Forgeting preventative measures in social distancing passengers crowd the entrance to Maxi Taxi at City Gate, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday.

Anna-Lisa Paul

It will be a personal choice for the owners/operators of small and large maxi-taxis if they want to continue providing services to the public after Sunday.

This was the advice by Red Band Maxi-Taxi Association President, Linus Phillip yesterday, following an announcement that drivers will now be forced to operate at 50 per cent capacity only.

During a news conference at the Ministry of Health, National Security Minister Stuart Young said the transportation sector had been deemed an essential service at this time.

However, he said maxi-taxis, minibuses and private hire taxis would not be allowed to operate at maximum capacity.

This is in keeping with the need to maintain social distancing protocols as one of the measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The new directive means that a large maxi registered to transport 25 passengers, would not be able to transport more than 12 passengers at any given time.

Meanwhile, a small maxi registered to transport 14 passengers will now be forced to cut that number by half.

Phillip said while discussions had been held with the minister prior to yesterday’s announcement, no final decision had been taken.

He said the announcement had come as a shock, and would have been a surprise to many of their members.

Phillip told Guardian Media, “My first concern is how feasible it is for drivers to operate because some of them are already saying it is not working out for them.”

He went on to explain that if a driver was to pick up a maximum load of 12 passengers at $8 per person, that would amount to $96 per trip.

“Right now, some of us are only making two trips per day and come next week, that will be worse because there will be less people on the road,” Phillip said.

He questioned, “Is it feasible to come out and make about $300 if a driver makes about three trips, where the diesel bill remains the same per trip because that is not decreasing? And we still have wear and tear to consider, and tyres to replace either way?”

Phillip said when all these operating costs are considered, the expenses for the owners/operators remained the same.

Phillip said, “The people we are being asked to carry to work will receive their full salary at the end of the month but we are asked to make a 100 per cent sacrifice, and so we have to consider if we will continue working and how it will be done.”

Phillip said they are open to discussions with the Government on this matter.

He concluded, “Just as how the Government sent home all the others who they had to and provided food cards for them…the airlines that were closed and money was provided to compensate for shutting them down…we haven’t even got a tank of fuel.”

“They haven’t even offered us a free full-up every day so at least we won’t have to buy fuel…nothing.”