Police have visited 46 of the 60 drivers identified as illegally offering cheap taxi rides via social media. The drivers received official warnings.Taxi cabs come under regulations requiring 24-hour dispatch and in-cab cameras; drivers of any commercial passenger vehicle, whether taxi or chartered limo, must have a passenger endorsement on the driver's licence. The passenger endorsement requires sitting an extensive local knowledge test, which is largely superseded by Google Maps, Apple phones, and dozens of models of dedicated GPS units.
Many claimed they were unaware they were breaking the law, Dunedin road policing manager Senior Sergeant Phil McDouall said.
The Facebook page, ''Dunedin Sober Drivers'', had nearly 2500 members, and detailed those wanting or offering rides to and from destinations.
A 21-year-old female, who regularly used the service, told the Otago Daily Times members provided a safe and cheap alternative to taxis, which were expensive and not readily available in the early hours.
''They do this in other places. I just don't see what the problem is.''
Police had safety concerns for vulnerable passengers, including young women and those under the influence of alcohol who might be getting into vehicles with people they didn't know, he said.So it is ok for a drunk young woman to choose a free ride home with a guy she met at the bar, who may or may not be a horrible person, but it's absolutely forbidden for her to engage in an identical commercial transaction unless the driver is a licensed cabbie in a licensed cab. Yes, I know that commercial transactions generally have higher regulatory hurdles than identical 'for free' ones. But the entry barriers here seem higher than they need be.
The ongoing investigation involving police and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) comes after concerns were raised by Dunedin taxi drivers.
Here's a description of the local knowledge tests. It costs about $380 for test and study guide.
I can see great reasons for airports putting up great big signs saying something like:
Drivers from the following cab companies only use licensed drivers; their licensed drivers gave passed a local knowledge test. Others cabs may rely solely on GPS.But making it mandatory for all drivers? Sounds more like a way of restricting supply. A lot of the time, the passengers will be checking the route on their GPS anyway, and especially so in Auckland, where the absolute lack of any logical direct route from the airport to downtown always makes it feel like you're being shafted with unnecessary suburban detours even when you're not.
Or, imagine it this way. Were taxicabs a brand new thing that nobody had ever heard of before, and everybody knew about GPS, would we expect that regulations on taxi drivers would require passing a local knowledge test, or would they require instead that the driver have GPS and an internet-enabled phone allowing for address lookups? Surely this is the kind of thing best handled through brand reputation. If your cab company charges less but has clueless drivers, people will only hire you for routes they know; if your drivers know the best way to everywhere, folks needing that will pay the premium for it.
While I agree that having a knowledgeable driver is a good thing, not all good things should be mandatory. I can't see why it's necessary for drivers offering folks a ride home at the end of the night to have passed local knowledge tests that include where various churches are.