Taiwan taxi drivers call for resolution to 'Uber problem'

Taiwanese taxi groups claim partnership between Uber and rental car agencies violates Highway Act

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taxi unions on Sunday (Jan. 27) called on the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) to quickly address what they are referring to as an illegal partnership between Uber and local rental car companies, reported Liberty Times.

In response to concerns by taxi associations about the current arrangement between Uber and rental companies, MOTC is planning to hold a second meeting with taxi groups today. During the meeting, MOTC will discuss with taxi union leaders ways to compensate drivers for the loss of business to Uber, such as free parking during lunchtime and subsidies for gasoline.

The parking fee exemption during lunchtime was promoted by Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) when he was mayor of Taichung. When the program was in effect, taxi drivers were able to park on roadsides from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hope that drivers would be able to take a break at noon.

Because the authority and responsibility of taxi management belongs to local governments, MOTC intends to gradually extend the policy via subsidies throughout Taiwan

Chen Wen-ruey (陳文瑞), director-general of the ministry's Department of Railways and Highways, said that MOTC will need to implement financial, healthcare, and other projects to assist drivers. However, drivers say they would prefer to deal with disputes over Uber first, and put a cap the number of vehicles it can use, with a balance between metropolitan and rural areas, as well as promote a system that incentivizes good drivers, strengthens education and training, and builds taxi rest stations.

Cheng Li-chia (鄭力嘉), president of the Taipei Professional Drivers’ Union said that most drivers would rather not to receive taxpayer's money to subsidize fuel costs or to purchase vehicles. Instead, he says drivers would prefer that MOTC deal with the "Uber problem."

Cheng said that although Uber is nominally operating as a rental car agency, it is in fact engaged in the taxi business with unlimited licenses, seriously eroding the taxi drivers' operating space and constitutes a violation of Highway Act (公路法).

Taipei Taxi Business Association president Liang Ping-liang (梁平良) said it would be better to provide "fishing rods instead of fish," such as establishing a retirement pension system and providing a fair, competitive environment and incentives.

According to statistics from MOTC, there are about 88,000 taxis in Taiwan, and besides the personal operation of taxis, new licenses are no longer being issued. This results in an annual reduction rate of 1 percent to 2 percent, thus achieving a degree of control over the total number of taxis.

With respect to Uber, MOTC's Directorate General of Highways has proposed amending the law to restrict the roadside solicitation of passengers and require that rental cars be used for more than one hour, but opinions are still being sought.