The recent case of the dedicated Uber Driver, Harpal Kang, has thrown up several queries, and quite a bit of controversy in the Taxi Industry, and will set a few important rules more firmly in place depending on the NZTA’s forthcoming ruling on the matter.
Harpal was nearing the end of his shift when a last request came in; he did not know at the time it was from an American couple desperate to get from Auckland to Wellington for a business meeting. Cyclone Debbie had grounded flights in an out of the capital, and other transport options were not looking good.
His mercy mission through the North Island meant he exceeded the maximum time set down for drivers to work in any one stretch, by more than 3 hours.
In this case, several queries come to mind.
1. Was Uber ultimately at fault in allocating a driver coming to the end of shift? Is their software sophisticated enough to know that and follow the rules?
Judging by their response to the Herald it seems they place the onus on the driver to take breaks and don’t regulate the work coming in or being distributed.
2. Do Uber do enough to inform their driver partners of their obligations under the law?
They have now altered their advice to include the requirement for the P endorsement, allowing drivers to carry paying passengers, but do they do enough?
3. Was the driver aware of his responsibilities? If so, was he right in this incidence to ignore them on behalf of his passengers?
Blue Bubble and the Taxi Association are right in that technically a breach was committed. They also appear to be saying that the fare would have been significantly higher if done in full compliance with the law. How many taxi drivers would drive through the night to Wellington, in rotten weather at short notice?
RDi will follow this story and report back to you as to the outcome.
RDi can source Comprehensive and Third Party Insurance for both Taxi operators and Uber drivers.
From our perspective, here a few things you need to know
1. All Insurers we work with require all classes of Taxi / Uber / Zoomy etc drivers to have the P endorsement.
2. There is less unanimity over WoF v CoF requirements. All Taxi Insurers require them, but not all Uber Insurances do. It’s worth checking. The NZTA on the other hand appear to require CoF on any vehicle being used for passenger carrying for a fee.
3. Some Insurers give premium reductions if you only work limited hours per week on Uber in addition to a full time job. some also reduce excesses if an accident occurs whilst the vehicle is not being used for Uber purposes.
4. Some Insurers have a different rate if a Taxi is being used for Single or Double Shift. The length of time that a vehicle is on the road for changes the risk profile and this can be reflected in the premium quoted.
For a discussion around your Insurance needs, call me on 0800734677, or go to insurance-for-taxis to start a quote online.
The Herald story reads:
An Uber driver who came to the rescue of a US couple by driving them nine hours to an important meeting, says he could lose his job and have to leave the country.
Harpal Kang was nearing the end of his shift when the American couple asked him to drive them 650km from Auckland to Wellington, for an important business meeting which they were in danger of missing.
The couple had planned to fly down to Wellington but arrived in the middle of Cyclone Debbie, and were unable to find any flights, buses, or taxis to take them.
Kang agreed to take them on the $1033 trip, getting them to Wellington 30 minutes before the meeting started.
The couple contacted the Herald to publicly thank Kang.
But the article generated a storm of controversy about whether he’d driven more than the legally allowed hours. Today he was contacted by the NZTA, and was required to bring in his logbooks to be checked.
Kang told the NZTA he’d taken two breaks on the drive down, but he said he was still in trouble because his total working hours reached 16.5.
Drivers are only allowed to work for a total of 13 hours in a stretch.
He said the NZTA would decide in the next two weeks whether to issue a fine, or take him to court. If they went for court action, he said he’d leave New Zealand to return to India.
He has been in New Zealand for six years, and leaving would mean leaving behind his wife, who is studying to become a nurse.
“I told them, I’m not going to court again. I’ve already been to court one time, and it wasn’t a good experience for me.”
Last year, in his third week as an Uber driver, he faced court action because of a different problem with his logbook.
Kang said his problems were being caused by system problems in the Uber app, that left him vulnerable as a driver.
“(If NZTA decides on) a fine, I will ask Uber to pay, I’ll say to them why did you send me this job.
“The application doesn’t go offline after a driver finishes his hours.
“In the normal taxi industry a driver goes offline, after 13 hours you’re done with that.
“The Uber application runs for 24 hours. That’s the bad thing about the application.”
Kang said when he picked the couple up, he did not know they were trying to get to Wellington. But when they asked, he felt he couldn’t say no.
“I didn’t do it for money, I just helped them out of the kindness of my heart.”
He said he was not putting other people at risk on the roads that day and was confident he could make the trip safely.
The NZTA is now investigating.
A spokesperson said several complaints were laid about Kang after news of his long drive was made public.
“As a safety regulator the NZ Transport Agency takes its obligations to ensure that anyone carrying passengers for a living is not putting the public at risk.
“We don’t condone drivers exceeding the permitted working hours or failing to take required breaks.”
Blue Bubble Taxis chief executive Bob Wilkinson was one person who made a complaint.
“I am appalled that both the driver and the company that passed him the job would have done so knowing that his shift was about to end.
“Small Passenger Vehicle drivers can only work a maximum of 14 hours (with regulated breaks) in any 24-hour period,” Wilkinson said.
“His work time would include his return trip to Auckland unless he took a minimum 10-hour break in Wellington rather than the ‘nap’ he said that he took.
“I shudder to think how long this driver had worked without a sufficient break and in contravention to the law.
“Not only would he have been fatigued but he was driving through the worst weather we have experienced for some time – a recipe for disaster.
“I also very much doubt that his passengers were unable to find a taxi that would take them to Wellington. However, they would have been quoted a fare that would have allowed a driver to do the job legally.”
New Zealand Taxi Federation executive direction John Hart said the trip was “unacceptable”.
“It’s a question of safety.
“The law says that you need to have a break after seven hours, and if you’re on a long distance job like that, it needs to be taken after five hours.
“NZTA has never hesitated to prosecute and impose very severe penalties on taxi companies and drivers who allow that to happen.”
Hart said the couple might have had an important meeting to get to, “but there’s the safety of the other people on the road to consider.”
“If it’s a road safety issue for taxis, surely it’s a road safety issue for Uber.”
What’s the law for Uber?
The Government is currently considering changes under the Land Transport Amendment Act, that would amend driver regulations to make it easier for Uber to operate in New Zealand.
In the meantime, Uber drivers have been facing fines after the ride-sharing company announced its drivers didn’t need NZ Passenger Endorsement certificates, as Uber did its own vetting. Drivers have claimed P endorsements were never mentioned as a possible issue when they signed up.
NZTA was asked if the rules on taxi driver hours and conditions also applied to Uber drivers. The Agency has not yet responded to the Herald.
Uber has been contacted to ask for clarification of their legal responsibilities.
A spokesman said “given the flexibility Uber provides, driver partners are free to take breaks whenever they choose and we encourage them to do just that whenever needed.”
“The safety of our riders and driver-partners is a top priority, and we are clear in our community guidelines that if driver-partners are driving and feel tired, they should take a break. As the experts say, sleep is the only true preventative measure against the risks of drowsy driving.”
The full NZ Herald story can be seen here