OK, Tell Me More?
Uber and Taxify drivers carrying passengers without the necessary permits in SA are being impounded and forced to cough up ~R10,000 for the release of their vehicles.
Hmm, Go On?
Drivers have found themselves falling prey to a rather expensive inhibitor on their income. To work as a taxi, drivers are first required to obtain an operating licence from the Department of Transport. Many drivers complain that despite trying to follow the application procedure, unreasonable delays mean they’re forced to start driving before gaining the stamp of approval or else risk not being able to put food on the table.
What Are They Risking?
If caught on the roads without an operating licence, a driver can be fined ~R10,000 by police who will also go on to impound their vehicle until the fee is paid. The problem for drivers is that without their car, they have no means to make the money they need to free their vehicles.
To make things easier, Uber refunds its drivers for the fine upon receipt of supporting documentation from the driver. Effectively, the fine is paid by Uber, but the driver still pays the cost of lost income. Taxify drivers aren’t as lucky – as of yet, the company isn’t offering refunds, so the full bill is footed by the driver.
The reality for many drivers is that their attempt at getting the operating licence is stalled by poor administration. Drivers complain of having to wait an impractical amount of time before being able to start earning an income. In a country with high unemployment and escalating costs of living, sitting idle is not an option for most of these drivers. Another complexity is that the number of licences issues have to be limited in order to manage the number of taxis on the road and ensure a sustainable income for all registered drivers.
There has also been criticism about the motivation behind the seemingly unorganised administrative processes. After being impounded, some drivers have described police as comforting them that Uber will just refund the fee. One driver mentioned that he was impounded on a weekend when Cape Town police had a target of 100 cars in a day – translating into R1,000,000 in revenue from fines. This convenient money-making scheme may create an incentive for authorities to hold up the licencing process and drain Uber’s wallet.