Uber and the Government could be on the brink of a truce following a promise from Transport Minister Simon Bridges to make the vetting process for commercial drivers cheaper and faster.
Just a week ago Bridges warned Uber drivers could be taken off the road completely if they didn’t start following the law – since April the company’s drivers have failed to go through the required vetting process.
Bridges accused the $60 million business of “mocking” New Zealand’s safety compliance rules, saying the Government had “zero tolerance for illegal behaviour”.
But on Tuesday Bridges extended an olive branch to Uber saying he was “going to make sure it’s much cheaper and takes much less time” to get a P endorsement passenger carrying licence.
Simon has been in fact saying this for some time. It is the right thing to do.
While Uber is doing its own Ministry of Justice and driver licence checks before deciding if someone can drive – these checks don’t cover criminal convictions beyond seven years, a medical fitness to drive or overseas criminal convictions.
Responding to Bridges’ comments, an Uber spokesman said, they want to work with the Government to ensure Kiwis have access to a “quick and affordable accreditation process that puts consumer safety first”.
“It is encouraging that Minister Bridges has committed to reducing the cost and complexity of obtaining a Government P-Endorsement.”
The cost of a P endorsement, which Bridges says is less than $2000, is prohibitive and he’d like to see it brought down to around a third of the cost.
Plans are in place to speed up the process for undertaking the vetting process and Bridges expects both those issues to be cleared up once a Bill is introduced to the House.
“Once we’ve done that, whether you’re a taxi, Uber or some other ride-share operation, there will literally be nothing to complain about. It will be a low compliance level playing field for everyone.”
It should be low compliance because technology provides a much better safety guarantee than in the past. Look at how things have changed:
- With Uber you know your driver’s identity 100%. With a taxi it is reliant on you remembering the name on their ID card
- With Uber you have the exact route recorded. You can prove where the car was at any point in time. This increases safety and also reduces fraud potential as seeminhly occured with ECan
- With Uber you never pay cash or need cash on you
- With Uber you get prompted to review your driver every single time. With a taxi you need to do go to the hassle of ringing up and complaining
- With Uber drivers with a rating below 4.5/5 get dumped as drivers.
This provides a huge amount of safety and security.
So the Government should make driver safety checks quicker and cheaper to recognise this. But also until they do, Uber should not use unlicensed drivers who breach the law.