A support package to keep taxi drivers working is essential to maintain transport options for Victoria’s elderly, disabled and vulnerable according to Eastern Metro MP and Transport Matters Party leader Rod Barton.
Mr Barton has provided the Andrews Government with a list of solutions that would support drivers and keep essential transport services, such as wheelchair access taxis, on the road.
“Taxis are an essential service that so many people rely on for the most basic trips to supermarkets and medical appointments and we must keep them on the roads,” said Mr Barton
“Jobs from the airport and major events are now gone due to coronavirus restrictions, and fear of catching Covid-19 means many older and more experienced drivers are parking their cabs walking away from the industry altogether.”
Mr Barton wrote to the Treasurer and Minister for Public Transport in March and has been in talks over measures to assist drivers.
“Many of the drivers and operators in the taxi industry work under a bailment arrangement and are neither small businesses nor employees. However, their pricing, hours and standards are set by the Government through the Essential Services Commission – effectively they are employed by the state,” he says.
Mr Barton’s suggestions include diverting the $1 trip levy to drivers, emergency leave benefits, opening access to small business support, tolling exemptions, VicRoad registration fee exemption, and a further delay on invoicing for CPV accreditation fees.
“The regulator has failed to invoice drivers for accreditation fees for the past three years. These payments were due to resume this year, but we would ask that the Government wait now and review it again in 6 months. At $55 it’s little more than half a tank of fuel.
“We’ve also asked the Government to intervene and offer financial support for taxi driver depot fees, and to allow taxis to pick up and deliver medical scripts for those eligible for the multi-purpose taxi program.”
Mr Barton asked for suspension of rideshare trials of the multi-purpose taxi program.
“This is not the time to allow private vehicles to transport our most vulnerable citizens. We need to ensure proper training, proper safety measures and consistent hygiene standards.”
He also raised the risk of newly unemployed or underemployed workers flocking to the rideshare sector to supplement their income.
“I have asked that new driver accreditations be deferred for 6 months. At the end of January 2020, we had almost 110,000 drivers accredited in Victoria, which in itself has put a massive strain on the incomes of all drivers.
“New drivers to the sector would further dilute what is a very over supplied market, not to mention the increased health and safety risks of using private vehicles in a commercial capacity,” says Mr Barton.
Other states and territories have started to release assistance packages for the taxi and commercial passenger vehicle industry this week, and Mr Barton says it is vital that Victoria release its own package soon.
“Drivers have had it tough for the last few years and for many this will be the last straw.”