Taxi Driver Online

News, comment and advice on the UK taxi and private hire trades

London Uber drivers refuse to stand for increased levy

Posted by admin on November 14th, 2015

Source: Morning Star

UBER drivers stepped out of their cars yesterday in protest against commission increases that will leave the controversial firm’s employees £50 worse off every month.

Drivers are being charged a new levy of 25 per cent, while the tech giant’s mass recruitment ahead of Christmas is threatening the jobs of many of the company’s longer-serving staff.

Outside Uber’s London headquarters, dozens of drivers represented by the GMB union demanded better pay and job safety.

GMB professional drivers representative James Farrar told the Star that the protest was “really heartening” due to the tough conditions many of those attending were working under.

He said: “To make a call about the unfairness of Uber to drivers and ask these guys to show up, under the fear they might be deactivated, they might lose their jobs, the fact that they shook off those fears and came here anyway shows three things.

“One, the spirit that these guys have and their determination.

“Two, their absolute courage. And three, the absolute need for something to be done.”

In the past 12 months, Uber drivers have had their journey fares lowered twice and their salary, allowing for deductions, squeezed to just over £5 an hour.

Uber driver for the last six months Abdul Shah said the rise “is going to be detrimental to drivers’ livelihoods because they are already struggling.

“They are doing 60 to 90 hours a week and they are basically earning peanuts for it.”

Mr Shah, who had only heard of GMB a week before the protest, joined the union on the day “because they are a very credible organisation and they are the true voice and representatives of Uber drivers,” he said.

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Southport’s private hire firms opposed to taximeter scheme

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2015

Source: Southport’s Visitor

Southport’s private hire taxi companies have expressed their concern at plans to introduce taximeters.

In Sefton, there is currently no requirement for any of the 3,000 plus licensed private hire vehicles to be fitted with a taximeter.

However, Sefton Council recently wrote to the owners of private hire firms in Southport and across the borough, to gauge opinion on the introduction of taximeters. The cost of a taximeters varies from £350 to £500. Representatives from the Hackney carriage sector supported the introduction.

Adrian Hughes, from All White Taxis, opposed the idea. In his letter to Sefton he states: All White Taxis operate a fleet of approximately 150 vehicles based in Southport. We book in excess of 1.1 million jobs annually. Like most taxi companies we offer a 24 hour service every day of the year. Most businesses change the price of their products or services on a regular basis on the grounds of competition, supply and demand and business overheads. Having meters stops this due to drawn out and costly process of recalibration. The new fare structure has to be written, sent off and then the installers receive a chip with the new fares on which has to be flashed on to each individual meter , test driven and then it used to be checked by an enforcement officer . The whole process would cost thousands of pounds collectively and take weeks to complete.

“The mandatory installation of taxi meters would be a backward step that would stifle innovation, does not take into account currently available and future technology and ultimately leads to a less enjoyable and less safe experience for the travelling public and visitors to Sefton plus higher costs to the driver.

Chris Carr, from Blueline Five-O, said in his letter: “Whilst I don’t wish to teach my granny how to suck eggs, the general public know the difference between Private Hire Cars and Hackney Carriage and putting Meters in Private Hire Cars will only cause confusion. Not least of all because, Hackney Carriage have multiple Tariffs such as Trap 1 and Trap 2 and based on the time of day or whether the hire is going a certain distance outside of the licensed area and in some cases even the amount of passengers in some Boroughs can affect the fare charged.

“Private Hire customers after years of using our services understand that price is generally given via a verbal quotation by the licensed office, unless the customer already knows the fare or the companies printed mileage charts that have previously been produced and supplied to Sefton MBC are used for the completed journeys fare in full view of the customer.”

Paul McLaughlin, from Bootle based Delta Taxis, argued : “We are baffled as to how any authority could conclude that a device banned within the nation’s capital should be made compulsory here in Sefton. Have any official complaints been made to Sefton MBC in respect of offences that might have been avoided with the introduction of such taximeters? It would undoubtedly prove problematic introducing a byelaw to legislate for taximeters when the taxi law itself doesn’t require them. It would burden 3000 private hire drivers with a totally unnecessary financial weight whilst at the same time land an already stretched enforcement team with the additional charge of regularly inspecting and confirming compliance of each said device.”

The matter is set be discussed at Sefton’s licensing and regulatory committee meeting on November 2.

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Uber taxi-hailing app does not break law, High Court rules

Posted by admin on October 16th, 2015

Source: BBC Online

TfL – Uber Judgement Oct 2015

The taxi-hailing app operated in London by the US firm Uber does not break the law, the High Court has found.

The court had been asked to decide whether the company’s smartphones were considered meters, which are outlawed for private hire vehicles.
The phones use GPS and external servers to calculate the cost of a journey. Transport for London said taking the case to court had been “in the public interest”.

The app-based company allows users to order cars via their smartphones, which often arrive within minutes and can cost a fraction of the price of a black cab.

