Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Passing the Buck

Passing the Buck

As BBC Radio Jersey asked on Facebook:

“For such a small place, it's not always easy getting around Jersey is it? For a lot of islanders, a solution they've turned to is online - problem is, it could be illegal. So would you rather pay a premium for an official taxi, or do you prefer the unofficial services provided by social media?”

When asked, Jersey Police said  it was out of their jurisdiction and they won't be taking any action, and the BBC should check with the Department of Infrastructure.

Jersey's Department for Infrastructure said it could only regulate registered drivers and could nott control the actions of members of the public, and the BBC should contact the police.

It is a shambles! The poor BBC are going round and round in circles.

Of course it is difficult to prosecute without some kind of entrapment, as money changes hands after a lift, and could be seen as a gift by way of thanks for a free ride.

In 2013, in Guernsey, the police took a more proactive approach. As the Guernsey Press reported:

“POLICE have issued a final warning to illegal taxi services offering lifts over the internet. Officers stopped and warned a series of illegal taxi drivers promoting their services through a particular Facebook page at the weekend.  Traffic Sergeant John Tostevin said they would now continue to monitor the site and had the power to carry out covert operations in the future.”

“Sergeant Tostevin said the perpetrators could face a hefty fine and a year off the roads for providing the illegal service without the relevant insurance. He also warned potential customers against getting into the car of a complete stranger, particularly young women.”

And while this was not wholly successful, they did try again by way of direct warnings handed out in 2014:

 “If you offer lifts for money via social media sites you could be handed a warning letter by police.  In an attempt to crack down on illegal ‘Facebook taxis’, police have said they will be monitoring groups and pages where people advertise the illegal practice.  It is thought that around five to 10 people are operating as unlicensed cabs with around three who are making a living out of it."

"Police were keen to point out that the letters, aimed at educating drivers about the dangers and risk of prosecution, would not be handed out to ‘designated drivers’ who give lifts to friends but they would be given to those putting out general invites and picking up strangers for cash. “

Taxis are considerably more expensive, and of course there lies some of the problem. But they have been Police Checked, have Medicals and are driving vehicles that have been Police checked and are correctly insured. As one individual commented:

“Naturally everybody thinks that it's all the fault of money grabbing taxi drivers. The stark reality of a life behind the wheel is that everyone from the operators (the taxi office) and local authorities, right through to insurance companies all stand there with their hand out. By the time you've paid everything off each week a driver will be looking to earn £300 p/w just to tread water, that's before he/she thinks of keeping a roof over his/her head, or food on the plate. It's very easy to do a fare for a couple of quid more than the price of the fuel, if you're not paying through the nose to keep everything LEGAL.”

A costing done by a Guernsey woman in 2013 (so these figures are behind the times) gives an example of how it works:

“Most drivers will work an evening from, let's say, 18:30ish till 02:30ish = 8hrs at the end of the night we will say has £250 on the meter. Which equates to £1500 per week (allowing them 1 day off) If that person is an owner driver, he then has out of that take, cost of petrol, wear and tear on the car, cost of servicing, Insurances, cost of yearly Taxi licence, medicals, 2 police checks for the car per year, Police check and renewal of PSV every 4 years, Income tax and States Insurance. Having already paid for the car, has to make provision from earnings to replace it, which i think and I know someone will correct me if I am wrong roughly equates to 40 % of their income Leaves them with approx £900 for a 48 hour week, to live on.”

And another writer comments:

“Factor in the absence of sick pay and holiday pay, the insecurity of knowing what your monthly wage is going to be, a seven hour day where 2 or 3 of those hours may be useless as the ranks are empty and there are no bookings, people who are booked are late or don't turn up, unsociable hours if you do want to get the busy, more lucrative times (so forget spending weekend evenings, bank holidays, Christmas & New Years Eve/Day with your families) and you may start to get an idea as to why they're not all queuing up to take 'the knowledge'.”

The police are making a sensible distinction between friends offering lifts to others on a Saturday night if they are out and about not drinking. If they want to contribute a couple of quid to their mate to get home safely to cover costs of petrol, and thank them for the help, that is very different from someone picking up complete strangers, which is a commercial operation, albeit not a legal one.

It is important to point-out that giving lifts for money will breach the conditions of a private motor insurance policy. So if you have an accident, neither driver nor passengers will be covered. [Even carrying freight requires 'hire and reward' type of insurance cover!!] So, in effect, you are driving without insurance.

It's the responsibility of the police to ensure road safety and that people using the roads are insured. This is not about 'stopping people making money off their mates'. It's about people using Facebook to arrange below-taxi-cost lifts to complete strangers.

No comments: