*File photo
*File photo

Dear Sir,

Now that we are in the early stages of the high tourist season it gives us, the taxi drivers, a chance to make a little bit of revenue, after what we would describe as the worse off-season in the history of the taxi industry. 

During this current busy season we now look to the Bermuda OBA Government to resolve our many outstanding issues that have plagued us during the off-season, and that will continue to plague us if they are not dealt with by the end of the summer or the tourist season. 

This Government now has the opportunity to do what no government before them has done — to revolutionize the laws of the taxi industry and bring them up to the 21st century of today. 

Many of the taxi laws in existence have not been changed or altered since taxis were first introduced to Bermuda. 

I am therefore submitting this as a guideline, that we in the industry hope the government would look at and consider, in order for the taxi industry to strive and survive in Bermuda. 

Regulations for GPS, licensing, equipment and standards are already in place for taxis with ‘supposed’ penalties for non-compliance. The government needs to make a decision on the future of GPS once and for all and let us move on. Whatever decision is made by the Government must be final and accepted by the industry. We need to put this GPS mandatory/optional issue behind us and march forward once and for all. 

Negotiations with both governments have not been easy for various reasons, such as conflicts of interest, the introduction of minibuses, boats that classify and brand themselves as a taxi along with government-supplied forms of transportation to move visitors throughout the island. All these added options of unregulated forms of transportation have all contributed to the industry’s frustrations. 

Now is the time for the taxi industry to represent themselves as one single body, one voice and togetherness. It’s also time for a system to be put in place where taxi drivers can represent themselves as a legal body and allow themselves to chart their own course. The OBA Government must consider this. 

Due to the worst off-season ever, some taxis were either repossessed by the bank, weren’t licensed for the new season, or were just put up for sale, as many operators just couldn’t be bothered with the frustrations and high costs anymore. 

In Bermuda, the cost of insurance, operating a taxi, repairs and maintenance, tyres and gas are among the highest in any country in the world. 

Zero benefits

The monthly cost of running a taxi is sometimes in the thousands of dollars. The cost of a new six-seater taxi is approximately $50,000 dollars. The cost of a new engine for a taxi is approximately $18,000, with the added duty expenses included. With other requirements such as food, rent/mortgage, clothing, family needs, electricity, phone and other unexpected expenses, that amount climbs thousands more. No other employment in Bermuda carries comparable costs to taxis, with zero benefits and such a high break-even point. 

Drivers’ incomes have fallen in real terms by up to 50 per cent since 2008. Due to not only the worldwide recession, but also due to increased costs, loss of business through rising unemployment and falling tourist numbers. During the off-season, most drivers were wondering where their next dollar was going to come from. 

Many taxi drivers are considering getting out of the business, particularly because of unfair and unregulated competition. 

Many taxi drivers cannot afford health insurance. Therefore if a driver has a toothache, high blood pressure, vision problems or any other medical issue, they are not being addressed or treated. Drivers should be aware that any untreated problem could cause severe sickness or even death. Get yourself some health insurance. 

To assist the industry with health care, the (BTOA) Bermuda Taxi Owners/Operators and Affiliates have now taken it upon themselves to create its own taxi insurance programme. It will offer major health insurance and benefits to any financial member of the BTOA. The programme itself, hopefully will be rolled out in the first week of July. Drivers, you need to get involved, come together and find out what your association is doing for you. Health insurance is just one item.

Now that competition has been introduced by the government with mini buses and water taxis, we ask that these forms of transportation be regulated such as taxis are. While taxis have to pay 100,000.00 dollars for a permit, we ask how much does a minibus pay? How much does a boat that classifies itself as a taxi pay, to do the same work is a “real” taxi? Someone do the Math and tell me if its fair game. 

Going forward and on behalf of the taxi industry I would like the Bermuda Government to consider the following suggestions:-

Resolve our suggested proposals — already in your hands — ASAP;

 Put a hold on any further requested permit to operate a minibus or water taxi. (At least until competitive rules and regulations are put in place);

 Offer a fixed discount or rebate for gas for taxis;

Allow spare engine parts to be brought in duty free;

Allow taxis (vans) to use the seventh seat in their vehicle;

Allow second hand vehicles in perfect condition to be brought in from overseas to be purchased and used as a taxi (stop protecting the local dealership);

Move the licensing and insurance period from low income season (January) to higher income season (July);

Payroll tax should be a standard fee paid once a year during high season on a part time salary basis, if at all;

Full background check and scrutiny on all persons applying for taxi licence. 

Potential results:

More drivers will appreciate the value of taxi driving;

There are added incentives to providing excellent customer service;

Younger drivers will be encouraged to enter the industry;

Drivers/owners will have less burdensome finances when purchasing a vehicle because of the overseas second hand option. 

Conclusion — the taxi industry will become a much healthier corporate body. 

To my fellow ambassadors, involve yourselves with the BTOA, so we speak with one voice. 

Derek L Young

President, Bermuda Taxi Owners/Operators and affiliates (BTOA)