Mr Justice Ouseley declared that taximeters do not operate in the same way as the app as they do not depend on GPS signals or include the app’s other new-tech characteristics to calculate fares.

TfL and Uber had both argued at a one-day hearing earlier in October that the app was not a meter, and both organisations greeted the decision as a victory. An Uber spokesman said: “This was not a marginal call; it is quite emphatic. In fact, it is contemptuous of the case brought before it.” Transport for London also welcomed the ruling, saying there had been “significant public interest in establishing legal certainty in the matter”.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which represents many of the 25,000 licensed taxi drivers in London, asked the judge to rule it was a meter and ban its use. LTDA chairman Richard Massett said: “We certainly are going to an appeal.

“It’s a fact that the smartphone acts in exactly the same way as a taximeter. It calculates the fare by means of time taken and distance covered – and it’s doing exactly the same job. “Private hire legislation specifically precludes private hire from using a meter – and that’s exactly what it is.”

The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) backed the LTDA and said the app was “an attempt to circumvent the statutory prohibition” on minicabs using meters.

Analysis from BBC London transport correspondent Tom Edwards

This is not the end of this story – I think it is only the beginning.

As well as probable legal challenges to the High Court taximeter ruling, there are big changes to regulation being proposed by the mayor.
Among those are a five-minute wait between booking a taxi via an app and the pick-up – and a ban on apps showing which cars are immediately available. That would seriously curtail how Uber currently operates.

A huge lobbying battle is now under way. Expect more protests from black cab drivers.

The policy-makers are scrambling to keep up with this new technology – it has tied them in knots.

There are also differing political opinions on the Uber app – the business secretary said in July he and the government welcomed “disruptive technology” – and that clashes with what the mayor is trying to achieve with his private-hire proposals.

Black cab drivers argue that the app poses a risk to public safety and customers being overcharged, with no opportunity to challenge fares before the money is automatically taken out of their bank accounts.

A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “The mayor is a strong supporter of new technology and he recognises that innovation is embraced by Londoners.” However, he acknowledged “huge challenges” for the taxi and private hire trades, and “legitimate concerns” over vehicle emissions and congestion. He pointed out that TfL was carrying out a consultation on how to regulate the industry.

Uber’s Jo Bertram said: “Now the High Court has ruled in favour of new technology, we hope TfL will think again on their bureaucratic proposals for apps like Uber. “Compulsory five-minute waits and banning ride-sharing would be bad for riders and drivers. These plans make no sense. That’s why 130,000 people have already signed our petition against these proposals.”

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Worcester taxi investigation after 44% of cabs fail key ‘compliance’ tests

Posted by admin on September 23rd, 2015

Source: Tewkesbury Admag

NEARLY 170 Worcester taxi drivers have failed key ‘compliance’ tests in just one year – sparking a council investigation into the findings.

Your Worcester News can reveal how independent tests on the condition of cabbies operating in the city flagged up problems with 44 per cent – including faulty brake pads, defective lights, expired MOTs and illegal tyres.

Between August last year and July this year 389 taxi drivers were told to report to a testing centre in Blackpole by Worcester City Council for sudden checks.

Of that number 169 failed their inspections – with the worst month back in January when a staggering 66 per cent, 16 out of 24, failed to make the grade.

Cabbies in the city have defended the results by saying standards are far higher than normal cars and that reasons for failing can include marked seats, ripped carpets, dirt, dents or a faulty inside light.

But councillors are now planning to interrogate the data, with some calling it “a serious situation”.

The findings were published at the request of politicians after lingering, anecdotal concern around some taxis – both private hire ones and hackney carriages.

Of the 169 failed taxis, which cannot drive again until they pass, 78 per cent were because of defective brake pads or lights.

Councillor Chris Mitchell, a city council cabinet member, said: “Regardless of whether it’s a safety issue or not these are professional drivers and 44 per cent are failing the standards.

“I have genuine concerns that there is a culture of drivers not knowing what sort of condition their vehicles should be in, and they should – it’s a significant concern.”

Councillor Gareth Jones said: “A fault is a fault – these are public service vehicles and whether it’s a headlight issue, indicator not working, flat tyre, it’s serious.

“They know the standards and should be sticking to them.”

The findings led to a debate during a city council licensing and environmental health committee meeting, where the Mayor of Worcester Councillor Roger Knight urged caution.

He insisted he was “not trying to play it down” but said many of the failures would be “a fault-related issue rather than a safety one”.

Councillor Paul Denham said: “The travelling public would expect the standards of maintenance to be higher than other cards on the road – a 44 per cent failure rate on the face of it, doesn’t seem a particularly safe situation.”

Labour’s Simon Cronin said the authority “needs to find out what is grounds for concern and what is trivial”, with fellow party politician Geoff Williams agreed, saying more interrogation is needed into the failure reasons.

The council has now set up a special panel to investigate it further.

