22 Apr 2016

Taxi rules turn a corner

10:47 am on 22 April 2016

The government's rewriting the rulebook for companies and drivers who transport passengers, but the taxi federation says the shake-up will dumb down the industry.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Ministers began looking at changes when taxi and ride-sharing company Uber arrived a few years ago and long-established taxi operators complained about the rules of the road.

Now, companies such as Uber are to be governed by one set of rules and include the right for Uber drivers to request not to have cameras fixed in their cars.

Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish said the new regulations woiuld even out the playing-field, but he sees some problems as well - particularly with panic alarms able to be removed from taxis.

"Since panic alarms have been in there and since cameras have been in there, we've had no murders, no serious assaults and passenger behaviour has been considerably modified.

He said it was inexplicable that the alarms were part of the review.

One rule for all

The changes will create a single set of rules under a category called 'small passenger service'.

Previously there were different categories for taxis, private hire, shuttles, and rideshare operators.

The changes do not remove to the need for all drivers who charge to carry customers to undergo a police check.

Another amendment is that drivers will not need to know about the area they're working in, because they can use GPS technology instead.

Uber is yet say what it thinks of the changes, but when they were announced yesterday it took 20 percent off its prices.

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Uber allows users to request rides from private drivers using its mobile apps. Photo: AFP

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the government had clearly stated its intention to encourage innovation and enable new kinds of services.

"Freeing up the regulatory environment will allow transport operators to compete on an even footing," Mr Bridges said.

He said safety remained paramount.

"We are keeping the P endorsements, with the criminal checks, and also as the wider character checks that will need to be conducted by the Police and the New Zealand Transport Agency."

Mr Bridges said some rules that imposes costs on operators, but no longer provides any significant benefits, would be removed.

What will no longer be required

  • Area knowledge certificate is dropped - GPS technology will do the job instead
  • Removal of the need to display information about fares
  • Companies or operators won't need to belong to an approved taxi organisation, such as the Taxi Federation
  • Driver panic alarms monitored 24/7 are no longer a must-have
  • Don't have to demonstrate an ability to 'communicate in English'

What stays the same

  • Drivers of taxis and Uber cars will still undergo a police check (automatic when they get what's called a 'P endorsement')
  • Most vehicles will still have security cameras but companies like Uber can apply to be exempt
  • Drivers' time behind the wheel will continue to be limited

The changes will be considered by Parliament as part of the Land Transport Amendment Bill this year, but are unlikely to come in before next year.

Tim Reddish said the Federation would be raising such problems during the select committee process.