As most drivers are aware the Ride Share Drivers Association of Australia (RSDAA) had representation on the Personalised Transport Industry Reference Group (PTIRG), tasked with making recommendations to the Queensland Government regarding the implementation of new regulations affecting the taxi industry and the ride share industry.
Many recommendations were put forward by the parties who were on the PTIRG that would have had very positive outcomes for the industry. When presented with the draft legislation in April it was apparent that all recommendations put to Government had been ignored. Then we were asked to present a submission to the Public Works and Utilities Committee (PWUC), over 300 were received, and then invitations were extended to some to give evidence before Committee towards the end of April. The RSDAA were invited to give evidence on behalf of ride share drivers along with others involved with PTIRG. The recommendations of PWUC were forwarded to Parliament prior to the Bill being passed into legislation on 24th May 2017.
Several factors that will affect our industry in a negative manner are included in the new regulations and I will address these below.
Firstly, signage, is a rather disturbing issue that I believe that we need to try and address. When the first stage of the regulations was introduced, we only needed a sign in the rear window of the car indicating that the vehicle was being used for “booked hire” work. Under the new regulations that are being introduced and coming into effect on October 1st, 2017 we need to display a retroreflective sign 146mm x 146mm, in both the front left-hand side of the front windscreen and in the rear window of the vehicle. Signage needs to be for each entity that we are affiliated with, in some cases drivers could be affiliated with up to 7 entities, which means 7 different signs on each of front windscreen and back window. This would be very dangerous due to the loss of vision, the answer from TMR was that we need to change the sign depending on who we are operating for. This shows me their total lack of understanding of what their new regulations mean to us as drivers. In the coming days, I will be endeavouring to contact both the Transport Minister and the Opposition Transport Minister to point out this situation. Have already raised the issue with some in the media and they are interested in following up the story when we are ready. This situation can be remedied easily with a simple single generic sign. Another issue with this type of signage is that a person who is under the influence and waiting for a ride share vehicle, could, when they see the sign in an oncoming car, step out in front of the vehicle and into oncoming traffic creating a dangerous traffic hazard. I think the time has arrived for us all to be contacting our local member and showing this folly to be exactly what it is, foolish and dangerous.
A little update regarding signage, the Queensland State Secretary of the TWU handed photos showing the folly of the regulations regarding signs, to the Premiers Department on behalf of RSDAA. He was advised that they would be passed onto Mark Bailey’s office, but the next day Mark Bailey resigned from his portfolio, so currently we are again in a state of limbo with the Government as to who is responsible for the new regulations. Tuesday the 25th July the RSDAA is meeting with a number of representatives from the ride share operators to discuss this issue to see if we can come to a sensible outcome to pass onto Government for their consideration.
Another point for serious consideration is the fact that if you are not displaying signage and you are intercepted by either the Police or Compliance Officers you will receive a fine. You also need to have with you your current DA and Safety Certificate. The safety certificate will be replaced by a Certificate of Inspection from the 1st September 2017.
Secondly, in vehicle cameras. Currently many drivers use in car dash cams to record vision and audio in case they are involved in an accident, which is very cheap insurance if that were to happen. A side issue with most of these cameras is that they can also record audio inside the vehicle and with the dual camera models, vision as well. With the introduction of the new regulations later this year it will be illegal to record audio or video unless it is with an “approved” camera system that is tamperproof. TMR have only in the last few days produced draft specifications of the approved cameras but at this stage that information is still embargoed. Not quite sure why though. I think that this is most likely to try and deflect any criticism of the systems and their implementation. For Booked Hire (ride sharing) you only need these cameras if the rider is unknown to you (as in “rank and hail” -which we are not allowed to do) or if there is cash payment, or electronic payment before, during or after the completion of the trip.
As many drivers would agree the vision and audio from a dashcam is the only thing that has saved them from deactivation over unfounded allegations by riders in the past and will no doubt save them moving forward. Please be aware though that there are big penalties for breach of this operation if you get caught. This is another issue that we need to campaign on strongly with our local politicians.
