EDITORIAL: Lashley must fix ZR problem
New Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley has a major challenge on his hands. He must not mince words or waste time in bringing order to a section of the private sector transport service which, despite its importance, needs to be effectively controlled. We speak of the ZR vans and minibuses. For too long they have been allowed to get away with the worst type of behaviour on our roads.
Mr Lashley must know of their unruliness, of which anyone driving around this country is undoubtedly familiar. He would have heard on the radio call-in programmes and in casual conversation and read in the newspapers of the headaches caused by many of the drivers of these vehicles.
Yes, there is no denying they carry thousands of passengers daily and ensure commerce, education and services in general continue without any major disruption. These vehicles employ many people, some of whom may otherwise find it difficult to obtain work in what is a tough economic environment. The owners ensure that their financial return is consistently rewarding while the drivers, operating in a truly for-profit-only climate, understand the meaning of productivity. These are the good business approaches employed in this sector.
But the ugly practices far outweigh the positives. The complaints about reckless driving, the running of traffic lights, the refusal to use lay-bys, thereby creating unnecessary backups, and a seeming total disregard for the law are now all legendary. The unfortunate reality is that in Barbados we have gone only as far as talking about these issues non-stop, something we have been doing for a long time without any real resolution.
Minister Lashley has a golden opportunity to arrest this bad behaviour. Even though he is a politician, he is not in his current ministerial position to win friends, but rather to influence policy and people in the right direction. When he meets with the owners and the operators of the ZR vans and minibuses he must remind them what is required of them at all times: the highest standards as well as compliance with the rules and regulations governing their operations.
There are reasonable and honourable people associated with the ZRs and minibuses, and this is a good time for Minister Lashley to help them provide good governance to the sector. We cannot forever more simply complain, lament and throw our hands in the air, all in anger and frustration because drivers of these public service vehicles do as they feel like on our roads. We need to take back control. Minister Lashley has a golden opportunity to show resolve and lead the way.