Taximeters are welcome - All Island Three-wheel Drivers’ Union | Sunday Observer

Taximeters are welcome - All Island Three-wheel Drivers’ Union

The Transport Ministry has given an extension of time until December 31 for trishaw drivers to fix taximeters, despite the Gazette notification issued on September 8, 2017 which has introduced several key regulations to be effective from October 1 to regulate the trishaw industry. Deputy Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Ashok Abeysinghe said, the main purpose of introducing the new regulations is to prevent various irregularities and shortcomings, and ensure a secure destination for commuters and eventually produce disciplined three- wheel drivers who would guarantee the safety of both, the commuter and the driver. The All Island Three-wheel Drivers’ Union said, they are hundred percent in favour of making taximeters compulsory for all three-wheelers, while the All Island Three-wheel Drivers’ and Owners’ Association said, these regulations should be implemented by a regulatory authority with a formula for rates.

Deputy Minister Ashok Abeysinghe told the Sunday Observer that he has requested the National Council for Road Safety to give a certain time frame, without implementing the regulations with effect from October 1 since it is necessary for the three-wheel drivers to purchase the meter. Steps will be taken to provide these meters at a concessionary rate on an easy payment scheme. We have cast the responsibility on the three- wheel drivers to decide on the rates. If the Ministry is to decide on the fares, it would create an issue because these rates are charged area wise. However, the new taximeter will automatically produce a receipt. If a passenger asks for a receipt, the three wheel driver is bound to oblige. The receipt will include details such as, the vehicle number and the time the passenger got in. In case of accidents, the receipt would be useful for insurance purposes.

Meanwhile, we have asked the companies to sell new three- wheelers equipped with a meter. We will prepare a program together with the three- wheel drivers’ unions to fix a meter to each existing three-wheeler. When people get accustomed to metered three- wheelers, all drivers will have to comply, eventually. There are about 1.2 million three- wheelers in Sri Lanka. Of them nearly 800,000 run on a daily basis. Therefore, this is not a project that can be implemented with immediate effect. However, at the initial stage, we hope meters would be fixed to at least 60 to 70 percent of them. We cannot prosecute three- wheelers without meters with effect from October 1 as we have to give them a certain time frame.

Deputy Minister Abeysinghe said, the important thing is that every three- wheel driver should have an identity card and a meter taxi logo. Following discussions we held with three- wheel drivers unions, a training has been given to the drivers, and we have formulated a program for them to be trained by the Department of Motor Traffic at Werahera, as well. In addition, we hope to discuss any outstanding problems connected to the unions island wide. Another progressive step is to introduce speed limits, especially, in city areas. However, this is still under discussion.

Chairman, National Council for Road Safety, Dr. Sisira Kodagoda told the Sunday Observer, the regulations introduced under the gazette issued on September 8, 2017 were scheduled to be implemented with effect from October 1. The regulation had made it mandatory for all three-wheelers to have a meter. But, we have advised the SLS to devise a standard taximeter and report to us. The SLS has already given its technical report, which I will refer to the manufacturing companies, and request them to conform to the stipulated standard. The meter should clearly display the rate charged for a kilometer, the number of kilometers travelled by the passenger, and the fare to be paid.

In case of an accident, if there is no bill, the passenger cannot claim insurance. Therefore, the standard taximeter would rectify these shortcomings. Even foreigners like to travel by three-wheelers. Issuing proper receipt would pave the way to build confidence among foreigners. At present, foreigners are taken for a ride by some of the three-wheel drivers by overcharging them. We have introduced these rules and regulations to put such drivers on the right track. It would take some time to create an attitudinal change. Before any changes are effected, the Council would first educate the three-wheel drivers.

Dr.Kodagoda said, the three-wheel drivers’ associations had informed that the time frame given is not enough for them to fix taximeters. They attempted to project a wrong impression that a mafia is going to be created by paving the way for a particular company to start a business. The Ministry has no intention whatsoever to do that and we will not bring in any foreign company. We will provide guidelines to local companies which manufacture these taximeters. Only a small unit would have to be fixed on existing three-wheelers that are equipped with meters. Therefore, the regulations will not have a bearing on existing vehicles with metres. We have informed the companies which import three-wheelers to fix an SLS certified meter when sales are made. The companies have agreed to provide meters to three-wheelers running without meters, on an interest free monthly instalment basis, so that they would not face any economic hardship.

He said, “ Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva instructed me to give a grace period for the trishaw drivers until December 31 this year to fix these taximeters. Therefore, the decision taken to implement these gazetted regulations with effect from October 1 has been postponed up to December 31. It would be mandatory for all trishaws to use a taximeter with effect from January 1 next year. After that, the Consumer Affairs Authority will take action against trishaws without taximeters. In addition, we would also check whether the three-wheel drivers abide by the other rules and regulations specified in the gazette notification”.

The All Island Three-Wheel Drivers’ Union President, Lalith Dharmasekara told the Sunday Observer, these are regulations gazetted by the Transport and Civil Aviation Minister on September 8 under the Motor Traffic Act. A similar gazette notification was also issued by the Minister on January 9.The new gazette notification has been issued, removing two clauses of the previous notification. The former Transport Minister, in 2013, also issued a gazette notification adding more features. Until 2013, there were no regulations for the three-wheel industry which has now completed over 38 years. The Central Government should prepare necessary rules and regulations to safeguard the three-wheel industry and protect passengers. As a union, we have given our support to formulate the regulations. The country needs laws to regulate the three-wheel industry, so, we are agreeable to the new regulations. Now, the issue is, how we should proceed with these regulations. The penalty for the offence is not stated in the gazette. It should be done simultaneously with the gazette notification. Then, the Police would have the authority to enforce the law.

Dharmasekara said, it was their union that first introduced taximeters, on January 5, 2005. Therefore, we are hundred percent in favour of making the taximeter compulsory for all three-wheelers. Those who opposed taximeters those days still maintain the same stance, citing various reasons. Under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, passenger transportation in the respective Province is vested with the Provincial Councils. Therefore, regulating three-wheeler service comes under the purview of Provincial Councils. From the day the Transport Minister publishes the gazette notification, it becomes law. But, we are of the view that three-wheel drivers should be given time to fix meters until the end of December this year and the fine imposed for not using taximeters should be postponed till January 1 next year.

The All Island Three-Wheel Drivers’ and Owners’ Association President, Sudhil Jayaruk told the Sunday Observer, the gazette was issued on September 8 and is due to be implemented on October 1. This is not practical. All the regulations specified cannot be implemented within such a short period. We made a proposal to the 2017 Budget to set up a regulatory authority for trishaws. Then Finance Ministry included it in the Budget proposals, which was passed without any division in Parliament.

A severe problem has arisen with regard to regularizing the trishaw industry as it is operated in an informal manner. At present, many school leavers who are qualified to opt for other employment enter the trishaw industry, thereby leading to a social problem. That is why we propose to standardize the industry. The proposed regulatory authority should prepare a formula for rates as well. This formula may change from Province to Province. We have requested that only those above 25 years be allowed to enter this profession. It would then enable the youth to select other job opportunities. He said Parliament has vested powers with the Central Government to set up a regulatory authority to regularize the transport service. It can take steps to address issues in the trishaw industry as well. So,why do we need the new gazette notification? Actually, this gazette should be implemented by the regulatory body.

If the taximeter is to be used for the purpose meant, it should be standardized by introducing a methodology for fares. At present, there is no specific institution to make a complaint against an errant trishaw driver.