RISING: Taxi service
Durban - Riding service Uber said it was concerned over some proposed amendments to the National Land Transport Act.

The legislation includes a clause instructing e-hailing ­operators to deny access to their systems to any driver without the necessary operating licence.

Under the clause, ride-sharing 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 that in cities across the country where it operates, drivers were 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 licences 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, said Uber’s general manager in sub-Saharan Africa, Alon Lits.

The riding service had more than 12000 active drivers in South Africa.

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 9000 direct job opportunities, which would negatively impact on 27000 people whose livelihoods depended on the e-hailing industry.

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

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 ­licensing 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. - African News Agency (ANA)