Thursday, 27 April 2017

Uber hero to Uber zero

I think the main lesson here is that if you do something nice for somebody, never tell a journalist.

Yesterday, Frances Cook reported on an Uber driver who saved the day for an American couple who were stranded in Auckland due to the cyclone. They needed to get to Wellington for a business trip, and the flights were cancelled. So he drove all night and they made their meeting. Uber Hero!

Soon after, a bevy of control freaks started tweeting about how the ride was likely illegal due to maximum shift duration rules. NZTA has been looking for ways to knife Uber, so they got in on it too.

And so, a few hours later, Frances Cook had another story: the driver might leave New Zealand rather than face the courts for having helped the American couple while breaking NZTA rules. Uber zero!

It's worth keeping in mind that if the jetlagged couple had rented a car and driven all night, on the wrong side of the road, knowing nothing about NZ driving conditions, it would have been far riskier - but totally legal.

A couple bottom lines:
  • Be wary about talking to reporters, even if you think you've done good. The law might not be on your side - especially if you're an Uber driver. 
  • Rules on logbooks and maximum driving shifts are a bit silly relative to a first best: penalties for impaired driving that include driving while fatigued. The latter would cover people who drive themselves or friends for free as well as commercial drivers. 
Update: Another useful way of checking whether the maximum hours rules do any good would be just to check whether any Uber drivers have been involved in any fatigue-related accidents while working. Shift requirements for Uber drivers don't make any sense anyway, as somebody who's 8 hours into a driving day that started driving that morning will be less fatigued than somebody who's 2 hours into a driving shift that started after a normal work day. Are there disproportionate fatigue-related accidents for Uber drivers?

Do read the second Cook story. Uber's competitors sure are appalled. 

No comments:

Post a Comment