Did you know taxi laws have changed in New South Wales? If you didn’t, you’re not alone.
Major reforms to the taxi industry began in December 2015, with the NSW Parliament passing the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Act in June 2016.
The Act paved the way for the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Regulation 2017, which was implemented from November 1 last year.
But what does this mean for you, the passenger?
Answering this question is a surprisingly difficult task, and no one – including those directly involved with the industry – seems to have any idea.
Techly spoke to a representative from the new Point to Point Transport Commissioner‘s dedicated Industry Contact Centre, who was unable to provide a clear summary of how the changes will affect passengers.
In an effort to clear the air, we’ve taken a look at key passenger considerations to see what has been changed under the new regulations.
NSW taxi driver identification requirements
Driver identification is fundamental to the safety of passengers. Without it, who knows who is really sitting behind the wheel?
Conversant Media CEO Zac Zavos was told by not one but two taxi drivers that they are no longer required to display an identification document or produce it upon request.
But a quick look at the new regulations, introduced in November 2017, points to the contrary.
Service providers are still required to provide drivers with photographic identification and fit taxis with “a device suitable for displaying the driver identity document that enables it to be displayed so that it is clearly visible to any passenger in the taxi.”
The only change to these regulations is that the industry-specific Driver Authority Cards no longer exist. Instead, drivers will be given a Passenger Transport Licence Code that will be displayed as a condition on their driver’s licence.
So why are some drivers refusing to display identification, even if it’s just their driver’s licence?
The Industry Contact Centre for the Point to Point Transport Commissioner told Techly that the majority of drivers are choosing to display their old authority cards until their licences are renewed with a Passenger Transport Licence Code.
A 13CABS Driver Services representative said their identification cards are in the process of being issued and asked for patience while they make the transition.
So if the majority are choosing to comply, what about the rest? Are those who are currently refusing to display any identification simply unaware of the new regulations?
These questions were met with deafening silence.
It’s now up to authorised service providers, rather than the NSW Government, to ensure drivers meet new safety standards, and it’s clear drivers are either misinformed or unaware of the fact they are still required to display identification.
In the meantime, it appears your only option as a passenger is to request to see a driver’s identification, walk away if they don’t comply and submit a complaint to the service provider and to Transport NSW.
NSW taxi fare regulations
In an effort to keep taxis competitive with ride-sharing services, all fares for booked services are now unregulated. This means service providers can set their own fares for any booked service, as long as they provide the passenger with a fare estimate before the trip commences.
Just to reiterate, this only applies to booked services; maximum fares for rank and hail taxis will remain regulated by Transport for NSW, meaning providers will be unable to charge more than a set maximum.
As of February 1, all taxi and ride-sharing fares will be hit with a $1 Passenger Service Levy (plus 10 cents GST, totalling $1.10) in order to fund a compensation scheme for taxi license plate owners.
This tax is likely to be passed onto passengers, and will apply to all rank, hail and booked services – yes, that includes Uber.
Improving the experience for customers with a disability
The NSW Government is committing $15.5 million per year in an effort to improve taxi services for customers with disabilities.
This involves the removal of licence fees for Wheelchair Accessible Taxis (WAT) in metro areas, raising the maximum Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) subsidy from $30 to $60 per trip, improving WAT driver incentives and a subsidised central booking service.
This looks like great news for passengers with a disability, but is it easy for them to access this information? It wouldn’t seem so.
The purpose of the new point-to-point transport regulations is to improve safety standards within the industry, and yet it remains unclear to the public that the laws have changed in the first place.
All taxi drivers and passengers should be made aware the moment any new regulations come into play and how exactly they differ from previous laws.
There is simply no excuse for the lack of clarity around NSW taxi laws.