Uber against proposed changes to transport law

The company raised concerns over a clause in the draft law that would compel vehicles involved in transporting passengers to have special markings to identify them. 

Riding service Uber said on Monday it was concerned over some proposed amendments to the National Land Transport Act, including a clause instructing e-hailing operators to deny access to their systems to any driver without the necessary operating licence.

Under the clause, ridesharing and e-hailing companies that fail to comply could pay a fine of up to R100 000. Drivers are also subject to the fine as well as two years imprisonment.

Uber said in cities across the country where it operates, drivers were currently facing massive delays in getting their permits from their local authority, or were simply not able to do so.

“Therefore, Uber proposes that the implementation of this clause, as well as any sanctions against drivers themselves, are delayed until the current challenges being experienced by public transport operators applying for operating licenses are resolved,” the company said.

The permit-issuing systems and processes of many of South Africa’s major municipalities were flawed, resulting in massive application backlogs and delays of up to 18 months in the issuing of operating licences, Uber general manager in sub-Saharan Africa Alon Lits said.

The riding service has over 12 000 active drivers in South Africa, many of them breadwinners for their families.

The company said if the backlog and delays around the current system were not resolved before the proposed new clause came into effect, there would be a loss of approximately 9 000 direct job opportunities, negatively impacting on 27 000 people whose livelihoods depend on the e-hailing industry.

Alternatively, Uber has requested that the transport minister includes a clause in the amendments that allows drivers to operate legally if they have submitted fully compliant applications and are in possession of receipts, but where the operating licence has not yet been issued by the municipality.

“The idea of a receipt being substitutable for a licence in such circumstances already exists – with licence renewals, drivers who have submitted renewal applications are allowed to operate on the basis of their receipts,” it noted.

Uber also expressed misgivings over a clause in the draft law that would compel all e-hailing vehicles involved in transporting passengers to have special markings to identify them.

“Uber drivers are still experiencing very high levels of intimidation and even violence from some other transport industry participants and we are concerned that insisting on identification markings on vehicles could result in an increase in these targeted attacks,” said Lits.

Uber has also asked the transport ministry to reconsider the power granted to licencing authorities to define the locations or zones in which e-hailing vehicles are allowed to operate.

“By reconsidering its proposed amendments to the Act in these ways, the transport ministry has the opportunity to demonstrate that it is fully committed to building a fair, equitable and well-run transport operating environment,” Lits said.

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