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Taxi Times International - October 2015 - English

  • Text
  • Drivers
  • Taxis
  • Uber
  • Athens
  • Mobility
  • European
  • Unions
  • Passenger
  • Urata
  • Faber

INTERVIEW CONFERENCE and

INTERVIEW CONFERENCE and the most aggressive leader of the pack. We sometimes call it ‘Walmart on wheels’, after the bad social conditions for its drivers. But Uber is not alone. Take the US, Lyft is a strong competitor and equally important. We also strongly focus on them.” Urata remarks on the new type of work: a collection of part time jobs. At the Annual Conference of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, in January this year, he heard a representative from Lyft say that most of their drivers only work 18 hours a week. “For that we would very much like a different form of regulation.” “What I find amazing is that Uber, a large company and reputedly worth 50 billion dollars, doesn’t even have a Corporate Social Responsibility statement on its website. It is nowhere to be found! Obviously Uber doesn’t care about its social responsibility to society.” But should you treat Uber as any normal taxi company? “No, it’s clearly an app platform based company. Not a traditional taxi operator. But that doesn’t mean it can be exempted from any regulation. What is most irritating are the hiked fares when there is a higher demand. Surge pricing. Fares go up at Christmas and New Year. Yet, when there is a transport strike, they could rake it in and then they offer 50% discount. It’s not always easy to follow Uber’s company logic.” Urata is also curious why its namesake, the ‘other’ ITF (International Transport Forum in Paris), accepted Uber as a member of its Corporate Partnership Board (CPB). He heard it has something to do with the Leipzig ITF-conference getting bigger and bigger and no more additional funds coming from governments. “I do not know what the actual CPB criteria are.” Is ITF a member of ITF? “No, I don’t think so. But four or five years ago we were invited to take part in a panel discussion in Leipzig.” » Uber is the new leader and the most aggressive leader of the pack. We sometimes call it ›Walmart on wheels‹, after the bad social conditions for its drivers« Aren’t the unions living a bit in the past with their defence of the status quo in the taxi world? Urata reiterates several times that the unions are not against innovation. “We would very much like to improve the quality of the industry. Young kids like apps. It gives them instant contact. It lets them track their car. But an improvement in the industry’s quality can only be achieved with a level playing field. We are very much in favour of regulation. Perhaps even regulating and limiting the size of taxi fleets in larger cities so that the drivers don’t have to fight over each ride and there’s always enough supply. In Japan the number of vehicles skyrocketed after deregulation. Income was reduced to such an extent that it was sometimes better to go on welfare benefit than to keep working as a taxi driver. Things have improved in the meantime, but still…” Why is the taxi sector such a lone transport mode? Urata agrees that the taxi sector can rarely be found in cooperation with other transport modes, even though they could very much benefit from each other. “It is very much an urban city problem. Yet there are other transport modes who could benefit from working with the taxi industry and vice versa. Think of the paratransit mode, of transporting people with a mobility handicap. The elderly, the on-demand transport. But those services are only available if there are subsidies.” Even in the union’s achievements the picture is patchy as unions are organised on a national scale. Urata mentions examples of union activity which lead to improvements. “Because what we want first and foremost is the improvement in the quality of the drivers’ conditions. Regulation should be aimed at that. That’s why we feel fleets should also be regulated. Fleets should be limited and should adhere to the same rules. And we are fully aware that technology has changed. So you need to update the rules and apply them to everyone including Uber. First and foremost we need to stabilise the industry.” How do you feel about the recent California court case where Uber was told it should treat its drivers as employees? “We welcomed that news. We do feel that the driver must be able to make a choice, whether to work for a wage or go for his dream and be an entrepreneur and go for creating a bigger company. A choice between being an employee and guaranteed income and security and being in independent operator should always exist. But that should be the drivers’ freedom of choice, not something that the operator imposes.” Interviewer: Wim Faber THE ITF The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) represents over 4.5 million transport workers from some 150 countries in its 700 affiliates. It is one of several Global Federation Unions allied with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Founded in 1896, it has its headquarters in London, with its regional offices in Nairobi, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, Amman and Brussels (ETF). PHOTOS: Wim Faber InnoTrans was one of the newcomers to Taxi Expo, presenting a new system to secure wheelchairs in the minibuses. ‘OLD-FASHIONED’ DUTCH TAXI EXPO OFFERS MANY DIFFERENT VIEWS An old-fashioned Taxi Expo in The Netherlands. In these difficult times for the Dutch trade the show went back to the Expo Houten centre where it started. According to organizers TaxiPro there were about a 1,000 visitors and 50 exhibitors. Despite the worrying economic situation in the industry, the Expo’s atmosphere was far from depressing. Especially the contract sector (75% of annual turnover) is under threat from government cuts. The new priorities in the taxi industry were also reflected in this Expo: no huge stands for most exhibitors - even main sponsor Mercedes-Benz had a fairly modest stand. Gone were the huge stands of the on-board computer providers. Two of them had already decided not to exhibit at the Taxi Expo. There were more relatively small stands and various (partially new) providers in the area of employment and personnel - in addition to the Social Fund Taxi (trade + unions) and Tax Authoritystands - plus quite a few IT and app specialists. MANY VEHICLE SUPPLIERS The large number of small and large vehicle manufacturers was striking – and not all classic taxi suppliers in The Netherlands: besides Mercedes-Benz, BYD, Audi, Ford, Volkswagen, Renault, Skoda and Nissan had turned up. Plus (mini)bus specialists VDL Bus & Coach, Expo-sponsor Tribus (with its very notable new Civitas minibus), Flex-i-Trans and newcomers InnoTrans (with new wheelchair locking system) and Auto Cuby from Belgium. BP and Expo-sponsor OrangeGas were the fuel providers. Noteworthy was the large number of commercial and non-commercial workshops Back with a vengeance: Toplight supplier Barclay (no longer part of Taxitronic Nederland) and the Sanders family, who incidentally also saw a Belgian supplier of taxi rooflights at the Taxi Expo: Voxdale from Antwerp. Noteworthy was the large number of commercial and non-commercial workshops in the beautiful dome in the midst of the Expo and in the separate workshop area just off the Barclay Toplights – no longer part of Taxitronic Nederland – was back with a vengeance. show floor. The level of contributions varied widely, but most could count on quite a lot of interest. NEAT SUMMARY For most participants the annual contract transport conference - except perhaps for the many representatives of municipalities and other public authorities (40%) – provided no new insights. Five speakers were given ample time and space to make their point giving a thorough overview of the current state of affairs. The first part was about the future of taxi tenders and possible innovation. The second part looked to award major contracts in social transportation in a more innovative fashion. Unfortunately Dutch KNV Taxi chairman Bertho Eckhardt was stuck in traffic, otherwise the conference structure would have been perfect. Eckhardt said that the taxi sector finds itself in very heavy weather and the important area of transport contracts -now the mainstay of the taxi industry in the Netherlands- is probably going to be a niche market within a few years. The taxi (trade) must, according to Eckhardt, again be seen as the main part- 12 TAXI OCTOBER / 2015 13

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