Drivers of commercial vehicles are counting their losses, as the COVID-19 restrictions imposed some three months ago continue to bite deeper into their pockets.
With investments made into the provision of veronica buckets, water basins, soap and sanitizers at the various lorry stations, to enable passengers to wash and sanitize their hands before boarding vehicles, drivers whose daily dues were used to procure the items told Business Finder they were at their wits end.
Mr Stephen Boakye, a driver at Dansoman told this reporter that prior to the restrictions he earned GH? 58 from a trip from Agege, a suburb in Dansoman to Kwame Nkrumah Circle. Due to the reduction in passenger numbers, he was making GH? 42 from the same trip, coupled with increased fuel prices.
“If a trip from Agege last stop to Circle was GH? 58 and I am able to go eight times a day to and fro, I make sales of GH? 464. But now I make GH? 42 per trip so if I should go the same rounds, I will make GH? 336. Out of this I will pay the booking fee as well as render daily sales,” lamented Mr Boakye.
Drivers bemoan multiplicity of charges
Driver Samuel Kumah also noted that as drivers decided to reduce the passenger numbers, it would have been fair for station masters to reduce the amount they charged for the booking fees from one station to the other.
He lamented the development where at the end of each day he could end up paying a total of GH? 80 in fees, whether or not profits were made from trips. According to Mr Kumah before the restrictions, he was making sales of GH? 130 daily but that had declined to GH?100.
“We are indeed suffering, it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes we handle certain faults on our own…but now we do not have enough money to fix them,” he lamented.
He pleaded with the GPTRU to look at ways of reducing the booking fee to ease burdens.
“If we pay GH? 80 a day and we get nothing from it then I don’t see the use of the union. They must channel the money to work on insurance processes and cover up other costs while securing our jobs in times of pandemics”, he indicated.
He pleaded with the government to allow drivers to go back to the previous intake as they observe all protocols to prevent further spread of the virus.
Mr Emmanuel Mensah said, “I used to load 21 passengers per trip, but now I load just 15 passengers; I’m making sales of GH? 70 now, from GH¢100 before the restrictions.”
“Now fuel prices have been increased, after all the rounds we are left with something very little. How can we save to get our cars fixed when they are faulty?” he lamented.
Upon arrival the Mpoase lorry station, still within Dansoman, this reporter caught up with another driver, Mr Josuah Acquah who was seated quietly in his car. Drawing closer to him, he lamented he hadn’t gone for a single trip that day, because he had a flat tyre when it got to his turn to move.
“This is the situation. I have virtually recorded no single sale and I need money to pump this tyre” Mr Acquah stressed.
He revealed that due to the pandemic, most drivers were not getting their pay like they used to. He indicated that his monthly salary had been reduced to GH? 200 from GH¢280 and sometimes even less.
“There are no good deals, previously I made daily sales of GH? 140 which fetches me a pay of GH? 280 by end of the month, now I only get GH? 200 or less,” he said
In March 2020, drivers were directed to lessen the number of passengers by one on each row. This meant vehicles that carried three on normal days were supposed to carry two per row, while those who took four per row had to do three.
The measures led some drivers to complain bitterly about decrease in sales and the gross impact the situation could have on the transport sector.
GPRTU calls for restrictions to be lifted
The National Chairman of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), Mr Kwame Kuma, confirmed the plights of these drivers but requested that they remained patient as the union waits on instructions from the presidency through the ministry to lift the restrictions on the number of intakes.
In an interview with this reporter, the Mr Kuma said the association had tried to stop major activities that could spread the virus, such as pastors preaching in cars and passenger to mate misunderstanding.
He said the cost of providing liquid soaps and tissues as well as sanitizers at some lorry station currently made the operations of the union very difficult.
The GPRTU Chairman further pleaded with the government to give drivers an opportunity to load the normal passengers or share the transportation fare among passengers.
However, he said “sharing of the fare would not be possible because not everyone can afford. So we plead with government that while we observe the protocols, he should allow us to take on board our normal passengers”.
Mr Kuma noted that before the pandemic drivers worked without incurring losses and as such they didn’t complain. He pleaded with government to give the transport sector a listening ear to minimize the loses they incur and leave no room for complaints.