SHANGHAI taxi drivers are keeping “for hire” signs switched off and claiming that customers are their friends in order to get round a ban on third-party booking apps.
Yesterday marked the first day of a ban on city cabbies taking fares through apps at rush hour, but as Saturday is not a working day, demand was lower in any case.
A city traffic authority notice prohibits drivers from taking fares via booking apps between 7:30am and 9:30am and 4:30pm and 6:30pm every day.
This is to ease difficulties hailing a cab in the street and address safety concerns about cabbies’ being distracted by cellphone apps while driving.
However, some drivers were flouting the ban yesterday.
A member of the public, surnamed Ye, said he first tried without success to book a cab through the Didi Taxi app at 8:40am in Yangpu District.
But when he switched to the Kuaidi Taxi app and offered a 5 yuan tip, a driver with Shanghai Risheng Taxi Company accepted the fare.
Ye saw that the car was showing its “not in service” sign when it arrived.
The driver told Ye that his employer is not a major taxi company and supervision is not strict.
Nonetheless, the driver said he switched his cab light to “not in service” in order to “avoid trouble.”
Under the new regulations, cabbies who refuse to stop for passengers at legal hailing spots during rush hour while their lights show “for hire” will be seen as “rejecting fares.”
For this they face a 200 yuan (US$32.66) fine and a 15-day suspension. In particularly serious cases, they could have their license revoked.
Shanghai’s big four taxi companies — Qiangsheng, Dazhong, Haibo and Jinjiang — said they have sent notices and reminders to drivers.
But a passenger surnamed Cai, trying to hail a taxi at 10am yesterday, said she was surprised when a cabbie stopped, even though his vehicle had its “not in service” sign illuminated.
The Shanghai Haibo Taxi Company driver admitted he had been doing business with the “not in service” sign the whole morning, taking fares both via apps and from people hailing a cab.
The driver suggested Cai make an advance booking through an app next time she wanted a ride during rush hour.
Customers who make a booking outside peak times for a ride during rush hour do not violate the ban.
It appeared that there were more taxis yesterday than usual driving on Shanghai’s roads with their “not in service” sign illuminated.
The regulations also say that cabbies who refuse to wait in line for passengers at airports and railway and bus stations face a 200 yuan fine or suspension for up to 15 days in serious situations.
However, the traffic management authority have encountered difficulties enforcing this.
Yesterday, a number of taxis were spotted picking up passengers at the exit of the parking lot of Shanghai Pudong International Airport, instead of joining a designated taxi queue.
But when approached by traffic law enforcement team, drivers and passengers claimed that they were friends.
In such a situation no punishments can be administered.