Cars are being impounded for not having operating licences, but do they need them?. Photo: Pixabay
Cape Town - There seems to be confusion between Uber and Taxify operators and traffic cops as to whether these app-based taxi companies should have individual operating licences, as drivers face vehicle impoundments for operating without a licence.

Taxify operator Leon Thiart’s car was impounded after a dispute between his driver and traffic officials. “My driver was driving towards the Waterfront with two passengers. They stopped for a road block and the officer asked the driver for his operating permit.

“He did not ask if he was driving for Uber or Taxify. The driver replied, saying he had no permit, and was taking his neighbour’s friends to the Waterfront Mall.” Thiart said the officer then spoke to the two passengers in a language the driver didn’t understand.

He said the passengers got out of the car, and the officer told the driver he was impounding the car and arresting the driver. At that time there was still no mention of Taxify.

“While the driver was at Greenpoint Traffic Department he called me to explain what was going on. I spoke with the officer, who told me the driver was paid for a trip and that he does not have a permit for Uber. He then killed the call,” said Thiart.

Thiart said he is expected to pay an R9500 to get his car back.

Transport and Urban Development Mayco member, Brett Herron, said he got a call from an operator on Sunday, who told him what had happened.

Herron said Uber, Taxify and the like do not operate public transport vehicles, therefore the companies do not need an operating licence to provide public transport services.

He said they only provide a platform for people to hail the ride.

“The vehicle that responds to the ride request, be it on Uber, Taxify or any other e-hailing platform, must have an operating licence for a metered taxi,” said Herron

“The e-hailing technology partner must supply the city’s Transport and Urban Development Authority with the metered taxi operator’s information.”

Uber spokesperson Samantha Allenberg said before drivers can use the Uber app, they have to undergo screening, including background and driving history checks.

Allenberg said the City of Cape Town is responsible for allocating permits to driver partners. “Driver partners are independent contractors and they need to apply for permits through the relevant city departments.”

She said all driver partners using Uber have already completed the requisite steps in applying for their operating licences under the current National Land Transport Amendment Act. However, the process has been delayed as there is a backlog with the relevant departments.

“We are doing as much as we can to make this process easier for driver partners and will continue to support them until we have a solution from the city,” said Allenberg.

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Cape Argus