As part of measures to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Ghana directed commercial transport operators to reduce the number of passengers they carried per row by one, in order to ensure social distancing.
Not long after the directive was given, these transport operators cried of the losses they suffered and asked the government to increase lorry fares by 50%. After a series of meetings with the Transport Ministry, both parties agreed on a 15% fare increment which took effect a few weeks ago.
However, during President Akuffo-Addo’s 14th address to update the public on measures taken by the government to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the president withdrew his order and said commercial vehicles can now take full capacity.
After his address last night, a section of the Ghanaian populace has called on commercial transport unions to reduce lorry fares if they are now returning to taking passengers at full seating capacity.
The Chamber of Petroleum Consumers (COPEC) has also added their voice to this call. Portions of a statement cited by Happy 98.9 FM from the Chamber read;
“We are, by this statement calling on some of our major stakeholders in the transport sector including the GPRTU, Concerned Drivers Association, Committed Drivers Association and the Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council to immediately without fail, ensure that transport fares are reversed by close of day tomorrow [Monday].”
Reacting to the statement issued by COPEC, the True Drivers Union have indicated that, lorry fares cannot be reduced because the decision to increase fares was not based on the reduction of passengers.
Speaking in an interview on Happy 98.9 FM’s ‘Epa Hoa Daben’ political show hosted by Afrifa-Mensah, the spokesperson for the True Drivers’ Union, Yaw Barimah said, “Lorry fares were not increased because of social distancing in our cars. They were increased for three (3) main reasons being an increment in the cost of getting a roadworthy certificate and the automatic adjustment in fuel prices.”
He added that the closure of borders has also led to the unavailability of spare parts which has birthed demand and supply issues, hence an increase in the cost of spare parts.
He noted that regardless of the president’s directive, drivers were still finding it difficult to break even.
Questioning Duncan Amoah, the Executive Secretary of COPEC for calling for the reduction in lorry fares, Yaw Barimah asked, “Duncan Amoah is asking us to reduce fares or else they will take drivers to court but when has COPEC ever threatened to take the government to court for an increase in fuel prices?
He also appealed to the media to be objective saying, “Just as the media champions for the reduction in lorry fares for passengers, so should they ask how much drivers are affected when fuel prices are increased.
He reiterated, the reason for increasing lorry fares is not because of the social distancing policy in commercial vehicles and that the Ministry of Transport should inform the public of the fact.”