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Speaker: Confessions of an Uber driver

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  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I reckon that if you want to be a professional driver and carry passengers, you should need to do an advanced driving test and some form of local knowledge test – not London taxi standards, but knowing local landmarks, motorways, etc.

    Yes, area knowledge, which used to be mandatory for taxis. Part of the review I linked to above is dropping that, on account of the rise of good navigation systems having made it less necessary. I think they've got a point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    - IANAL, but isn’t Uber, by encouraging people to drive without a P endorsement, itself a party to each offence? Kim Dotcom is being nailed to the wall for a lot less..

    - If Uber is actually checking police records, then there’ll be a record of every request which could be crossed with holders of P endorsements (and even then with bank records of payments from Uber). The cops could bust every illegal Uber driver without leaving the warmth of their office, which must be an attractive prospect.

    - If Uber were to “play nicely”, there’s actually no reason why they shouldn’t be able to validate drivers and process issuing P endorsements themselves, just as the AA and VTNZ are franchised to process driving licenses

    - NZ has one of the most Uber-friendly jurisdictions in the world – we don’t use taxi licenses as a cash cow for the state like Australia does. I’m surprised they’d want to bugger this up, but maybe they’re propertarians and not happy unless fighting the evil guvmint..

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    IANAL, but isn’t Uber, by encouraging people to drive without a P endorsement, itself a party to each offence?

    This is the discussion I was most hoping would erupt here. IANAL too. But there are plenty heaps of lawyers who read here....please comment!!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The cops could bust every illegal Uber driver without leaving the warmth of their office, which must be an attractive prospect.

    You're talking about Uber giving them a list of their illegal drivers, and a list of every trip they do? Ain't gonna happen by Uber's choice. I have no idea how the police or anyone could force them to do that.

    If Uber were to “play nicely”, there’s actually no reason why they shouldn’t be able to validate drivers and process issuing P endorsements themselves, just as the AA and VTNZ are franchised to process driving licenses

    For sure. And even short of that, there's no reason that Uber could not hold the Transport Service License (TSL) which every driver must operate under. We are forced to either get our own one, which cost about another $400, another test, another wait for police checking, and then we carry the risk of getting fined as a TSL holder as well as a driver. Or we can operate under another party's TSL, and they can take a cut. This is what I do. Uber is saying that their drivers no longer need to operate under a TSL (also totally contrary to the law). The small group of guys who have been offering their TSL for a cut had a business model that was seeing them signing up literally hundreds of drivers. They were doing well, and IMHO, they offered a pretty good service for the money - training, mentoring, legal protection. It is only because of the existence of these guys that we're even in the prototypical phases of organizing ourselves as a group. They built the Facebook pages, organized the people, made sure the payments were all on time, trained us all, talked us into Ubering, etc. Now Uber has literally just shafted them. They're expendable assets that just got expended.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Dan Salmon,

    Does the p endorsement offer any protection to our teenage daughters choosing between ubers and reputable cab companies?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I’m surprised they’d want to bugger this up, but maybe they’re propertarians and not happy unless fighting the evil guvmint..

    Yeah, it seems they were just biding their time, and our compliance honeymoon is over. I doubt they did it without a conscious plan. It's not like this is the first place any of this has happened.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Dan Salmon,

    Stepping outside the cost issue, the question i keep coming back to, is if my 14 year old daughter was catching a cab home at midnight would i prefer an uber driver or a reputable cab company, and without some sort of regulation there’s very little protection.

    Yes, I’m hoping to deliberately avoid the cost issue here. I’d say that Uber made both the changes at the exact same time so as to muddy the debate. I focused entirely on the compliance drop here. Of course there’s plenty to say about the whole issue of cost, fairness to passengers and drivers, etc. And since compliance is a cost, a barrier to entry, it’s impossible to strictly separate the debates. I’ll get back to that one in a later post.

    In terms of the safety of your daughter, there is the whole way Uber works to consider. Even with an uncompliant driver, she will still have all those protections. You’ll know who she was picked up by, where they went, how much it cost. She can still rate the driver down if they were a creep. But without the P Endorsement she can’t directly complain to the authorities, the way she could with, say, me. She only has to remember “bwilson1”, written in big letters on the endorsement itself, and then call the police, and they can find out who I was. If the complaint is of a very serious nature, having only Uber as recourse for tracking the driver down seems very suboptimal to me. They could refuse to give the information to the police. Probably, they wouldn’t. But they could. Especially if it was a very high profile crime like a rape, abduction, assault, etc.

