At a meeting with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last Tuesday, the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) agreed to a 19 per cent increment in transport fares to help drivers ease difficulties relating to their work.
As usual, members of the public have started reacting to the increment.
While some say it was expected except that the percentage is high, others think it is uncalled-for because it is not only drivers who are smarting under the current harsh economic conditions in the country.
Those of us working on the Ghanaian Times accept that the public are entitled to their opinions about the increment.
However, we want to draw attention to the attitudes of drivers and their mates when such increments are announced.
One is that such increments have their starting dates, yet some drivers begin charging them immediately they get hints of them and sometimes even charge more than the percentage announced.
The current increment is said to be scheduled to begin tomorrow, yet some drivers started charging new fares on Wednesday and, as usual, that led to altercations between passengers on one side and the drivers and their mates on the other.
Another problem is that whether or not they wait for the appropriate time to begin charging the new fares, some drivers and their mates charge more than the percentage announced.
Imagine that some drivers and their mates yesterday increased the GH¢4.00 fare for Circle to La Paz to GH¢5.50, a difference of GH¢1.50.
Meanwhile, 19 per cent of GH¢4.00 is 76 pesewas, which means even if they have to round off the figure, they should have 80 pesewas added to GH¢4.00 to make it GH¢4.80.
This is an example of how drivers and their mates have been cheating the travelling public over the years any time fares are increased.
There is also a serious anomaly in fares in relation to distances that must be corrected by the transport unions.
For instance, before the new fares, the fare from Circle to Dome in Accra was GH¢4.80 whereas a longer distance of Circlet to Pokuase was GH¢4.50.
As for the charges for cargo, including food items from the hinterlands, it is difficult to argue about them because they depend on the discretion of drivers, their mates and bookmen.
One of the biggest factors that influence the cost of living in the country is transport fare traders pay to bring their wares to the market or any sales point, so when they are discretional and exorbitant, they increase the cost of living unduly.
In the circumstances, we want to suggest that any time new fares are agreed, there must be enough public notice, which includes warning to start charging the new fare from the scheduled date.
Besides, transport unions must be made to tell their members that they should stop bullying passengers who challenge their unapproved fares.
The government should also think of making it an offence against the driver and his mate if they bully passengers or charge them unapproved fares.
Drivers constitute one important group of people who help national development in very significant ways but their behaviour towards passengers and on the road, including cheating and speeding, is usually negative.
Therefore, the time has come for something drastic to be done to make them serve the public within the law.