File picture: Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters.
Durban - E-hailing services and the drivers who use them continue to face licensing issues, several years after arriving in the country.

This emerged after public hearings were held last week on the Land Transport Amendment Bill aimed at regulating the e-hailing industry and bringing legislation in line with the meter-taxi industry.

Uber and Taxify cited the inability to get the correct licensing requirements for drivers as one of their main challenges.

Last year the government took the decision to amend the National Land Transport Act in an effort to accommodate e-hailing services. The public hearings began in George on Tuesday night and in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Under current legislation the driver must submit an application to the city’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) and once the city has approved the application they will issue a letter of support for the driver.

The application must then be submitted to the Provincial Regulatory Entity (PRE) who will issue the operating licence, which is done within 60 days by law.

Uber representative Yolisa Kani disputes this and said some of the partner drivers have been waiting two to three years for their operating licence.

“The new regulations stipulate that if a driver partner does not have an operating licence we must switch them off of the app, and failure to do so means the driver will be criminally charged. The problem with that is that even with our drivers that have applied for operating licences they are not receiving them in the stipulated 60 days,” she said.

Mark Skriker, chairman of the PRE, said there was no backlog of applications.

Skriker said the turnaround time for processing applications averaged 48 days last year and had been cut to 37 this year.

Uber driver Riaz Mongratie said temporary operating licences should be issued if the city is unable to give letters of support in time.

Mongratie added that drivers were unable to operate freely because of a perceived impound targeting from the traffic department.

According to mayoral committee member for safety, security and social service JP Smith between January 1 and July 27 around 1 296 e-hailing operators were impounded compared to just 54 metered taxis.

But e-hailing stakeholders face push-back from meter-taxi associations who welcomed punitive measures put in place.

Taximen representative David Drummond said he supported the bill because the flooding of the market meant it had become difficult to make a living.

“The city does not process a licence if there is no need for one. We’re not against e-hailing but this business model of Uber’s cannot have 10 000 drivers running around when none of them are making money. It needs to be sustainable,” he said.

Weekend Argus