I’m worried sick my Uber driving career will land me in jail

Rabbit

Flickr: David Rynde

I’ve become increasingly anxious about the grey area of law in which mini cab drivers are expected to operate and the unwillingness of TfL or the Operator to provide clarity. It’s as if the ambiguity is exploited as yet another method of control over drivers. For example, in rolling out its new 27 page contract Uber steadfastly and repeatedly refused to offer any driver briefing to help us understand its practical meaning hidden within the legalese. Similarly, I’ve had a few issues, which I will expand upon, that I felt threatened the validity of my license but TfL also have stubbornly refused to offer clarity and assurance.  Besides worrying all the time, this unhappy state of affairs leaves drivers like me more vulnerable to regulator and operator abuse.

Here is what worries me right now:

  1. I’m worried that the vigilantism against private hire drivers orchestrated by TfL and the taxi organisations is getting out of hand. TfL are encouraging reports on the street against private hire drivers. The evidence which TfL willingly accepts via its twitter feed is often flimsy or doctored. There is a serious risk driver’s when they receive a letter or phone call from TfL will be intimidated and brow beaten into accepting a fine or caution for a none offence that could end up costing them their job. I worry when or if this happens to me, my side of the story just will not be believed and I will face a penalty. We now even have taxi organisation marshals and mobile groups that have taken it upon themselves to police private hire with the full blessing of the police and TfL. These guys are becoming increasingly confrontational and physical in video recording private hire drivers who have done nothing wrong and putting strong adhesive stickers on their windows which take hours to scrape off.  I know they are just doing it to defend their trade which TfL has threatened by over licensing private hire and allowing Uber exploitation of drivers to enable rock bottom fares. But rather than TfL doing the right thing in capping the trade and insisting on worker rights for drivers in operator licensing conditions TfL is doing the easy thing which is to placate the taxi trade by scapegoating private hire drivers. All of us private hire drivers should worry about a taxi org repeating LTDA’s initiative to launch private prosecutions against private hire drivers in order to force a legal precedent on private hire regulations. Drivers of course are just cannon fodder in this epic battle between the taxi industry and Uber. However, private hire drivers are woefully under represented and do not always have the backing of a strong representative body such as United Private Hire Drivers to hold the line. If I could have a wish come true it would be to see taxi and private hire drivers set aside or even suspend their differences long enough to collectively demand action from TfL to reduce PHV numbers to a sustainable level and insist on non exploitative working conditions for drivers. Private hire drivers should not have to endure the exploitation and taxi drivers should not have to compete with fares propped up by it. TfL, Uber, Addison Lee, Karhoo and the rest are the real enemy of taxi drivers not poor Uber drivers. Focusing energy on us just enables the real theft to carry on elsewhere.
  2.  I’m worried my license and insurance may be seriously compromised by my topography test cheating. I took my topography test at Addison Lee and was handed out the answers to copy into the test answer sheet.  I was shocked when it happened and was afraid if I said anything it could scupper any chance to ever work for one of the major London firms. Later I saw that TfL had closed 17 centres for just this kind of practice and forced 300 drivers to retake their test. I thought it best to turn myself in, throw myself at the mercy of TfL and try to make every effort ensure my license and insurance remained valid. It’s now 8 weeks since I reported the matter to Garrett Emmerson and Leon Daniels. However, neither they nor anyone at TfL can or will confirm if my license is valid or not.  I’m worried sick that if I have an accident or get pulled in for an on street check and this comes out I could be arrested, fined or even jailed for a touting offence. If my insurance was invalidated because of this and I had an accident I could be financially ruined for life. I just cannot understand why TfL won’t tell me. It’s almost as if they just don’t want to know about any potential wrong doing at Addison Lee and that leaves me caught in legal limbo.
  3. I also worry that I’m not legally contracted to drive in London. I have a London driver license and my PHV is licensed in London. I work under contract for Uber BV Netherlands who sub the work from Uber London who have a TfL issued operators license. However, I was always led to believe I can only work for a London Operator. So if I keep taking the work from Amsterdam am I putting myself at risk of a touting offence in London? I’ve asked TfL for help but they just won’t give me any straight answers.
  4. I am deeply worried about getting caught in the Operation Neon dragnet. TfL, in a knee jerk reaction to pressure from the taxi trade, launched a major anti touting initiative. However, despite a huge manpower effort from TfL, Westminster Council and the Met together they have only made 65 reports for touting offences in more than a year and 111 operations. But never mind, Operation Neon has used the time productively to harass private hire drivers with nearly 9,000 orders to move and about 5,000 parking tickets. But TfL created the parking & congestion problems by issuing 105,000 licenses in the first place. TfL readily admit there are too many PHVs, well beyond the point of market saturation and surface capacity. Drivers will now end up being penalized for simply trying to do their jobs in impossible conditions. TfL are under huge pressure from the taxi lobby to find wrong doing even if there is none. This will lead to ever more persecution of the innocent. Why can’t they just stop licensing? Surely, even an emergency suspension on grounds of public safety would now be reasonable.
  5. I maybe operating illegally without an Operators license. Last October Uber BV Netherlands introduced a new driver contract. The terms of the contract to me look like I am defacto taking on the role of a licensed operator except I don’t have an Operators license. I asked Uber to help me understand the contract but they refused saying I needed to go get my own professional opinion of their contract. I asked TfL to review and tell me if in agreeing to it I could violate my licensing terms. They looked into it but then wouldn’t give me any advice either way. Again, we drivers must push on in legal limbo, until that is TfL decides we are breaking the law after all and then throws the book together with the kitchen sink at us. Always better to make an example of a driver rather than upset fat cat Operator$.

