Farce: NSW Govt suspends UberX drivers while review is underway


news NSW Roads and Maritime Services this week revealed it had suspended some forty owners of vehicles involved in UberX-style ride-sharing services, ruling the use of vehicles for this purpose as illegal, despite the fact that the State Government is currently conducting a review into the future of the related taxi industry.

UberX is a service provided by global transportation startup Uber which allows ordinary Australians to charge for transportation in their car, as compared to the normal Uber service which will call a commercial vehicle such as a Taxi or high-end luxury black car to your location.

In a statement issued on Sunday, NSW Roads and Maritime Services confirmed it had issued 40 suspension notices to registered owners of vehicles involved in ride sharing services which it said breached passenger transport laws.

Roads and Maritime Director of Safety and Compliance Peter Wells said the services were illegal and the NSW Government was taking action against those who used or allowed the use of their vehicle for ride sharing.

“The vehicle suspensions will take effect from midnight 30 September and will be in place for three months,” Wells said. “The suspension notices have been issued to registered owners of vehicles found to be operating a privately registered vehicle for business purposes.”

“If a suspended vehicle is found on the road after 1 October, the vehicle is deemed unregistered and uninsured, with penalties of $637 for each offence, increasing to around $2200 if heard in court. Taxi and hire car services in NSW must be provided by an operator accredited by Roads and Maritime, in a licensed and insured vehicle which is driven by an authorised driver.”

“Thousands of dollars in fines have already been issued to drivers offering illegal ride-sharing activities and compliance actions will continue. If drivers continue to offer illegal ride sharing services – they will continue to risk registration suspensions and fines.”

The news comes despite the strong popularity which Uber’s services are enjoying around Sydney, with the company saying in July that hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders were using Uber ridesharing services as an alternative to the entrenched taxi industry.

And the news also comes despite the fact that the the NSW Government has established an independent taskforce led by Professor Gary Sturgess and Dr Tom Parry to examine the future sustainability of taxis, hire cars and other emerging point to point transport providers in NSW, including ridesharing apps. The taskforce is expected to report back to the NSW Government in October.

Uber welcomed the announcement of the taskfore as a “a victory for competition, consumers and choice”. At the time, the company said: “The announcement is a recognition of the overwhelming popular support for ridesharing, and the need for outdated regulation to catch up with changing customer choices.”

However, this week Uber said it was examining its legal options.

Something of a low blow for the NSW Government — publicly it is stating that it is reviewing the industry, but meanwhile it is having its enforcers go to town on UberX ridesharers. To my mind, the Government has no choice but to pull back from this kind of behaviour for now until it has conducted the review. Anything less shows a lack of good faith on the part of the Government.

Image credit: stilltheone1, Creative Commons


  1. Competition is the LNP ideal, until it threatens the value of the taxi licenses that the rich own and lease to taxi drivers. Can’t have the rich leaners not being able to profit of other people labour.

    • Its not quite as cut and dry as that. The licenses should have been slowly reduced in price and eventually phased out years ago. Now unfortunately it has come to a head and to just dump them will cost in the vicinity of $6 billion.
      The issue is then who pays. Do the people who have invested in the industry deserve to be suddenly shortchanged (bearing in mind that the cost there then hits taxpayers through indirect means)? But then do we the taxpayer deserve to be paying for the change?
      IMO the Licenses should simply expire at the end of their next term (instead of being autoextended), and a new format should be brought in over a defined period. Recently extended licenses should be refunded based on time left as set by the defined period. The process would take a bit to work through, but eventually we would hit an equilibrium. It would give operators time to adjust their model, and would in theory allow Uber and similar services to come in to play sooner.

      Its not an easy problem to fix, certainly not overnight.

      • Your whole post just goes to prove my point. It’s about the owners of the licences and the taxi companies. Not about the public, not about the taxi drivers who because of limited licensing pay the majority of what they take in back to the licence holder. BTW “these people who have invested in the industry” makes these people sound like they are actually helping someone. They are people with money who could afford to purchase an artificially limited commodity, a taxi license, and use it to take a large percentage of the actually persons work effort, the taxi driver, simply because he can afford to purchase one of these artificially limited pieces of paper.

        • Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you. The TSL was an archaic bit of legislation introduced in a different time, that should have been changing and moving with the times.

          BUT 2 wrongs don’t make a right. By cutting it off immediately not only are you opening yourself up to legal repercussions, but you are screwing over those who where abiding by the law, and endeavouring to do the right thing. Not every TSL owner is a big corporation, some of them are small operators who have loans etc tied up in order to purchase the license. Hence why I suggested that it gets shut down over a defined period(short), allowing at least some return on investment and giving them an option to be repaid if at beginning of lease.

          • Why should taxpayers be compensating anybody who makes an investment that doesn’t payoff? Why should a taxi plate be viewed as some form of risk free investment?
            An Uber driver I used a few weeks back told me he had to drive because he had lost 30% of his investment in Channel ten that he was hoping was going to be his retirement fund. Who is going to compensate him for that?

          • @Joel
            Because the government created an artificial market that people HAD to use. Forcing them to spend money where they shouldn’t.
            Which is different from Channel 10. Channel 10 are just dying on the market. This is because of normal market forces.
            The government doesn’t get to play fast with people’s money. They have a responsibility to be fair and equatable. Something they weren’t doing when they kept the TSL going as long as they did.

      • I’ve just had a thought, how about we apply the taxi licence concept to every profession. Let’s say your a plumber, and well, sorry, all the plumber licences are gone already. They are currently being traded between wealthy people for way more than they originally cost, because they can be leased to people like you, a plumber who can’t get one of the limited licences because they are all taken. If you could have got one they were pretty cheap, but because they are all gone they are now worth a fortune. Why are they worth a fortune? Because if you want to work some with a plumbers licence will let you use theirs, for say 50% of you income. People would be rioting if that was done. Why is blind eye turned to it when it’s taxis? They kick up a stink with compulsory unionism where the employee has 10 to 20 dollars taken out of their pay, you half a taxi drivers takings be taken off them for the use of licence that, other than it’s value in it’s ability to rip off taxi drivers due to it being limited comodity, didn’t actually cost much when issued.

        • Spot on Darren, albeit a few little errors in the ranting. The fact is that the taxi plate is the traded commodity and the driver gets next to nothing out of a shift. Most drivers are lucky to make $200 on a good Friday night. The taxi will take in close to $2000 on a good Friday, but due to the artificial cost of running a taxi, most of that goes to ‘rich white guys’ through finance payments and service fees.

  2. At the core these issues arise because these new companies are replacing the trust and verification agencies set up by governments in order to provide a certain level of safety to the public. So instead of the only option being to trust official taxis certified by the government, there is now an option of trusting in this service the company provides.

    So far it looks like both the official government form of trust (taxis) and this private companies form of trust are about on par, and as with all changes to these long lived systems there will be winners and losers.

    • Yup, except that the government mandated the “official” version, and it turned into a commodity rather than just a “trust” situation.

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