Ridesharing Drivers Call For Fare Limits As Fatigue Hits Hard

Uber, Taxify and Didi respond to questions

Ridesharing drivers and the Transport Workers Union say that unsafe driving under conditions of fatigue are resulting from low pay and some companies increasing their commission rates.

Last month a Sydney Uber driver was found guilty of causing the death of a ridesharing passenger, after the driver had been on and off the road for 21 hours. It’s thrown a spotlight on drivers doing lengthy shifts.

While Uber has now introduced a function logging drivers off for six hours after 12 hours of driving time, drivers say that there’s nothing to stop them from using alternative ridesharing platforms, such as Didi, Taxify or Ola, to keep getting jobs.

The blossoming in the number of ridesharing platforms is driving rates down through competition. It’s just one of several factors contributing to riders driving for longer hours than they ought to.

Emmett D’Urso has been driving rideshares for almost four years, and he says that higher fees from the likes of Uber (whose commission has risen from 20 per cent to 27.5 per cent since 2016) means he’s having to drive more.

“When I first started driving, I was making about $45 an hour before expenses,” Emmett says, “and as of last week I’m now earning $19 an hour.”

The Transport Workers Union has found that on average, drivers earn even less – just $16 per hour. Part of this is due to increased competition between ridesharing companies.

“You certainly can’t raise a family, let alone pay your rent on that sort of income so you’re forced to drive long hours to try to survive,” says the TWU’s gig economy campaigner Tony Sheldon.

Tony and Emmett are among those calling for government intervention to set minimum rates and maximum commissions for the ridesharing industry.

A summary of the results of the TWU Rideshare Survey can be found here:

Taxify provided the following response to questions from The Project:

1) Does Taxify limit the number of hours a driver can drive in one shift? If so, how?

While drivers appreciate the ability to be able to determine when and how long they drive, we do put a technical restriction on extremely long shifts. Our app will force drivers offline after 12 hours of consecutive online time. In reality, drivers rarely hit the limit.

2) What does Taxify think of calls for more Australian Government regulation of the rideshare industry?

We very much believe in reasonable and proportionate regulation of the transportation industry, enabling fair opportunities for drivers and choice for consumers who have come to expect innovative services.

3) What commission does Taxify take?

We value our drivers as the backbone of our service and work hard to offer the best earnings in the industry. Our 15% commission is around half the commission taken by Uber.

Didi provided the following response to questions from The Project:

1) Does DiDi limit the number of hours a driver can drive in one shift? If so, how?

We are committed to creating a safe and enjoyable environment for both our driver-partners and our riders. DiDi’s driver partners can use DiDi to make trips for a maximum of 10 hours. After 10 hours, DiDi stops sending drivers trip requests for a 6 hour period during which they must be logged off the app.

DiDi has a driver fatigue policy that gives guidance to driver-partners on how to avoid driving whilst tired:

2) What does DiDi think of calls for more Australian Government regulation of the rideshare industry?

DiDi works closely with Government and policymakers to ensure we contribute to greater consumer choice in ridesharing. We support the policy and legal framework for ridesharing, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with Government to help shape the future of rideshare in Australia.

3) What commission does DiDi take?

We are committed to creating the best value rideshare for driver partners and riders. We recently announced an industry leading services fee of 5%, meaning drivers take home 95% of fares. The industry standard for comparison can be as high as 15%-27.5%.

Uber Pickup Zone Image © 2017 AAP Image/Joe Castro
Image © 2017 AAP Image/Joe Castro

An Uber spokesperson provided the following statement:

“Last year’s incident in Sydney was tragic, and our thoughts are with all those affected.

“There’s nothing more critical than the safety of the people we serve. The Uber app provides a safe, reliable way to help people get from A to B. Our technology makes it possible to focus on safety for riders and drivers before, during, and after every trip in ways that simply were not possible before smartphones.

“While no form of transportation is 100% free of incidents, we are committed to doing our part and promoting the safe use of our app, tackling tough issues, and working with experts and stakeholders to improve safety.

“Our Community Guidelines remind drivers to take a break if they’re feeling tired, and that sleep is the only true preventative measure against the risks of driver fatigue. Fatigue is an issue all road users need to be conscious of, which is why awareness is so important.

“In late 2017 we also introduced a new feature to the app to help Australian driver-partners comply with their regulatory obligations, meaning Uber driver-partners will automatically be logged off the app for 6 hours after 12 hours driving time. They will also receive alerts as they approach the 12 hour limit. This feature is designed to help keep riders and drivers safe on the road while preserving the flexibility that drivers tell us they love.

“We are constantly re-evaluating and refining policies and features in the app to improve safety. For example, we recently announced that eligible driver and delivery partners in Australia would now be insured by Chubb for on-trip accidents.”

In regards to the festive season incentive: “Driver partners are completely free to drive for other ride-sharing apps - promotions such as this give them a reason to choose the Uber app. The promotion was designed to give driver-partners flexibility to choose when they participate, and the vast majority of those participating completed these trips in less than 10 hours.”

Background info:

• Approximately one-third of drivers in Australia use the Uber app less than 10 hours a week.

• Flexible work that can be tailored around your life has traditionally been nearly impossible to find. That’s a big reason why 94% of driver-partners in Australia tell us that flexibility is their number one reason for driving with Uber. They value the freedom of being their own boss and choosing if, when and where they drive.

• We also have a 24/7 incident response team that constantly monitors all feedback and takes action in real-time as appropriate.

• Last month we also announced: o A new optional product for driver-partners to show speed limits via the Uber app. o A raft of measures to address gender-based violence.

“In 2014, we launched UberX in Australia — making it easier for safe and responsible Australians looking to share rides and be their own boss.

“With so many Australians choosing Uber as a safe, affordable and reliable way to get where they want go, State and Territory Governments introduced sensible regulatory reform that gave certainty to the growing community of riders and driver-partners. New regulations put safety and customers first, while recognising the role new technologies could play in ensuring community expectations are met.

“Uber worked closely with regulators throughout the reform process, and we’re proud that ridesharing is now a recognised part of how Australia moves. "When we talk to driver-partners about why they drive, it comes back to flexibility. Yet flexible work that can be tailored around your life has traditionally been hard to find. In September 2018, we surveyed over 1700 Australians who had driven on the Uber app in the preceding month. Of those surveyed 93% said that the key attraction to driving using the Uber app is flexibility and 79% would be unlikely to continue driving with Uber if they had to drive fixed shifts.

“We want drivers to be able to access the flexibility they enjoy about the app but with an added level of security, which is why we have invested in an innovative Partner Support Program. This investment in more partner support through insurance cover and counselling services helps give our partners the peace of mind they told us they want while preserving the flexibility they value.”