Cab operators have called off a protest due to take place on Monday (today) after obtaining the necessary assurances from the Ministry of Transport that it would withdraw a proposal they say threatens their continued sustainability.

A joint statement by the Light Passenger Operators Association (LPOA) and the Ministry for Transport stated that “although dialogue and discussions have been ongoing for the past months, both parties have agreed on several key points that are to be addressed to ensure sustainability for self-employed operators within the sector.”

One of the main points of contention was a move to cancel the exemption small operators enjoy from the requirement that ‘Y-plates’ – as cabs in Malta are known – would need to be parked in a garage licensed as a Public Service Garage (PSG).

This measure is already in effect, but operators of fleets of up to four cars are exempt.

It was initially introduced to stop having hundreds of Y-plates hogging up garages used by residents, but was contested as being too burdensome for small operators. These are allowed to use any garage, such as those attached to their own homes.

However, as big fleet operators take an ever-increasing share of the market, small operators have felt the pinch in various ways – with the proposed withdrawal of this exemption proving to be the final straw for many.

The protest, announced at 8pm on Sunday night, therefore sought to voice cab operators’ disapproval at the proposal to force existing small fleet operators to also garage their vehicles in a PSG, starting from October.

Additionally, the Ministry had proposed that any new operators – whether having one vehicle or 1,000 – would require a PSG.

The LPOA argued that this new measure is “a deliberate attempt to make the industry more viable for operators of large fleets, at the expense of small ones.”

It added that large fleets are “being allowed to dominate the market without the necessary surveillance, while small operators are gradually eliminated.”

Another point of contention surrounded geo-fencing, whereby cabs in close proximity to certain sites – like the airport, the Ċirkewwa harbour, and all bus stops – would not show up on clients’ apps.

Geo-fencing is seen as a measure of appeasement towards taxi drivers, who have long complained about cab drivers muscling in on their market.

“We believe the proposal has now changed since it was first floated under the former Minister for Transport [Aaron Farrugia’s] tenure,” says LPOA president Aaron Gatt. “We have not yet heard about any further developments, but we have asked to be included as key stakeholders in any deliberations that will certainly have a major impact on our sector. The Ministry has accepted this request.”

This would not have been the first protest organised by the LPOA. A protest carcade held in February, against “predatory pricing” by booking platforms, brought Malta to a standstill.

Featured Image:

A photo from a previous protest organised by the LPOA in February 2024

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