UberPool – TfL has failed us all again

Last Friday, Uber launched UberPool to the utter dismay of every private hire driver on the platform. We were given no notice, allowed no opportunity for advance consultation and no choice to opt out. Even at launch, while Uber was providing extensive details to the public on fare structures, we drivers were left in the dark. Some of us were offered in person training via an SMS message but when I went to book there were no slots available at all.

As drivers, completed the basic on boarding training details started to trickle out and it was worse than feared, First, Uber have opted to grab 35% commission share – much higher than most markets in the US. Drivers are paid on a flat fare based on historical data but you can bet that the fare is constructed to benefit Uber and not the driver. We saw some fares netting as low as £3.50 for 2 miles over twenty minutes. This is simply uneconomic and it is unreasonable for Uber to force drivers to accept these fares if we are notionally independent business people.

Uber has proven itself to be an unrepentant profit seeking machine without regard for drivers but we are entitled to expect more from our regulator who we pay to order our trade through our taxes and license fees. So why are they asleep at the wheel when it comes to UberPool?

Let’s consider the reason why private hire regulations are under review at the moment. This from the introduction to the PH regulatory review on TfL’s website:

Because of a number of developments within the private hire industry including advancements in new technology and an increase in the different ways people engage and share taxi and private hire services, we are undertaking a review of the current policies and processes that govern the licensing of private hire drivers, vehicles and operators.

With new regulations not due until June 2016 why has TfL then jumped the gun to allow UberPool before the consultation has even finished? In the first stage of consultation there was universal concern over safety of ride share concepts such as UberPool:

Many stakeholders expressed concern about this proposal, with particular anxiety about sharing at night and ensuring that customers can make an informed choice on whether to share…….The GMB trade union argued that all sharing should be prohibited because of the risks to drivers and passengers; the taxi trade associations felt that sharing should not be allowed in private hire vehicles

So there you have it, consensus agreement that there are very serious issues in operating ride sharing. As a result TfL pledged:

….the regulatory framework must properly any safety concerns and the safety of passengers and drivers must not be put at risk. We will continue to take action in relation to the use of any vehicle undertaking journeys for commercial reward which circumvents the licensing system.

And yet last week Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport said publicly that TfL had sought and received assurances from Uber on the safety of UberPool. Funny that, because Uber says its not the transportation provider – we are. So what assurances did TfL get exactly and why didn’t TfL ask us as the relevant transportation provider?

Clearly, TfL has rode rough shod over the consultation process and pre empted our collective participation by giving UberPool an immediate go ahead.

We’ll be looking for answers at our demo outside TfL on December 17. Join us there.

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