Drivers are urged to raise their fees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2005, 12:00am

More than 15 transport industry organisations are urging professional drivers to charge up to $144 extra for each trip to tackle high oil prices, but some members say the proposal is pointless.

The groups suggested that drivers charge an extra $45 and $50 for a domestic trip, and an additional $144 for cross-border delivery work, effective from Thursday.

But neither drivers nor shippers think it is a feasible suggestion.

'You can charge whatever price you want, the problem is whether your clients are going to pay,' said Cheung Wing-hung, a cross-border driver for 22 years.

Willy Lin Sun-mo, chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council, said its members would not pay the extra fees unless careful discussions were held between the two sides.

'On what basis are they imposing this charge? How do they raise it? Will they raise it again? They didn't provide us with a reasonable explanation, we can't accept this,' he said.

Steve Lo Wong-fung, chairman of the Chamber of Hong Kong Logistics Industry, said it would agree to the charges if the government offered a fuel tax reduction or when oil prices returned to last year's levels. 'Oil prices in Hong Kong and the mainland have soared by 28 and 42 per cent respectively since early 2004. We can no longer weather the huge operational costs.'

To make matters worse, some drivers have been forced to fill their tanks with more expensive fuel in Hong Kong instead of using mainland fuel as a supply shortage over the border led to long queues at the pumps.

Five years ago, self-employed driver Mr Cheung used to pay $6,000 a month for fuel, now it has more than doubled to $14,000.

'I used to earn $20,000 a month, now half of my salary has gone to the oil company. I can no longer fork out any extra to buy my wife a dress or a toy for my five-year-old daughter,' he said.

With a second child on the way, Mr Cheung said he wanted his customers to help shoulder the extra costs, but he feared they would take their business elsewhere.

But Hong Kong Container Tractor Owners' Association chairman Ricky Wong Kay urged local drivers not to cut prices to secure more business. 'Transport fares have dropped by 50 per cent since 1997, any further price reductions will be suicide,' he said.

He urged Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to lower fuel costs in his next policy address in October.