    But all this said, I think the way the protections offered by a standard non-Uber taxi service are actually a lot less, especially up until last week. A drunken traumatized passenger will quite likely not remember my unique identifier. They wouldn’t even know where to look, and if I was going to do something like that, I could always hide the P Endorsement just beforehand. So to that end, I think Ubers are much safer. This is backed up by hundreds and hundreds (no joke) of my passengers saying that directly to me. Drunk girls late at night are a major Uber demographic. I wouldn’t want to lose them – it’s one of the best parts of the service that it’s made the world a slightly safer place for them.

    ETA: Oh, you edited out your post. I hope I answered your revised question here anyway?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    you’re talking about Uber giving them a list of their illegal drivers, and a list of every trip they do?

    Well, they claim to do a police check, so the police/MoJ will already be getting a list of everyone checked (whether it's legal to take police check requests and use them in an investigation is a question for a lawyer. Or a judge).

    Then they can gain access to bank statements - again I don't know whether the fact that somebody received payments from Uber and doesn't hold a P endorsement would be adequate evidence of an offence?

    Finally, they could go to Uber with a search warrant - they have offices here?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Dan Salmon,

    Oh, and of course one of the other protections is related to cost, so I'll put that separately here. The driver literally can't rip her off, aggressively demanding some arbitrary fare at the end. Drivers have no control over the charging at all, except in so far as starting and stopping the ride is concerned. They could drive off without stopping the ride, but when you get the bill you also see the route. If it goes to your house, and then drives all the way back to the city, request a fare review. Uber comes down on that shit hard. They will kick the driver out if that happens. And they'll cut the fare back to something more reasonable, or quite possibly refund the entire amount.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Dan Salmon, in reply to BenWilson,

    Thanks Ben. (yeah edited the post when i realised the original idea had been broached in a comment i'd missed)
    That's really informative. I'd assumed that reputable companies (nowdays) would keep a track of their cars (even just to protect their drivers), and check references and police check their drivers, while uber seems to rely on an opt in rating system, but it sounds like i've got it wrong.
    Disheartening then that Uber have potentially made it less safe.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Dan Salmon,

    Proper police checks and so on, yes. Which Uber also did, until last week. Most Uber drivers today are still compliant, by a big margin. But this could be rapidly changed. I understand that it’s getting as high as 20 new drivers a day recently because the compliance drop has removed a major barrier to entry. If there is a will to stop this, and preserve the compliant Uber that we had until last week, it has to happen right now.

    I feel for the new guys. They’re not getting all the facts. They don’t understand the massive fines they could receive. More scarily, they don’t understand that insurance companies will not pay out for them on their non-commercial insurance that Uber is apparently allowing now. They’re literally being sent out to the slaughter.

    I can’t account for all taxis, but I’m not aware of any that keep a full recorded track of all their vehicles rides, apart from Uber. On this, Uber is exceptional, extraordinary, and awesome. I want them to keep working here. Legally.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Finally, they could go to Uber with a search warrant – they have offices here?

    Good luck with that! I only know where the room that they sign people up in is. Where the rest of their NZ infrastructure is, is anyone's guess.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Dan Salmon,

    Attachment

    There's deregulation and deregulation I guess.
    Interesting in that context to see this posted on facebook...

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Ritchie Sims,

    Did you upgrade your vehicle insurance? I checked with my insurance company, they would have needed me to upgrade from private use (about $600 annually) to commercial (about $1600 annually), so I've parked the idea for the time being. Also, does it make any difference to the vehicle licensing (rego) category/cost? There's a panel in the relicensing form where you have to specify the vehicle use category, isn't there? The additional insurance cost goes to making Uber driving rather less viable as a little earner for just a few hours a week.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2016 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Ritchie Sims,

    The additional insurance cost goes to making Uber driving rather less viable as a little earner for just a few hours a week.

