Drivers in Liberia are expressing frustration and disappointment in the Federation of Road Transport Union (FRTUL) for its alleged failure to meet their needs.
Scores of drivers we spoke to at the ever-busy transit point of Red Light and other parking stations in Central Monrovia expressed their disappointment in FRTUL as the longest existing transport union in Liberia. They accused the union of only collecting money from drivers and doing nothing significant to improve parking lots or attend to driver’s need when inconveniences arise.
One driver, Fumba Toure, who runs a taxi between Monrovia and River Gee County, told this paper on March 12, “We are just paying free money to these people. They said they would help us get passengers to their destinations when there is a breakdown, but we end up doing everything ourselves when a breakdown takes place. They hardly seek our interest when we have problems on the road,” Fumba noted.
According to Fumba, drivers in the union used to elect their leader who served as their advocate, but FRTUL’s current leadership has devised means to make the position an appointed one. This has resulted in their leaders bowing down to the authority of FRTUL instead of advocating for drivers rights.
He also noted that drivers encounter inconveniences at the parking station when needing to go to the bathroom as there is no terminal with a toilet facility.
“See the terminal, not even three cars can park there. There are only two booths there where passengers can register. Aside from those booths there is nothing else. It is pathetic that it is this condition considering FRTUL has existed in this country for a long time,” he said.
Another driver —who identified himself as Archie— said FRTUL does not care when drivers are arrested by Police at the terminal.
According to Archie, when a car is parked at the parking station under the control of FRTUL, Police should not arrest it until it leaves and the charge has been legitimized.
Contrary to FRTUL rules, Archie expressed the belief that vehicles arrested by police for not being sprayed in the generally recognized yellow of taxis and still doing commercial work should be defended by the FRTUL. According to him, when a used car is bought for commercial purposes, drivers have to run it for a week to ascertain whether the engine is good for the road.
“After riding for a week and a problem is found, we carry the car back to the dealer and identify the problem. When the car is sprayed, the dealer will not accept it any longer. When we park here at the station FRTUL should plead for us, yet, they allow police to arrest us with no intervention from them,” Archie said.
Other drivers who park and transport passengers at the McDonald Street parking station also said money taken from them is not justifiable and expressed uncertainty over whether it reached the office of the FRTUL.
Buses pay LD$10.00 to the union for every stop made at the station. What a bus makes per day is partly determined by the number of trips it makes.
“These guys are just getting free money from here and they are not even loading our cars. The passengers are already here and rushing for cars, yet they still compel us to pay them money,” one driver said.
According to them, they feel helpless because they have observed that FRTUL has government backing, and there is no strong driver’s union to hold them together.
Speaking to the Daily Observer in an interview at the Red Light parking on March 12, 2014, the parking’s Supervisor, Alieu Kamara, said when commercial vehicles are brought in FRTUL inspects them to ensure they are road worthy.
When questioned on the possibility of building a terminal, Mr. Kamara said he could not comment. He said the details could only be answered by the higher-ups in FRTUL.