By Salman Siddiqui

Staff Reporter


Some taxi drivers are “feeling the pinch” after new meters that make tampering difficult have been installed in their vehicles, Gulf Times has learnt.

Many regular commuters used to complain that either the drivers did not turn on the meter or overcharged them by demanding the night-time fare.

Karwa drivers say that recently their company has installed new meters on some taxis, especially those plying on the airport route, which has
made “trips less rewarding” for them.

“Unlike the old meter, there is no way to disconnect the cable from the new meter, so we can’t make any extra money like we used to do,” a driver admitted.

It is expected that the company will soon install such new meters in all of its taxis in the country.

Some taxi drivers told Gulf Times that it was easy to tamper with the old meters and cheat customers either by not switching the meter on at all or by overcharging them through night-time rates during the day.

An airport taxi driver said that before the new meter was installed in his car, he used to go by the meter for his first two round trips from the airport but for the rest of the day, he would disconnect his meter and put the money from his customers, especially those on long-distance routes like Al Khor, into his pocket. “I wouldn’t overcharge my customers but just not turn the meter on. The company wouldn’t have a clue about what is happening.”

However, with the new meters, taxi drivers say that as soon as they try to tamper with the cables somebody from their company immediately calls them. “The new meters are now connected with some sort of electronic network so when I try to pull a cable or something, I immediately get a call from the company, asking me to verify my employee number and report to the company with the car immediately,” one driver said.

There have been  a number of complaints  in recent times against taxi drivers, especially those hailing a cab from the airport .

One Qatar resident, who recently used the airport taxi, said that the driver was “very indifferent” to him  and he drove rashly with scant respect for other motorists.

“Taxi drivers are the first people you meet when you enter a country and they leave a lasting impression on one’s mind. I have visited many countries in the world and in most of the cases  I have found taxi drivers to be courteous and helpful. But here in Doha I was disappointed with the behaviour of taxi drivers,” he said. “Think of what impression first time visitors to the country will be carrying with them.”

Some of the drivers justified their bad behaviour, claiming it was because of their low pay.

Drivers on fixed salaries make around QR1,200 per month. The have free accommodation and some other perks. “Instead of installing new meters, our salaries should be revised,” one driver suggested.

Drivers who work on rental basis by paying to the company QR265 for a 10-hour shift said that their situation was somewhat better than their counterparts on “flat salaries”.

Such drivers  make sure they earn more than QR265 in a day in order to cover their cost and save the rest for them according to their  arrangement with the company.

These drivers too complain though that with more taxis on the roads, including the private illegal taxis they face stiff competition. “The company should bring down the rate of taxi rent from QR265 to QR165 to help us,” a driver said.