    ..and what about ACC payments?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ritchie Sims,

    I took out full commercial insurance, with YOUI, who have experience in dealing with Uber drivers.

    As for licensing, yes, you have to change the category to a commercial vehicle, and then get a COF. They're a little bit more expensive, but it's not much, really. Getting the vehicle to comply to the COF might be, depending on your vehicle type. Hatchbacks need a decent luggage barrier, although I hear that luggage straps might be OK instead. An 8 seater van pretty much has to have the door seat removed, because there is a minimum gap in front and behind the seat to the door, required.

    Uber also requires the vehicle to be less than 10 years old.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Brown,

    I take a lot of cabs and always have as I don't drive. I felt bad about their 20% drop as I felt I was already getting great value and the minimum fare seemed...barely fair. A couple of drivers I spoke to immediately following were a bit pissed off, mainly with the lack of consultation... yet I've spoken to a couple more recently who reckon their turnover has increased since the drop. Go figure. Here's an interesting story from The Guardian today https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/27/how-uber-conquered-london

    Auckland • Since Mar 2013 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell, in reply to BenWilson,

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    I have always avoided taking taxis as much as possible, except when travelling, and even then as an emergency measure — I have even taken an intercity taxi ride, after missing a public transport connection which would have meant missing a plane flight. And Lisbon. Lisbon taxis were ubiquitous and cheap, and it really was just easy to catch a cab when you needed one. I guess the public transport there was so good, that to be even vaguely competitive, they couldn't be particularly expensive.

    But Uber rather changed that. My first Uber experience was a bit of a fail. I had airport wifi at LAX, but failed to answer the driver's call, so I missed out on a ride in a Lincoln Town Car. But the van that I ordered next didn't call, and after I got my US sim card fired up, it was just so easy, and if you are travelling with others, starts to become cheaper than public transport. It took a while for me to Uber in NZ, but I was in Auckland during a bus strike earlier in the year, so my bus based plans were foiled. And I have to say that my 2 Uber rides were easily better and more pleasant than pretty much any NZ taxi ride I've ever had. And my two drivers were: a taxi driver, and a striking bus driver! I don't imagine I will be a super frequent Uber-er in NZ, but the transparent pricing, good chat, and payment/receipts. There is so much to like as rider.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Martin Brown,

    yet I’ve spoken to a couple more recently who reckon their turnover has increased since the drop. Go figure.

    Yes, I'd kind of like to leave off the discussion of the fairness of the rates and what it will mean and focus on the compliance side here. But rest assured, I will get to that! There is a great deal to say.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Green,

    There is so much to like as rider.

    And as a driver! I want it to stay that way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Re safety, one thing I do like with Uber is the information provided re. time, route, car type and driver’s reg. It’s emailed to the account holder and not only stored on their server somewhere. That’s quite reassuring. And I don’t get any of that from the supposedly regulated services.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2013 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • Eediot,

    Great, and topical, post, Ben. Thanks.

    Without wanting to sound just like a pro or anti post, my worst Uber experience was also my best. I always check the route and get a fare estimate before booking and was taken on a ridiculously circuitous route in Sydney a couple of years ago on my first overseas trip where I'd used Uber. After the journey I rated 1 star with an explanation that the route map was the only explanation that was needed.
    I expected the usual slow and argumentative round of communication with the transport company, but instead awoke to an email the next morning admitting that I had been given the runaround and offering a revised charge slightly lower than had originally been indicated.
    Since then I've happily and confidently used it in San Fran and Europe- but mostly Auckland- whenever available.

    I will start cancelling rides with non-P licensed drivers. Along with managing the surge pricing if I'm in no hurry (often by starting walking home until the surge drops: win/win :-) ) it's part of being in control as the customer. Another reason I choose Uber.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Martin Brown,

    There's a lot to like about it. I was a convert after the first ride. Like most riders, I was concerned about how it was possible for the income to be reasonable when the prices were so low. But the drivers told me it was because they got a lot more work, that it was efficiently organized, I could see it was at least possible. And absolutely there are many points on which it is clearly a far better service than a normal cab, aside from price.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Eediot,

    Well people, I'm gonna hit the road now. Replies will be intermittent at best, I hope, until tomorrow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10630 posts Report Reply

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