Recent revelations of sexual assaults perpetrated by ride share drivers has not helped us in relation to this issue and the cab industry are milking it for everything that they can. Just remember though that there are bad apples in ride share, taxis and for that matter in the general population, but that still does not make it right.
Due to the high cost of these in car cameras, the fact that they are operational while ever the ignition is on the RSDAA does not support their installation as the majority of ride share vehicles are still private family cars. The rates being paid currently do not allow this added burden to be placed onto ride share drivers and as has been stated elsewhere the dashcams provide security against unfounded allegations by riders, who are protected behind the veil of privacy by the operators.
Other introductions to come into force include changes to Compulsory Third Party insurance and registration which should be in force from October 1st, 2017. We will need to advise TMR that the vehicle is used for ride sharing and have Class 26 CTP. If the vehicle is a rental vehicle then it needs to be covered under Class 4 now and after the next stage is introduced. If you are in a rental agreement check and make sure your vehicle is insured under Class 4. It was bought to the attention of the RSDAA recently of a driver whose rental vehicle was incorrectly insured.
As well as your Drivers Authority, you will also need to apply for a new Booked Hire Licence with a fee of $237.26 per annum.
Also coming into effect on 1st October 2017 are the new Fatigue Management regulations with chain of responsibility coming into force, so all parties will be held responsible for fatigue management.
If you are a new driver to the ride share industry please make sure that your comprehensive insurance has an endorsement that the vehicle is used for ride share. Do not rely on the insurance of the operator as there are high excess payments needed prior to a claim being processed.
Whilst these new regulations are not everything that we have argued for they are at least some of the best and least expensive conditions available in ride sharing currently.
Under the next stage regulations to be introduced 1st October 2017 in Queensland if a driver is disaffiliated (deactivated) by an entity (ride share operator) for a serious misconduct the operator is then obliged to notify TMR and the driver may have his/her Drivers Authority revoked. The issues applicable will be published by TMR on their website in the coming weeks. You need to be aware that if you are convicted of an eligible offence three times in three years you will receive a one-month suspension and if subsequently you are convicted of an eligible offence on three separate occasions there is an immediate suspension of licence for 3 months. One offence that is an eligible offence is stopping in a taxi zone. Also commencing at the same time is the requirement to carry maintenance records for the vehicle in the vehicle at all times.
There is a very “wishy washy” statement about the introduction of an ombudsman to look after complaints, but it seems to be for the benefit of passengers who wish to lodge a complaint, not for drivers. Having said that they do say that it will cover driver working conditions but there is no date for the commencement of this Ombudsman position. The RSDAA, along with other groups, has prosecuted the case for the introduction of an independent Statutory Authority to look after the interests of drivers who are subject to vexatious complaints from riders, whether they be taxi drivers, ride share drivers or any other drivers involved in the industry.
The Queensland opposition have stated that if they get into power they will set up such a body, but most of the rest of their solutions are very unpalatable.
This brings us back to the issue of in car cameras. The RSDAA firmly believes that the use of in car dashcams are an invaluable aid to protect us from unfounded complaints that could lead to deactivation. Under the new regulations the use of these cameras is not allowed and there are big penalties for such use. As such we lose a valuable aid to proving our case to the ride share operator against vexatious allegations.
For any driver who has been deactivated and has received the phone call asking for “what do you know about” scenario do not incriminate yourself by trying to second guess the allegation being put to you. Ask for the allegation to be put to you in writing within a certain timeframe and advise that you will be seeking legal advice. If the deactivation is confirmed there are two avenues to follow, make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner and lodge a claim to Fair Work Australia for unfair dismissal. To lodge the FWA application you only have 21 days after the deactivation, for members, the RSDAA can assist in preparation of these applications and give assistance during the mediation session for financial members.
Keep in mind that we can only be of assistance if these issues are addressed in the correct timeframes. Please do not expect us to perform miracles if you have broken laws that have resulted in your deactivation. Also, we need to be aware that FWA usually only acts for employees, but so far, they are accepting applications from ride share drivers so obviously they see drivers as something more than independent contractors. This action may not get you reinstated but it will result in some justice for you. Eventually it will also lead to the possibility that drivers have a more secure future as ride share drivers.