Despite getting inspection certificates for buses, drivers from South Trinidad faced the wrath of the public after they refused to take up duties on Thursday after claiming many of the inspected buses still had major defects.
As they stood in the drizzle at King’s Wharf, San Fernando, some of the commuters accused the drivers of trying to make the Government look bad.
"Get to work. All yuh suffering poor people in this country," an irate woman shouted.
Another man said the drivers were making excuses.
However, Transport and Industrial Workers’ Trade Union assistant branch secretary Romesh Sonilal said the public did not understand what the drivers were facing. He said under the collective agreement, drivers were liable to pay any ticket fines they get from police or Licensing officers. With the new changes in traffic fines and the implementation of the demerit system, Sonilal said drivers will now face heftier fines because of defective buses.
He claimed that some buses were inspected on Wednesday and despite defects were still given inspection passes.
"We want to know how this happened. One driver went over the pit and the Licensing officer told him to come through, the buses already pass inspection," Sonilal claimed.
He noted that many of the buses from the San Fernando fleet had cracked windscreens but were still given inspection certificates. Sonilal also claimed the engineering department of PTSC was not fixing the buses to the manufacturer's specifications.
"When the back glass is cracked they do not replace the glass. They put plexy or a black steel sheet on the glass which obscures the driver's vision. Many of the buses are leaking and when the passengers get wet they take out their frustration on us," Sonilal added.
He claimed on one occasion a passenger had to hold an umbrella over the driver's head to prevent him from getting wet.
Sonilal said they have complained about defective buses for many years but now that the demerit system was coming on stream they could no longer drive defective buses because it could mean suspension of their drivers' permits through no fault of theirs.
Shop steward Deowanand Lackhan said he was not surprised the travelling public was unsympathetic. He claimed drivers have been physically assaulted by unhappy commuters.
"Many of the buses have shut down and the commuters curse us for this. They do not understand that we do not fix buses, we just drive the buses. Passengers have slapped us because they feel we are responsible for the buses being defective," Lackhan said.
In a letter issued on Thursday, PTSC deputy general manager of Operations Bevon Cooke said all buses in the active fleet have been inspected and inspection certificates were housed with the corporate secretary. He said based on the PTSC's policy and for insurance purposes, the inspection certificates have been supplied. He noted that the PTSC will also take full responsibility if any driver or conductor receives traffic tickets for driving buses which do not have inspection certificates.