a fine like if you have a smooth tyre or for not wearing your seatbelts, not a point. We think the demerit system should only be for dangerous driving.”

While the network acknowledges the driver rehab programme exists, Acosta says it is too costly.

“You have to remember that this is how most of them earn their livelihoods. If they lose their badges, what happens? They wouldn’t be able to afford these classes. It’s one set of money to do the class and another set at the licensing office.”

A representative from the authorised driver rehabilitation programme said the course costs $1,350.

Acosta said if their demands are not met, they are ready to escalate things further.

Acosta again accused “PH” drivers of obstructing registered taxi drivers. He said “PH” drivers are operating unlawfully as taxi drivers when there is already a procedure in place to follow.

“We have complained about this a million times, and everybody seems to be turning a blind eye to this illegal activity. We are saying that if you want to work taxi, there is already a procedure in place to do so legally.”

Acosta appealed to the Government for assistance in regulating the taxi industry.

“We have had our concerns aired for eight years now and all we are asking for is that our concerns are heard.”

Newsday called Transport Commissioner Clive Clark but got no response.