Three-wheelers’ days are metered as supply outstrips demand

By Damith Wickremasekara

With more than 100,000 three-wheelers entering the market in the last 10 months, and more cab services being introduced, many three-wheeler operators are losing business, with some of them already looking for alternate employment.

A cross section of three-wheeler operators told the Sunday Times that with more three-wheelers coming into the market, the introduction of metered taxies and the use of Nano cars as cabs has affected them badly.

According to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, 112,433 three-wheelers were registered in the last 10 months, at a daily average of 375 registrations, while during the entire last year, there were only 85,648 three-wheelers registered.

Namal Prasanna: Commuters prefer the metred three wheelers J.H. Rohana: Drastic drop in the number of hires. Pix by Susantha Liyanawatte and Ranjith Perera

According to J.H. Rohana, 42, a three-wheeler operator for the past 25 years says here has been a drastic drop in the number of hires. “Despite operating my three-wheeler from Pettah, I now have to wait for about two hours, at times, to get a hire. On the average, I used to set aside Rs. 800 per day for home expenses, but now, that has dropped to about Rs. 400. I have to pay the owner of the three-wheeler Rs. 350 per day,” he added.

“In the morning, we have to wait to get a hire to earn money for breakfast. Sometimes we have to wait for hours,” he added.“The fuel prices too are affecting us, as people prefer metered taxies or cab services to normal three-wheelers,” he added.

Namal Prasanna from Gasworks Street, Pettah, told the Sunday Times that another reason for clients avoiding three-wheelers without meters were because they have had bad experiences in being ‘taken for a ride’.

“We also feel that commuters are more at ease travelling in three-wheelers which could be identified later, if the need arises, as most metered taxies give the drivers’ contact number to the client, so that, if there is a problem, the three-wheeler could be traced,” he added.

However, the main reason for the drop in hires is the increased number of three-wheelers in the city.
He was of the view that joining the metered taxi network was a loss, if they are operating within Colombo city, as the distance travelled is short.

All Island Three-wheeler Association president Kelum Jayasundara who represents the metered taxies, told the Sunday Times that, those operating with meters have not been affected due to the service provided by them. “The drivers are trained and disciplined, the rates are fixed, security is high as drivers are readily contactible. Hence, the increase in popularity of the metered taxies,” he said.

He said that already there were moves to take over the three-wheeler parks but the Government prevented such action.

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