Passenger safety at 'risk' with 1700 Uber drivers who haven't been vetted properly
Just how safe are you in a Uber? The New Zealand Transport Agency warns passengers are at "risk" getting in a car with some drivers - yet they're still on the road.
In fact, 1700 drivers have registered with Uber since April, most of which haven't been through the appropriate vetting processes.
So if getting a "P endorsement" is the law, why is this $60 billion business, now operating in three New Zealand cities, getting away with it?
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says they've written to all 1700 drivers to warn them they're operating illegally and Transport Minister Simon Bridges says he's confident it will be sorted over the coming weeks and months.
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NZTA national operations manager Kate Styles told RNZ that up until April they were comfortable all Uber drivers were compliant.
Under the law all Uber drivers are required to have a P endorsement passenger carrying licence but when the Ministry of Transport failed to deliver changes under a promised regulatory review Uber went rogue and is now refusing to comply.
It's even led to authorised taxi drivers protesting in Christchurch, the latest city for Uber to hit, with protesters demanding a "safe fair and sustainable industry".
Uber currently only does a driver license check and a Ministry of Justice check with its drivers, which is "only a small part of what drivers would normally go through in a vetting process," Styles said.
"Our concern has been around some of the drivers out there who have issues that wouldn't be picked up by those checks."
As a result, "passengers could be at risk," she said.
But Bridges says to a certain extent the Uber business model allows for this kind of law-breaking.
"What is clear is in New Zealand we follow the rules and we expect the rules to be enforced and I expect NZTA to do that."
"My expectation is that the transport agency takes enforcement seriously and acts where appropriate. I think they are and you'll continue to see that over coming weeks and months."
Becoming a qualified compliant Uber driver used to be a process that took several months and cost up to $2000 - now it takes less than a week and costs $20.
Bridges is a big fan of the Uber-way. He says the "sad thing" is that the Government has tried to create a "world leading small passenger service" with low regulation and compliance.
However Uber drivers still need to comply with the vetting process and it's clear that's not happening, he said.
Labour's transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney said the Government appear to be "turning a blind eye" to Uber's disregard for the law by not clearing the issue up.
"The Government has just announced a review on passenger services and it's for the Government to enforce the law. If they're not prepared to do so then why are they standing by their review?"