Fears over new passenger service rules

Photo: Gregor Richardson
Photo: Gregor Richardson
The NZ Transport Agency says it will be carrying out roadside operations from tomorrow to ensure passenger service providers are complying with new regulations.

Changes to the legislation for small passenger services come into effect  tomorrow and essentially deregulate the industry nationwide.

New Zealand Taxi Federation executive director John Hart and Queenstown Taxis managing director Grant Scannell said they were both concerned about the new rules opening the door for "cowboy" operators. They feared it might create safety issues and also questioned whether the NZTA and  police had sufficient resourcing to monitor compliance.

However, NZTA South Island road compliance manager Dermot Harris said the agency had enough staff to ensure a "smooth transition" and did not anticipate any "major issues with compliance".

At present the NZTA has one staff member working within the Central Otago area, but others located throughout the Southern region.

There were no plans to increase staffing levels, Mr Harris said.

Additionally, the agency worked closely with other agencies, including New Zealand Police.

In a statement, Senior Sergeant Mike McRandle, of Christchurch, said the commercial vehicle safety team (CVST) would be supporting the NZTA to monitor compliance.

A "critical" aspect for police would be managing fatigue.

"Police will be actively monitoring the changes in legislation to support the community and keep all road users and passengers safe," he said.

But, Mr Hart said the new rules were "crazy" and would leave women, in particular, vulnerable to attack.

"From a safety point of view it’s ridiculous — it just doesn’t make any sense."

He said he had raised his concerns with the Government "but they’ve made up their minds".

TakeMe managing director Luis Kreische said he did not believe passengers hailing cars from ranks needed to be worried about safety because all such vehicles  would need a camera fitted.

However, the changes would destabilise and fragment the market.

"The competition is about to increase like no-one has ever seen before.

"Anyone that’s operating a tour company or limousine company ...  will be able to come to a taxi rank, provided they’ve got a security camera."

Mr Hart said that could open the door for "cowboy" operators.

If passengers had problems with drivers "there’s going to be absolutely no way of tracking these things down."

He also questioned who would ensure new operators were paying taxes and had liability insurance, health and safety plans, drug and alcohol policies and testing procedures.

He was also worried about insufficient resourcing to monitor compliance effectively.

"I just don’t know how anyone is going to be able to police what’s going on.

"I think it’s challenging times — it’s not all negative ...  but there are some concerns."

An individual operator could be fined up to $2000 for breaching the new legislation, or up to $10,000 for a company.

 

Key changes

Anyone with a P-endorsement and a small and/or large passenger service licence can carry passengers in vehicles without signage.

• Drivers no longer need to have any local area knowledge or meet English language requirements.

• Meters and panic buttons no longer required.

• In-vehicle cameras are still required for any Queenstown, Dunedin and Invercargill operators picking up hails or operating from "urban" taxi ranks.  "Dial-a-drivers" and facilitated cost-share operators, such as TakeMe and Uber, are exempt as long as they only pick up "registered passengers".

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