2 thoughts on “I’m worried sick my Uber driving career will land me in jail

  1. Paul Harris

    What a load of cobblers.Firstly there has been no vigilantism from cab drivers.We have just reported what we see & you can’t fake PH sitting on taxi ranks plying for hire,you can’t fake pictures of PH weaving all over the road whilst they try to accept an e-hail & you can’t fake pictures of PH upside down in the street.The company you work is destroying this industry.Licensed Taxi drivers have all passed the Knowledge.It takes 3 to 4 years to gain the coveted Green Badge.That is 3 to 4 years of going out in the pissing down rain & freezing cold learning the streets & points of London.We also have to pass an advanced driving test.Now that is dedication.Our reward is to able to ply for hire on the streets of London,as stated in an Act of Parliament.We invest heavily in a purpose built Taxi & we are the gold standard & regularly voted the best Taxi service in the world.Now let’s look at what you have done.You have bought a sticker!You are neither qualified nor competent enough to drive in London.The equipment you use is distracting drivers & PH on Uber are crashing all over London..You are effectively plying for hire with your app,which is against the law.Your Operator does not recognise you as an employee because they don’t intend for you be around long once they get their driverless cars up & running.This has all come about because the regulator TFL have abdicated their responsibility to the travelling public.Tfl’s relationship with a certain Operator has been described as “Far too cosy”We have a new regime at The Mayor’s & TFL & we are hopeful that some of the wrongs of the past 3 years will be righted.So yes you are right to be worried but only if you do not follow the same rules & regulations as Licensed Taxi Drivers.

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  2. Michael Epstein

    Here’s the thing. You are right to be worried. Not just for the drivers, but if you look at the terms and conditions for Uber customers, you will see that all legal responsibility is placed on the driver not Uber.
    In my opinion there is room for legitimate PH firms to compete with Licensed Taxis. But this means the PH firms must obey the law. It is ironic that the honest firms are being driven out of business, by those that disregard the law, or treat drivers as slave labour so as to maximise their profits.
    In the past those PH drivers that wished to stop being exploited and have the freedom to ply for hire did so by completing the Knowledge of London and becoming a Licenced Taxi Driver.
    Currently, we have a situation where Uber drivers are plying for hire.
    What other reason can there possibly be for parking at the drop off only zone at St Pancras Station without dropping off a customer? The drivers are waiting for a customer to see via the App that they are available for an immediate hiring and request them.
    Remember those big signs on PH cars? Pre-booked only?
    My suggestion for what it may be worth , is that PH could flourish alongside the taxi trade, if the exploited PH drivers formed co-operatives, thereby owning the operators themselves.
    Let the likes of Uber and the global asset managed large PH firms go to the wall.

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