Hervey Bay taxi driver raises concerns about Uber
A FRASER Coast taxi driver says if the popular ride-sharing service Uber expands to the region, it will kill the local transport industry.
After the Queensland Government's announcement to legalise ride-sharing services such as Uber from September 5, Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce president Sandra Holebrook said the app- based company could help curb unemployment on the Fraser Coast, but a Bay taxi driver said it would make the problem much worse.
The taxi driver, who wishes to remain anonymous, is one of about 60 drivers in Hervey Bay.
He said if Uber were to expand to the region, drivers employed by the ride-sharing company would flood the Fraser Coast market, leaving taxi drivers broke.
"Let's say there are 200 jobs a day, and two thirds will still go to taxi drivers," the taxi driver said.
"Those two thirds of the jobs, it's still not enough, we're still losing 80 jobs a day, that could be $200, $400 a day, it's not enough to make a living, it's only enough to pay the bills for running a taxi, let alone paying our personal bills."
The driver told the Chronicle he paid more than $80,000 per year to run his taxi. "I pay $35,000 a year to lease the [taxi] plates, $7500 for rego and third party insurance. It's $12,000 a year in fuel and maintenance is about $8000, insurance is about $3000 and I pay $1600 a month in a base fee to the booking company."
The driver said the Queensland Government only allowed for 18 taxis in Hervey Bay.
Chamber of Commerce president Sandra Holebrook said the small number of taxis in the region would allow for enough customers to go around for both Uber and taxi drivers, especially at peak time. "I think at peak times, absolutely I think there's a shortage (of transport), I've experienced it myself," Ms Holebrook said.
"At about 8.30 (at night), they said 'no I'm full' so I've turned to a limo service."
She said the region should always have the option of a taxi, but would benefit from other options.
"As we grow, people will use taxis more, maybe it'll add to people who will use a taxi sieve, it's about growing that market place."
The driver said if Uber were to take over the market on the Fraser Coast, they would not offer the same services under the same regulations. "Let's say you've got approximately 200 jobs a day, out of that 200 jobs, one third would be department of veteran affairs, for the people who were in the armed services, people in their 70s and 80s, we pick them up on an account and drive them to the doctors, sometimes down the road for a $10 job or sometimes to Bundaberg for a couple of hundred dollars," he said.
"With the taxi subsidy scheme we drive elderly and disabled people who can't drive, so what happens is the Government gives them a card and pays a percentage, it takes the fare off and at the end of the month we get the money back.
"We also drive disabled children to school, it is a requirement by Government, a contract that we sign, the government says you must pick up and take home a certain amount of disabled children to or from school.
"None of that will be around if Uber gets here."
A spokesman from Uber told the Chronicle the company had no plans of expanding to the Fraser Coast at this stage, but recognised a "huge demand" for the service in regional Queensland.