After the meeting Lesley Borthwick, of Worcester Taxi Drivers Association, said: “When the council does spot checks and a vehicle is deemed dangerous it’s taken off the road immediately until it’s repaired and it’s the same with the testing centre – a vehicle wouldn’t be let back on the road unless it was safe.

“Standards are a lot higher than normal cars and taxi drivers know they’ve got to keep up the maintenance to be able to work.” She said another reason for failure could be the ‘for hire’ sign not being lit.

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To regulate or not to regulate? EU to launch study on Uber

Posted by admin on September 3rd, 2015

Source: Reuters

The European Commission will launch a study in September of the ride-hailing app Uber in an effort to settle legal disputes that have pitched the U.S. start-up against conventional taxis across Europe, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Since opening in Paris in 2011, San Francisco-based Uber has run into vehement opposition from taxi drivers, who complain it competes unfairly by bypassing local laws on licensing and safety.

Uber has responded by submitting complaints to the European Commission against German and Spanish court bans, as well as a new French law on taxis.

The study will attempt to determine the legal instruments Brussels might use to decide whether Uber is a transport service or just a digital service, an EU official said.

Uber argues it is a digital platform that connects willing drivers with customers. Being considered a transport service might make it subject to stricter rules on licensing, insurance and safety.

The study will review the regulatory regimes for taxi services in all member states and assess if an EU-wide framework is needed. Currently, taxis and vehicle-with-chauffeur services are regulated at a national level.

“This investigation appears to indicate that the European Commission believes that the manner in which the taxi and private hire sectors are currently regulated in some member states is dysfunctional and is no longer fit for purpose, not to mention new barriers to entry for innovative, technology-based services such as ridesharing,” an Uber spokeswoman said.

The study will run in parallel with a case at the European Union’s top court that could set a precedent for legal battles across the continent. However, it is likely the European Court of Justice will rule before the completion of the study, expected around June next year.

In the meantime, the Commission will also continue assessing the complaints against France, Germany and Spain. In May, the Commission asked France for more information on its new taxi law, which Uber says favours regular taxis at its expense.

The Commission has previously said it welcomes innovative services such as Uber as part of the so-called sharing economy – where individuals are put in touch with others offering services, such as travel or accommodation.

However, businesses such as Uber should not circumvent national laws on taxation, safety and social aspects, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a letter to a member of the European Parliament in February.

The sharing economy has flummoxed policymakers, torn between promoting innovative services and ensuring that incumbent industries can still compete on fair grounds. “There needs to be a middle way”, said an EU official.

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Taxi company fined for refusing to carry blind passenger with guide dog

Posted by admin on August 10th, 2015

Source: Leicester Mercury

A taxi company which refused to carry a blind passenger because he was accompanied by his guide dog has been fined £1,000 with more than £700 costs.

Prahlad Pandya (52) of Gwencole Crescent, Braunstone, owner of A1 Highfields Associates Ltd, also known as Highfields Taxis, was dealt with in absence at Leicester Magistrates’ Court, of failing to accept a booking by a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog in Leicester on January 30 this year.

Nicola Birch, from Leicester City Council, told the court that two taxis had been booked to take Mahomed-Abraar Khatri from Leicester Railway Station for an interview at BBC Radio Leicester and back after the interview.

When the interview, due to finish at 3.30pm, overran by 20 minutes and the return taxi failed to arrive, Mr Khatri rang the company to ask why. “He was told that all the Indian drivers had gone home for the day and none would pick him up because of the dog.” Ms Birch said he had been taken back by another company, Circle Taxis.

The council received a complaint on February 5 and checked that the booking stated “Mo is blind and will be travelling with a guide dog.” When interviewed by the council on April 9 Pandya said he had stepped in to help because the usual bookings-handler had gone home ill. “I was confused and worried about Dave.”

The magistrates imposed the maximum fine, £1,000, with £665.50 costs and £100 victim surcharge, with a 28-day collection order.

Mike Broster, head of regulatory services for Leicester City Council said: “Disabled people may rely on the taxi services and the providers have a legal duty to comply with it. “The message I would give is that any people with disabilities who have difficulties such as this to come to us.

“There are legal requirements for taxi operators and they generally comply with them. “If not we will be there to ensure they will comply.”

After the hearing Pandya said: “Basically I did not refuse to take the man and his dog but did not have any drivers except one who was a bit awkward and would not take the dog.

“It was just one man who is self-employed, not an employee. What I said to the customer was ‘Can you hold your horses, wait a bit until I can get another driver. “I would have pleaded guilty and, with the fine and costs, will just have to pay them.”

Steve Payne, Community Services Manager at local sight loss charity Vista, said: “This case highlights the importance of educating people about sight loss, and the need to break down the social inclusion barriers that surround it.

“Being visually impaired affects people in different ways and it’s crucial to be able to provide the right support where needed. Visual impairment awareness training for individuals and businesses is just one of many services that Vista provides.”

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