Cabbies reject Uber claim they could work together

SUNCOAST Cabs has rejected claims that Uber and taxis could work together to improve point-to-point transport options for Sunshine Coast residents.

As reported in the Daily, ridesharing app Uber started booking Sunshine Coast rides on Monday. The company launched in San Francisco in 2009 and now operates in 300 cities worldwide.

Uber driver-partner and science student Marné Prinsloo told the Daily Uber could work with the local taxi drivers by allowing them to respond to Uber bookings if they were closer to the pickup point.

But Suncoast Cabs general manager John Lobwein said his drivers were not interested in working with a 'rogue operator' that was facilitating illegal activity.

"If we have a driver who uses Uber, we'll tear up his affiliation," Mr Lobwein said.

"They were given a cease and desist notice by the State Government and they ignored that. They can tell people they're legal 'till the cows come home but they are not."

READ: Uber turns corner, arrives on the Sunshine Coast

Uber drivers do not own taxi licences and are able to offer rides that are cheaper, on average, than taxi rides, causing upset to taxi drivers around Australia and the world.

Mr Lobwein said the taxi system had been designed to protect public safety and ensure a reliable, accountable service was available 24 hours a day.

"It's not hard (to grasp). We have hoops to jump through (to operate a taxi)," he said.

"What do you think would happen if we stopped paying the (taxi licence) registration? We'd be hung and quartered."

Mr Lobwein said registration was one of the major costs incurred by taxi drivers, and a reduction in this cost by the State Government would allow Suncoast Cabs to reduce its fares significantly.

"When people say the industry is outdated, well perhaps the legislation is outdated," he said. "If we need to change, then we will change. We're ready.

"We need regulators to become more fluid. We're every bit annoyed about it as everyone else."

Suncoast Cabs general manager John Lobwein with the app for iphones and ipads, launched in 2011.
Suncoast Cabs general manager John Lobwein with the app for iphones and ipads, launched in 2011. Cade Mooney

He said he hoped the review of the taxi industry currently underway would consider such a change, but warned that deregulation of the entire industry could create more problems than it solved.

"When they (Uber) leave - and they will, we're going to be left to pick up the pieces."

Mr Lobwein said Coast residents who wanted the convenience of using an app to book a taxi could use the Suncoast Cabs app, which has taken 75,000 bookings since it launched in 2011.

Uber city lead Sam Bool said on Saturday that all Uber drivers were required to have a current police check and Passenger Transport Driver Authorisation from the Queensland transport department.

He said Uber hoped the Queensland Government review of the taxi industry currently underway would result in a regulatory framework that applied to ridesharing services.

READ: Drivers 'pumped' as Uber announces Sunshine Coast rides 

Mooloolaba-based commercial lawyer Kyle Kimball said the taxi industry's "beef" with Uber was about competition. Uber drivers didn't have to pay a taxi licence or comply with the stringent regulations that taxi drivers did, he said.

"The issue is primarily that unless you've got a taxi licence or a limousine or public transport licence, you're not allowed to charge to the public or advertise in respect of transport," Mr Kimball said.

"Taxi licences are issued by the government under relevant legislation. It's essentially a government mandated monopoly. They (taxi drivers) all have to get licences and pay a significant amount of money (for them)."

Nambour resident and Uber driver-partner Marne Prinsloo Photo Nicky Moffat / Sunshine Coast Daily
Nambour resident and Uber driver-partner Marne Prinsloo Photo Nicky Moffat / Sunshine Coast Daily Nicky Moffat

He added that local "cabbies" needed to realise that Uber, like the technology-driven shakeup of their industry it represented, was not going away.

"Whenever you've got a monopoly, they tend to make the people with the businesses kind of lazy…but I think the cabbies would all say that there's all sorts of checks and balances that regulate the monopoly."

Mr Kimball said he believed taxi drivers weren't "against" Uber, but like members of many industries, taxi drivers were struggling to adapt as the internet allowed their industry to be disrupted in ways they might never have imagined.