Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ensure that all Public Transport Drivers are rigorously trained, not just only Taxi Drivers.

Some years back, Afriforum compiled a report on Taxis (Mini-Bus Taxis/Midi-Bus Taxis) after the death of a young girl, Bernadine Kruger who was cycling to school in Pretoria when a Mamelodi - Pretoria taxi knocked her off. I read the report which you can find here. At the end of the report, they published some letters from the readers who shared their experiences with taxis. One of the letter caught my eye (see below). I wonder if their report was ever read by the National Department of Transport (DoT), but a year on after the report, 10 scholars were killed in a train crossing in Cape Town after the mini-bus taxi they were travelling in crashed with the train - the taxi has failed to stop for the train to pass.

Yesterday, the DoT reported to parliament portfolio committee on transport that their National Scholar Transport Policy is on hold because there has been some disagreement between them and the Department of Education on which department is suppose to be responsible. This is sad, considering that millions of scholars work for long distances to school putting their life into risk as they either travel alone or on highways or making use of LDVs. Worse is the fact that the DoT's work on Scholar Transport is short of details ( as reported on E-TV). MPs also want drivers who transport pupils to be properly trained. But why don't we apply this training to all public transport drivers as recommended by a certain reader by the name of Morne?

Here is what he proposed;

We cannot be unrealistic and campaign to remove taxis from our roads, because the fact remains that they do serve a critical function of providing transport to millions of South Africans every day. Without transport people would be stuck, and it will bring productivity to a standstill in South Africa if the workforce cannot get to work. But drivers need to be controlled. So here is an idea: the biggest problem is just that any person who can sort of drive, or has enough contacts to either buy a licence or a minibus, can just become a taxi driver. If I buy a truck or a bus today, I cannot just become a truck/bus driver, I need to write and pass a special licensing exam. The taxi industry should be controlled much more efficiently in the same fashion.

They are after all responsible for the lives of the people that they transport, not so? For instance: if you want to become a taxi driver, in addition to your normal driver’s licence, you should also have a special taxi licence. To obtain this licence, you must first pass an advanced driving course, and write a rigorous exam on the rules of the road, and get tested thoroughly on it. Then, and only then, if you passed these criteria, will you be issued with a taxi licence. And you should only be able to buy a minibus if you already have the abovementioned licences, like when you want to buy a new TV and need to produce a TV licence first. Taxi drivers should also be forced to have their taxis checked for roadworthiness at least every quarter, and for this you get a stamp, like a servicing stamp. They should also have a refresher driving course every two years or so. And then of course there is the policing. If you are a taxi driver, and you are caught committing a traffic offence, or without the taxi licence, or proof of recent roadworthy checks, you should be fined heavily, and “marked” on the traffic system.

You then get 30 days to get your stuff in order. If you are caught again, your taxi is impounded and your taxi licence removed, and only when you have complied with all of the requirements all over again, and paid another fine, can you get your taxi back. Normal traffic offence fines for taxis should be higher than for other motorists, especially if you have passengers when you are caught, because you are endangering innocent people's lives. If we can better regulate, and properly train and police our minibus taxis, making them safe and trustworthy to use, we will have a fantastic ready-made public transport system that is different from anywhere in the first world. A public transport system that actually collects and drops you at your door. Imagine how fantastic that would have been for 2010!

If this is done without fear while bribes are not been taken by traffic officers (it is possible), then we will have a safer public transport for all. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry should just be allowed to drive passenger just because they have a license.

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