Uber: Ridesharing Gets the Green Light in New South Wales
Written by Jack Leitner
Following the news that Queensland will be making ride-booking services legal from 5 September, Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan announced that similar reforms in Victoria will be forthcoming.
‘These reforms will be comprehensive and they will give people more choice,’ Ms Allan said.
Previously, Queensland, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria were slow to pass legislation allowing ride-booking or ridesharing companies to operate ‘legally’.
The rapid change in attitude by the states follows the NSW government’s move to reform the transport sector. This means that from 22 June 2016 the change in the legislation surrounding the provision of taxi, hire car, tourist, rideshare and community transport services across NSW will allow rideshare companies, such as Uber, to legally operate.
While the Victorian government takes its time to determine what should be in its legislation, Go To Court Lawyers have taken the time to break down the requirements for being a rideshare driver in NSW, as follows.
New South Wales Rideshare Service Rules in a Nutshell
Under the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Act 2016, transport services provided by taxis, hire cars, tourist services, rideshare services, and community transport are defined as ‘Point to Point Transport.’
NSW’s laws on Point to Point Transport reflect the state government’s focus on safety.
Under the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Act 2016, rideshare drivers are required to hold a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) driver authority issued by Roads and Maritime Services, register their vehicle for business use, and comply with certain safety standards.
How to Obtain a PHV Driver Authority to Drive for a Rideshare Booking Service
Before a driver can begin taking bookings from passengers through a rideshare booking service, the driver must obtain a PHV driver authority.
When applying for a PHV driver authority, rideshare drivers must satisfy the following:
- Currently hold a NSW driver licence which is not a learner licence, restricted licence, conditional licence (except for the sole condition of wearing contact lenses), probationary licence, a driver licence receipt, or provisional licence;
- For a total of at least 12 months in the two years before making the application, the driver making the application must have held an Australian driver licence which has not been a learner licence, restricted licence, conditional licence (except for the sole condition of wearing contact lenses), probationary licence, a driver licence receipt, or provisional licence;
- If under 60 years of age, complete a compulsory fitness level assessment;
- If over 60 years of age, a medical practitioner must complete a Medical Assessment Public Passenger Vehicle Driver Form to submit with the application; and
- Demonstrate that the driver and any business or financial associates comply with good character provisions by supplying a National Criminal History Record Check.
To apply for a PHV driver authority, rideshare drivers need to provide the following to the Roads and Maritime Services:
- A completed and signed Application for an Authority to Drive Private Hire Vehicle Form;
- Two recent, identical, clear photos sized 65mm x 65mm. Please note these are not passport sized;
- Completed Medical Assessment Form;
- Original National Criminal History Record Check; and
- Payment of the $45 fee, either by credit card, cheque or money order.
What Obligations Do Rideshare Drivers Have?
Once a rideshare driver holds a PHV driver authority and their car is registered for business use with the NSW Roads and Maritime Services, the driver can legally provide point to point transport services to paying customers. Drivers must ensure they have their authority with them whenever they provide services to a paying passenger.
It is important to remember that the details of the transport service to be provided to a passenger must be booked prior to the start of the booking. Rideshare drivers do not have the legal authority to pick up passengers without a booking in NSW. A fine of up to $5,000 can apply.
Once a rideshare driver holds a PHV driver authority, their booking service provider has an obligation to ensure the safety and health of their drivers as well as the passengers using the service.
To avoid having their PHV driver authority suspended or cancelled, a rideshare driver must adhere to set safety standards. These safety standards are set by the Regulations and can include the following:
- Maintain vehicle registration and roadworthiness;
- Keep a maintenance plan which complies with the maintenance standards of the vehicle manufacturer;
- Any maintenance performed on the vehicle must be performed by a licenced mechanic;
- Notify Roads and Maritime Services of any vehicle changes and changes to the vehicle’s garaging address;
- Keep a record of all journeys and servicing history for at least two years;
- Do not permit anyone unauthorised, unlicensed, or who has been issued a non-compliance notice, to use the vehicle for Point to Point Transport; and
- Only permit accredited operators to provide Point to Point Transport Services in the vehicle.
Drivers must ensure their driving competence, qualifications, driving records, criminal records, identification, and fitness or medical requirements are in order. Drivers may also be required to report on changes in health, safety incidents or accidents, compliance with the safety requirements of their booking service provider, or the information provided to the booking service provider.
Monetary Assistance to Taxi Drivers
To help taxi drivers adjust to a more competitive environment, the NSW government established a $250 million assistance package. The first stage of the assistance package entitles taxi licence holders who held a licence before 1 July 2015 to keep that licence until a transferable licence application is made. Payments of up to $20,000 per eligible transferrable licence with a maximum of two licences will be made to taxi drivers by the NSW government to offset reduced income experienced by taxi drivers due to the changes.
Under the assistance package, taxi drivers experiencing hardship may also be eligible for consideration under a $142 million hardship fund.
As with the NSW package to assist the taxi industry, the Victorian government announced that their forthcoming legislation will have an assistance package similar to NSW.
Uber congratulated NSW for becoming the first Australian state to introduce ridesharing legislation, citing over half a million passengers and 5,500 drivers in December 2015. Now that Queensland’s regulations come into effect on 5 September, its uncertain what the requirements will be for rideshare drivers in Victoria.
Victoria’s ridesharing legislation is expected to be introduced into the Victorian Parliament shortly after Parliament’s winter break. From the NSW and Queensland experience, the Victorian government appears set to introduce legislation very similar to NSW.