A group representing cab drivers is lobbying to soften a law that has cost some of them a €500 fine for parking legally and going to the bathroom for a few minutes.

Transport Malta appears to be cracking down on Y-plated vehicles that are parked in public parking spaces, under a law that says they must be parked off-street or garaged when not in use. 

One cab driver told Times of Malta he was fined for parking legally for no more than 10 minutes in Paola when he went to the bathroom before purchasing a soft drink.

“It is my human right to go to the bathroom,” he said after being notified of the contravention for his “on-street illegal parking” last week.  

Another cab driver stopped for a bathroom break on Sunday and found a ticket stuck to her car.

“I was gone between two and five minutes,” she lamented. 

“This law goes against workers’ rights. What will we do now in the summer heat? Can we not buy a bottle of cold water or drink?” she asked.  

The relevant law reads: “An operator shall ensure that any light passenger transport vehicle used in his operations in terms of his operator’s licence shall always be garaged or parked off-street while not in use.”

It goes on to attribute a €500 fine for the contravention. 

The law stipulates that cab drivers must have vehicles garaged or off the street when not in use.The law stipulates that cab drivers must have vehicles garaged or off the street when not in use.

A customer service agent at Transport Malta confirmed the law is being enforced.

“The car must be driven all the time and cannot stop unless a passenger is getting in or out. Even if you stop to buy something, you can get a fine,” he said.

Transport Ministry: reasonable solution being sought

The transport ministry later explained that in efforts to increase road safety and tackle abuse, Transport Malta had increased enforcement on the roads across the board, including enforcement on Y registered vehicles on which it had received complaints from people that these vehicles were parked on the road, especially during the night, illegally occupying parking spaces. 

This legislation has been in place since October 2020, and there were no changes to the fines, it stressed.

With regards to stopping for 'breaks', the ministry said the government "is working to find a reasonable solution without opening up for abuse".

The Light Passenger Transportation Vehicles Committee, a lobby for cab drivers on ride-hailing platforms, has called for a system that would allow drivers to park in white boxes for a few minutes and have a break.  

It proposes the use of a parking-time disc indicating at what time the car was parked and giving drivers a window to go to the bathroom or grab something to eat.

Aron Gatt, a member of the committee, said this would allow drivers to stop for a few minutes of rest while adhering to the general principle that y-plate vehicles do not take up public parking spaces for long periods or overnight.  

Ride-hailing platform eCabs has made a similar call.

CEO Andrew Bezzina said that parking discs would give cab drivers a window to buy food, water and use the rest-room without facing the threat of a hefty fine. 

“While we at eCabs agree with clamping down on abuse, we do not think that drivers should be unable to make a quick stop without facing the threat of a crippling fine,” Bezzina said.

“That is why we are suggesting this parking disc solution.” 

He added that eCabs had undertaken a significant investment to ensure that all its vehicles were parked in a privately owned facility when not in use.

According to a 2020 Transport Malta booklet outlining regulations for Y-plate vehicles, a driver or fleet owner must declare they have sufficient space to garage their vehicle when not in use.

But over the years this requirement has been systematically ignored, Gatt said.

“Some operators have four cars but only a one-car garage, and others just have a P.O. box,” he said. 

“We are against this kind of abuse,” Gatt added.  

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