City cab drivers have abandoned taximeters, barely three months after the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) made it mandatory for cabbies to use meters and charge passengers according to distance travelled. RURA, which is the transport sector regulator, also announced heavy penalties in case of default.
A taxi meter is a device that calculates transport fare based on distance travelled and the waiting time.
According to the law that was effected on June 1, a cab driver without a meter or with a faulty one faces a fine of Rwf200,000, which is twice as much what the old law provided.
However, a mini-survey conducted by Business Times last week discovered that actually many cabbies rarely use the meters and instead want to haggle with passengers on the fare.
Of the four cabs this reporter used, only one accepted to use the meter after prolonged negotiations. The cab drivers claim that when they use the meter, they earn less. In fact, the fare is based on negotiations, a customer is charged about Rwf1,000 more or double the fare if the cab driver used a taximeter.
The cabs were boarded at Kimironko, Remera, Kisementi and down-town Kigali.
The special hire drivers intimated that they only use meters when they suspect that RURA officials are conducting inspections.
Two years ago, RURA issued a directive obliging all cab operators to install taximeters as a way to protect passengers from unscrupulous operators who fleece them off since it was difficult to measure the distance covered.
In 2013, Rura set Rwf1,500 for distance that does not exceed three kilometers, and Rwf500 for every additional kilometre. However, for cabs that operate at the Kigali International Airport, it was set at Rwf1,800 for up to three kilometres and Rwf600 for every extra kilometre.
Some operators approached by this writer snubbed him on learning that they needed to use taximeters. They argued the prices prescribed by the regulator are so low and would lead them into losses. Others claimed that they were allowed to work without using taximeters, saying their umbrella body was in negotiations with RURA to revise the rates.
However, Emmanuel Asaba Katabarwa, the head of transport department at RURA, warned the cab operators, saying the negotiations do not mean they should contravene the present regulations.
“We have formed a team to discuss the issue with the cab drivers...we still have to analyse their request about increasing transport fares. However, the existing regulations were set based on the ideas from all stakeholders, including cab drivers. Therefore, they remain applicable until we announce new instructions, if any,” he explained.
Katabarwa revealed that Rura has since last month impounded 64 cabs after the operators were found not using taximeters. He said the regulator will not sit back and watch as the cab drivers flout laws.
He called on members of the public to always insist on cabbies using taximeters, whenever they travel by taxi.
Cab drivers speak out
A number of cab drivers operating around the city want RURA to allow them to negotiate fares with the passengers as review of the current charges goes on. They also say that the fare validity has already expired.
“Our discussions with RURA on review of charges are promising. We are not happy with current fares because they are not fair, and were set without taking into account our views,” said Innocent Ndikuriyo, the chairperson of Kicukiro District Cab Drivers’ Union.
Deo Mazimpaka, the Gasabo District cab drivers’ head, said they had proposed that the Rwf1,5000 unit fare should cover one kilometre instead of three as it is the case today, but the Rwf500 per additional kilometre should remain.
Mazimpaka said they are also proposing a charge of Rwf1,000 for a period exceeding 15 minutes of waiting. A passenger should also incur the cost of parking, according to cab drivers’ proposals to RURA.
Cab users who spoke to Business Times, last month, said while the meters are advantageous for short distances, the opposite is true during longer journeys.
Article Nine of RURA’s instructions of July 18, 2013 determining taxicabs fares, states: “The fares are valid for two years except if the cost of fuel at the filling station exceeds Rwf1,200 or goes below Rwf1,000 per litre.”
Today, fuel price is below Rwf1,000 but fares have not been revised since two years ago, and the question is “are the fares to increase or decrease?”
Katabarwa said the fares can either increase or decrease or remain the same depending on the findings of the analysis that RURA’s team is carrying out.