Deadline for Phuket black taxis extended

PHUKET: Illegal “black plate” taxi drivers have been given another four months – until February 28 next year – to register their vehicles for conversion to legal green plates, Vice-Governor Jamroen Tipayapongtada announced yesterday (October 18).

Yesterday it was announced that 2,882 vehicles – minibuses and cars – have already been registered by their drivers for conversion.

However, the owners of a further 712 vehicles have yet to apply, mostly because they have bought their vehicles using bank loans – telling the banks that the vehicles are “for private use”. The banks are insisting on fees for conversion to “public use”. Most drivers cannot afford these fees.

V/Gov Chamroen noted, “Officers have checked and have counted the illegal vehicles. All told there were 3,594 – 510 minibuses and 3,084 cars belonging to 186 groups around Phuket. Of these, 2,882 are already registered [for conversion to green plates].

“Some cars still have problems with finance because the banks want B30,000-50,000 per car [to change their status]. Some drivers do not have enough money to pay for this.”

The extension of the deadline until the end of February gives these drivers more time to find the money, but V/Gov Jamroen warned, “All processes for registration must be completed [by that date]. Any vehicle that is not registered by then will be deemed illegal.”

So far, 150 taxis have gone through the entire process to become legal, and are driving round with green plates; the name of the driver in Thai and English on the doors; a sticker with the Transport Department hotline number, 1584; and another sticker with the vehicle number code and the location they operate from.

It will take time for all applicants to get their green plates. However, many applicants can already be seen driving around with white plates but all the stickers.

TeerayutPrasert, Director of the Phuket Transport Department, told The Phuket News, “Standard fares have already been agreed. We are just waiting for the signature of the TAT. The fares will become official this month.”

As to the drivers who have problems with the banks, an employee of the Thanachart Bank, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Phuket News, “Until the car is paid for, it is the property of the bank.

“If they have signed to use the car as their own private transport, but are using it as a taxi, they are breaking their contract with us. We would be within our rights to void the loan contract [and repossess the car].”

There is no indication that banks are ready to compromise on this issue.