Uber ‘forcing drivers to break the law’
DRIVERS for Uber are afraid the ride-share company is forcing them to break the law and putting them at risk of copping a potential $10,000 fine.
A number of Brisbane drivers, including Shane Millsom, have told The Courier Mail they believe Uber is not complying with two sections of Queensland's transport law but their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
"I am being forced to break the law daily and risk a $10,000 fine for every journey I complete, due to Uber's non-compliance with the Transport Operations (Passenger Act) 1994," Mr Millsom said.
In a November, 2018 letter Mr Millsom, 39, of Algester, told his local member Leeanne Enoch he was at his wit's end after receiving no response on the matter from other government officials or from Uber.
"I have written to Uber, and received no response. I wrote to Personalised Transport … and was told they would 'discuss this matter in due time'," he wrote.
"I have been stonewalled by TMR and the Minister at every turn. It is very clear they are unwilling to act against larger organisations, but are happy to put thousands of sole-contractor, low-paid, hard-working Queenslanders at risk.
"By not even passing on the verified identity of the passenger to the driver, Uber is risking our safety on a daily basis."
The two sections of the Transport Operations (Passenger Transport) Regulations Act of 1994, state a booking entity, which is what Uber is considered, must make a booking record for the booked hire service.
It also states if the person is not the driver of the motor vehicle to be used to provide the service then a copy of the booking record must be given to the driver before the journey starts.
The booking record must be available for inspection if asked for by an authorised person and that the record be kept for at least two years, according to the Act.
Mr Millsom said he and other drivers were concerned they were at risk of being fined up to 80 penalty units or a large fine through no fault of their own.
"Section 82 in the driver's obligations states the person doing the actual driving also has to keep a copy of the booking record and produce it if required," he said.
"The driver is also subject to penalty if they can't produce the records.
"When Uber offers a job to a driver, the only information given to the driver is a first name, their current location and the passenger's star rating."
Mr Millsom said in many cases, the name provided is not even in English.
"I might get a name that might be a single Chinese character if the person is Chinese," he said.
"If we need to contact a person we contact Uber, we don't even get a mobile number. We get nothing.
"The identify information is important as it's an anonymous trip … which puts us at serious safety risk."
Although taxis must have government-funded safety cameras installed, approved cameras are optional for booked-for-hire drivers, who have to fork out up to $3500 themselves.
An Uber spokeswoman did not answer specific questions asked by the Courier Mail about the Act, but said all trips were tracked using a global positioning system.
"We continue to work closely with the Department of Transport and Main Roads to maximise safety and compliance on the Uber platform for riders, drivers and the communities in which we operate," she said.
The spokeswoman said while it was important for additional security precautions to be taken to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers using untracked rank and hail public transport where the rides were anonymous, ride-sharing services like Uber were not anonymous.
"You always know who your driver is, and what vehicle you're getting into," she said.
"All trips are GPS-tracked in real time. The Uber app facilitates a cashless and automatic transaction from the rider to the driver-partner once the trip is complete.
"The elimination of anonymity ensures that both riders and driver-partners are accountable for their behaviour. Queensland transport regulation has recognised this distinction."
A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesman said Queensland's personalised transport framework establishes clear responsibilities and accountabilities for each person in the chain of responsibility, which includes holders of a booking entity authorisation (BEA).
"BEA holders are required to make a booking record for pre-booked services that they arrange," he said.
"Before a pre-booked journey starts, the BEA holder must give a copy of the booking record to the driver of the vehicle that is providing the service.
"The driver of the vehicle must carry the booking record (and produce a copy of the record if requested by TMR compliance officers), while providing the service."
The spokesman confirmed the booking record must contain the information stated in the Transport Act but said a fare estimate did not have to be provided to a customer in certain circumstances, including if the "hirer opts out of receiving the fare estimate."
"TMR does not provide information on specific compliance/investigation activities, but regularly works with BEA holders and other persons in the chain of responsibility to ensure compliance with the regulatory framework," he said.
The spokesman said approved security cameras were mandatory in all taxi, limousine and ride-booking vehicles where the service met a number of risks, including where the driver or passenger was anonymous.
"For services that don't meet the … criteria, operators and drivers may voluntarily install an approved security camera system in the vehicle," he said.
"Only approved security cameras are permitted to be installed (for example, go pros or similar systems are not approved security camera systems) and vehicles must comply with a number of requirements, such as privacy protections relating to the download and use of camera recordings."