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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 January 20 - 26  > Taxi drivers with safety concerns oppose rideshare service
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2016 January 20 - 26 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Taxi drivers with safety concerns oppose rideshare service

January 21, 2016
Taxi drivers, irrespective of their trade union affiliations, are voicing opposition to the possible introduction of a rideshare service due to safety concerns.

A business lobby has been pressuring the Abe government to support ridesharing which enables ordinary drivers to give customers rides for a fee. In response to this, the central authorities have been showing their willingness to ease the existing regulations on taxi transportation.

Three municipalities volunteered to host this new service as a way to secure transport in underpopulated areas or in areas with no public transportation. However, the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations and many regional taxi organizations persuaded these municipalities to cancel their plans to implement the service because it is unsafe. As a result, one municipality decided to not take part in a ridesharing deal.

The service in question was proposed by the Japan Association of New Economy (JANE) whose representative director is Rakuten Inc. CEO Mikitani Koji. He is also a board member of a U.S. ridesharing company, Lyft Inc., which has been seeking to make inroads into Japan.

According to the JANE proposal, the age range of drivers eligible to provide the service will be from 21 to 75; they acquired a driver’s license more than one year ago; their vehicles will be less than 10 years old; and they will have to receive a certain amount of training.

In contrast, to become taxi drivers, one must undergo special training to safely carry passengers and pass the public examination to obtain a special license in addition to an ordinary driver’s license.

Takashiro Masatoshi, the head of the All-Japan Federation of Automobile Transport Workers’ Union (Jiko-soren, ATU) consisting of taxi drivers and sightseeing bus-related workers, pointed out, “What this means is, individuals who have just a little more than one-year driving experience will be able to pick up passengers.”

Rideshare drivers will not have to go through breath alcohol testing and the handling of accidents will be up to the driver’s judgement, under the JANE proposal.

Criticizing such security requirements as too loose, the Jiko-soren chair said, “This is completely contrary to our efforts to enhance the qualifications of drivers and improve services for passengers. Ridesharing is very dangerous.”

‘For underpopulated regions’ is pretext

Ritsumeikan University Professor Kondo Koichi, also serving as a director of the Association for the Research of Transportation Problems and Human Rights, said, “A means to provide transport in areas lacking transportation services is a mere pretext. Their true aim is to operate rideshare services in metropolitan regions on a large scale.”

He noted that deregulation advocates are claiming that the introduction of the service would give users more options, but it will end up making people suffer more inconvenience.

“In general, rideshare drivers are doing that work as a side business, and so the fares are routinely lowered. Even now, taxi drivers in Japan are forced to work with starvation wages. The collapse in fares as a result of fare wars will inevitably destroy the taxi business overall,” said Kondo.

The professor went on to stress the need for the national government to create more flexible, user-friendly public transportation systems for those living in underpopulated areas.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) also regards as a problem the fact that the rideshare services which were introduced in some countries fail to ensure passengers’ security and drivers’ working conditions.
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