The Department of Motor traffic has announced that they will be conducting trials to assess the effectiveness of tuk-tuk meters. They will be getting assistance from the Measurements Units Standards and Service Department (MUSSD) in order to conduct this project. On the surface, this would seem quite fine: a uniform system where there is consistency in reading of meters. Here’s the question which a lot of people are asking: why? Let’s explore
What are the key issues?
At present, there is an issue where certain trishaw drivers trick people into believing they have travelled longer distances than they have (for example, 700m can be shown as 1km). In the same way, tuk-tuk drivers can influence their machines and set 5pm as 5am, to make more out of their fare during the late hours. That being said, the manufacturers of these meters consistently deny that the machines can be tampered with. Furthermore, the Sunday times (http://www.sundaytimes.lk/150705/news/many-ways-to-fix-a-meter-but-the-end-could-be-near-155553.html) estimates that only 20% of all tuk tuks (most of which are located in the metropolitan area), use meters. This means that a large portion of the urban population need to bargain for their fare, which itself is an art.
If a standardized, tamper proof system can be implemented, we can certainly see a whole host of benefits; Firstly, customers will not be cheated out of paying more for a fare than they ought to. Furthermore, some tuk-tuk drivers are quite supportive of this as they themselves believe in integrity and don’t believe in overcharging the customer. Looking into the future, this could pave the road (pun intended) for a uniform system for travellers- for example, charging a flat rate between 40Rs-60Rs per km per annum. This would allow passengers as they would be able to make a rough calculation based on how much they ought to pay for their fare.
That being said, there is an interesting argument which would prevent such a system from being implemented. Tuk-tuk drivers frequently argue that despite changes, the cost of living is quite high as they need to pay their bills and feed themselves and their families. Another concern is that purchasing/repairing a meter is an expensive pursuit. A standard meter costs a few thousand rupees, and a good portion of earned wages is spent on fuel costs. Subsequently, this means that the profit (the ‘take home money’) is comparatively quite small for individuals who have meters.
What do you think? It is a sensitive topic but it is certainly one which warrants discussion. We’d like to hear your thoughts-should we have a uniform system of standardized, tuk-tuk meters, or can you provide any other alternative suggestions? Tell us in the comments below!
Disclaimer: The views shared in this blog are based on the macro economic conditions & industry status quo as per the time of publishing.