17 Mar 2017

Taxi changes: 'People will just have to be more careful'

9:19 am on 17 March 2017

Taxi riders would need to be more careful when choosing their cabs under new law changes, say taxi companies.

It was thought taxi driver's incomes had plummeted 30 to 40 percent since Uber's arrival, said one driver.

Taxi drivers protested in Wellington last year against Uber's influence. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

The government is changing the laws to make it easier for ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, to operate by removing "unnecessary compliance".

But taxi companies said they were stripping away safety.

Compulsory security cameras, English language tests and taxi branding may no longer be required under changes to small passenger services in the government's Land Transport Amendment Bill.

The Bill is heading back to Parliament for its second reading, after going through a select committee.

Taxi Federation executive director John Hart said if the changes became law, people would have to be more careful when choosing their taxis.

"It may be that one operator appeals because they're cheaper, but [the passenger] will need to take into account all the safety factors, reliability, and being able to check the fare and that the right amount's been deducted.

"There's still going to be safe transport for people, but people will just have to be more careful."

He said no taxi drivers had been killed on the job since security cameras were installed in 2010.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the laws were last overhauled in 1989 and people would be as safe as they ever were.

"There will still be a P endorsement, a fit and proper person test, there will still be a requirement for an in-vehicle camera. Although what is also true is that a lot of the compliance has been stripped away," he said.

Cameras would not be required for application based services, such as Uber, where the driver and passenger were tracked throughout the journey, the Minister said.

The new rules would give customers more choice, the Minister said.

But Mr Hart said the rules were written for Uber.

"I would say that they were made to suit an overseas operator who's come into the country, deliberately disobeyed the law and been quite proud of it and what's more, got away with it. That's unprecedented."

He said Uber had consistently flouted the rules by accepting drivers who did not have a P endorsement on their license.

Mr Bridges said that would not happen any more.

"Uber takes the position that when the P endorsement costs come down, and when the timeframe for a P endorsement comes right down, and it has, they will comply.

"We will be making sure there is very strong compliance and if necessary the enforcement to back that up," he said.

Under the new law it should take only about five days to get a P endorsement, and the cost will come down by two thirds, he said.

Uber said it would not comment until it had studied the select committee's report, but welcomed anything that would reduce compliance costs.

Mr Bridges expected the changes would become law at the beginning of July.

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