Scores of commuters across the country were left stranded at the various lorry parks yesterday when some commercial drivers began an indefinitenationwide strike, with 33 of them being arrested in Accra.
Long queues with passengers wearing long faces told the tale of frustration as the strike hit hard on them.
Their Monday morning routine and resolution to be early and productive at work were seriously jolted.
Workers hanged on to their mobile phones to tell a predictable story to their superiors and gaze ahead of the queues that hardly moved.
Ladies sweated as their neat make-ups gave up in the heat whilst their hitherto cheerful faces gave in to despair.
The 33 commercial drivers were arrested by the Accra Regional police for blocking some roads in the Accra Metropolis as part of their strike.
The drivers, between the ages of 18 and 52 years, were apprehended at Teshie, Achimota, Mile 7 and Odorkor.
Drivers operating in Accra, Ashaiman, Kasoa and Tema had embarked on the strike following the new Transport and Driving Regulations to be implemented soon.
The drivers were refusing to comply with a new directive to fix seat belts in buses. They were also kicking against the directive that they should attend driving schools as a pre-requisite for licence upgrading and renewal.
On the arrested drivers, ASP Effia Tengey, the Accra Regional police spokeswoman, said the police had information that some of the drivers had gathered and were barricading some roads and were also preventing some commercial drivers from picking commuters from the three areas mentioned above.
When police got to the scene, they realised that most of them had blocked the roads while others were burning lorry tyres.
Some were immediately arrested but others managed to escape, according to the police officer.
Those arrested will be sent to court for prosecution, she claimed.
ASP Tengey warned the striking drivers that the police would deal with persons or group of persons who might disturb the peace of society.
She added, ‘If you want to demonstrate, there are right procedures you need to follow; just follow them and the police will give you the necessary protection.’
The drivers were protesting what they claimed were some policies prescribed by the amended road traffic regulations (LI 2180) currently being implemented by the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA).
According to them, the DVLA’s plan to get all commercial drivers pass through accredited driving schools and write computerised tests for any upgrade in their licences was unfriendly to them.
Despite the explanation from DVLA that all the measures are aimed at reducing road carnage, the drivers say the licensing authority is not looking at the problem holistically.
The DVLA has also been insisting that a new equipment will check the road worthiness of vehicles before issuing certificates.
The drivers, on the other hand, are suggesting that the DVLA should use those machines first to check if roads like Ashaiman, Kasoa, among others, are worthy to be called roads.
Charles Danso, chairman of the over one thousand Ghana Committed Drivers Association – the initiators of the strike – says the strike was to get the DVLA to treat them well.
“It (DVLA) brought something called biometric road worthiness sticker, [but] all the roads on which we are driving are not good at all so when DVLA asks us to take a computerised road-worthiness test we don’t pass,” he lamented.
Mr Danso added that they were also unable to acquire driving licences because of a Basic School Certificate requirement which most of the drivers do not have, adding that ‘Not all of us have been to school before.’
In his view, the DVLA must configure their computers into local languages even before they can discuss the need for computerised tests.
Passenger Seat Belts
The drivers also have problems with the compulsory passenger seat belts in trotro vehicles.
A driver explained that it is not possible to strap every passenger to a seat belt. “It is not done even in Germany where the best buses are imported,’ he stressed.
He continued, ‘If they want us to put seat belts in our cars, they should go to Germany and tell manufacturers of the buses.’
A leader of the drivers’ union jabbed the decision-makers, ‘Grown-ups existed before wise children were born’, suggesting that experience is the best teacher not university-educated technocrats.
MMT To The Rescue
Meanwhile, some drivers at the Tema lorry park in Accra prevented passengers from opting for the government-run Metro Mass (MMT) Transit buses.
Other drivers also tried to prevent their colleagues they accused of being deserters to the cause from working at Ashaiman.
The police and some soldiers were, however, moved in to attempt some solutions that might not involve dialogue.
Report from Madina indicates that the usual heavy vehicular traffic that characterises the Adentan-Madina highway was absent yesterday.
At the time DAILY GUIDE arrived at the terminals, the streets and bus stops were virtually empty, with pockets of passengers seen standing or engaged in some kind of conversation over their frustrations to get means of transport.
A number of passengers were also seen walking along the road from Madina towards the Atomic junction, perhaps to see whether they would get means of transport.
The Station Master for Madina-Ashaiman, Yakubu Mukaila, and the Chairman of Madina -Tabora and Dome, Aminu Seibu, speaking to DAILY GUIDE, said the branches were embarking on the strike action as a result of a number of grievances they held against the DVLA.
The two executives averred that much as it was important to enforce such orders, it was equally important to also take into consideration the Ghanaian situation and create exemptions.
The Madina Commander of the Motor Transport and Traffic Division (MTTD), ASP Asiedu, said the police patrols were not in any way going to harass drivers, but were to help protect life and property.
He explained that the drivers at the Madina Market terminal were seen preventing other drivers from operating, resulting in their arrests.
Michael Young, the Madina Holy Wood Taxi Station Secretary, said most of the striking drivers were not registered members of any of the unions.
By Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson, Linda Tenyah-Ayettey,Solomon Ofori & Vincent Kubi, Ashaiman
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