The state-owned Jamaica Unban Transit Cooperation (JUTC) is currently reeling from a severe shortage of spare parts to maintain its bus fleet.
An inside source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the gleaner that the company is having difficulty maintaining the buses due to a lack of parts.
The source said buses are constantly breaking down, a situation which now frustrates drivers.
JUTC chief executive Paul Abrahams attributed the shortage to logistical problems with shipping and, more recently, the war in Ukraine.
“The only problem we have with spare parts is the challenge of getting them from overseas due to the shipping line, which is a logistical challenge faced by many companies around the world. no other challenges when it comes to spare parts,” revealed Abrahams.
According to him, the money that was granted by the Ministry of Transport and Mines for the purchase of spare parts has already been returned to suppliers. The purchase orders for the supply of the parts have been drawn up and the company is now waiting for the shipment of the supply.
In a surprise move last Friday, the company’s chief operating officer, Owen Smith, quit his job. His sudden departure forced JUTC to issue a statement stating that Smith had resigned from the company and pursued other interests.
When contacted by the gleaner, Smith claimed he left because he was offered a managerial position elsewhere. He dispelled reports that he had a fallout with Abrahams over aftermarket issues that led to his departure from the company, adding that they parted ways on friendly terms.
He defended his tenure at JUTC, saying he was able to turn the company around in a year by digitizing all road operations and bringing it to a point of efficiency.
He further revealed that the next step is for the company to automate the logistics operation of the routes and once that happens, the commuting public will be able to watch on their phones and see when a bus is coming.
According to Smith, the total purchases for the JUTC are $1.4 billion, of which a significant amount is spent on the purchase of spare parts.
“The average age of the fleet is over 11 years old, and there are buses in the fleet that have exhausted their lifeline by over a million miles, so parts have started to fail” , he revealed.
Smith said the maintenance team faces a difficult task to keep the buses on the road.
Communications manager Cecil Thoms said the company currently has around 280 active buses in its fleet, a far cry from the 400 advertised on its website.
According to Thoms, the average daily turnover is around 230. He was unable to say whether the drop in the number of buses in the fleet is due to spare parts problems.
The state-run entity has been plagued with problems with senior and middle managers not possessing the minimum qualifications for the positions they held.
A performance audit of the company last year by the Auditor General’s Department revealed that several senior managers lacked the minimum qualification, as well as a lack of transparency in the company’s hiring practices.
This prompted the board to issue a request and set a deadline of March last year for senior managers to upgrade their qualifications.