A group of sand truck drivers from the West Bank of Demerara are discontent with the sudden reinstitution of a time restriction for their use of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB).
The group, which consists of 15 truckers, on Friday met with attorney Anil Nandlall, who has since undertaken to help them.
According to Nandlall, who spoke on their behalf, on Thursday the truckers were informed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation Rawlston Adams, that on November 30th, 2018, with immediate effect, they would only be allowed to cross the bridge between the hours of 6 am and 6 pm.
Nandlall further noted that though many attempts were made to establish from the CEO the reason for the sudden change, they were unsuccessful.
“One would have thought that one of the main reason[s] would have been to avoid a traffic congestion at certain peak hours but by confining them from 6 am to 6 pm, they are actually putting the trucks in the traffic at a point in time when traffic is at its highest,” the attorney said.
“Without giving reasons, one can’t rationalize why the change of decision; these truck drivers pay some of the highest rates for road license—$45,000 per year. Many of them owe the banks and owe truck dealers because they bought their trucks on credit, then they have porters to pay and other expenses and then they do this. All of them almost are the sole breadwinners of their family,” he added.
However, Adams, when contacted, explained that the truck drivers were engaged in 2016 after they raised similar complaints, and recalled that a decision was made to extend the hours from the initial 6 am to 6 pm timeslot to 3 am to 6 pm, on the condition that they avoid speeding while using the bridge.
He further related that the decision to reintroduce the 6 am to 6 pm schedule follows a review which shows that the drivers are still speeding during the early morning hours, which he says puts further strain on the bridge.
Notwithstanding, Adams said he is prepared to engage the truck drivers to discuss the matter.
Meanwhile, Stabroek News understands that in addition to their restricted access to the Demerara Harbour Bridge, truckers are also affected by the decision of the traffic officers to ground them until a certain hour.
“In addition to this significant 6 to 6 regime that they are now confined to, on the western end of the Demerara River, the police are asking them to park on the road in the vicinity of Parfait Harmony Highway to allow traffic to pass between the hours of 6 [and] 9; when they come across the river, another set of police at Hope on the East Bank are asking them to park from 7 to 9,” Nandlall noted.
“When you take all of this into account, you are barely able to make one or two trips maximum per day and they are saying that that is absolutely uneconomical for them to sustain the business that they are in,” he further lamented.
Truck driver and owner Zahir Sattaur told this newspaper that the truckers would appreciate the opportunity to work freely.
“My concern is that we want to get a chance to work freely so that we can earn and be able to provide for our families; the financial strain based on the restriction of the Harbour Bridge we are not able to work, we are not able to provide for our families,” Sattaur said.
“Right now I owe installments for my truck. The dealers are calling me but I can’t find it because of this restriction that they are putting on us. It’s been a very long time that we have been stopping on the East Bank; since 2009 before the four lane road, we’ve been stopping on the East Bank Road. They promised that when the four lane road finish, everything will come back to normalcy but it never changed, it remained the same. All we asking is that we have some changes so we would able to work free and earn an honest dollar to look after our families,” he added.
“You see when you get to work in the night, you can sleep in the day and be off the road and we can save fuel but…all these restrictions are contributing to fatal accidents because when we behind time we have to push the motor lorries to get the work done,” another driver commented.
According to Nandlall, the truckers are open to having discussions with the CEO so that they will be able to establish a schedule that is acceptable to the parties involved.
“Whatever the reason, the Harbour Bridge has to regulate their crossing, they are prepared to sit with the Harbour Bridge and work out a schedule in a consensual manner that makes sense and would benefit the interest of the bridge, other users of the road and also benefiting them. But it cannot be a unilateral imposition of conditions without any consultation with them and to put them at severe jeopardy,” Nandlall said.
Notwithstanding, the attorney related that a letter will be dispatched on behalf of the truckers to Adams and the company requesting both an explanation for the decision, as well as a meeting to allow for an amicable resolution to what he says in an absolutely unnecessary dispute.