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2018-05-24 14:33:30

From June, ride-hailing drivers will be held to the same standards as taxi drivers with a national review system, China’s Ministry of Transport announced Thursday.

Cai Tuanjie, an official at the transport ministry, told the media at a press conference that the move aims to improve the credibility of the entire car-hailing industry as it grows.

Violence, sexual harassment, and poor regulation in the sector are once again in the spotlight after a young woman was killed earlier this month and a ride-hailing driver was named the key suspect. Yet passengers seem pessimistic about the ministry’s proposal, while drivers ask why there has been relatively little attention paid to their safety and labor rights.

The new review system, based on existing standards for taxi drivers, will apply to cab and ride-hailing drivers across all platforms. Each year, every driver will start with a credit score of 20. Taxi industry regulators will deduct 20 points for major offences such as assault, harassment, theft, or leaking passengers’ private information, 10 points for letting an unauthorized driver use a vehicle for their own business, and fewer points for minor offences. Drivers can also gain credits for receiving media commendations or participating in charity events.

Drivers must maintain a score of at least three, or they will face mandatory training.

Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-hailing company, and its rival Meituan had not responded to Sixth Tone’s requests for comment by time of publication. Another ride-hailing app, Dida Chuxing, said in a statement sent to Sixth Tone on Thursday afternoon that the company “fully supports” the ministry’s proposal.

“Passengers are the parents of transport service providers and ride-hailing firms,” Dida wrote. “Companies must improve trust in their services to fulfill, secure, and sustain consumer satisfaction.”

With a low barrier to entry, driving for platforms like Didi was once an attractive job or side gig for many. But regulators have continually raised the threshold since legalizing online ride-hailing in July 2016. From November that year, they required drivers to be licensed with three years’ driving experience and no record of violent crime, dangerous driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Many major Chinese cities also stipulate that only those with local residency papers can register as drivers — locking migrants out of working legally in the lucrative industry. Last month, Shanghai’s transport commission fined 115 drivers for not having a local household registration or local license plate.

Yet consumers complain that the rules haven’t made the roads safer. “If the industry standards for taxis are sufficient, why do unlicensed taxis and Didis still exist?” one Weibo user commented under a news post. Others grumbled that taxi management is a mess, with drivers refusing to use meters and even driving drugged.

Earlier this month, Didi asked the public for input into several proposed safety measures. The platform already excluded drivers who had committed violence against persons, properties, or public security, but the company wondered if those who had “served their terms” for offences like copyright infringement should be given a chance.

“We also wish to respect the legal rights of individuals, such as the right to work,” Didi’s statement explained.

Some Weibo users then voiced their concerns that the company’s measures were one-sided. “Who will come to protect drivers’ rights? There are tons of passengers of poor character, so why not restrict those people from taking cars?” one wrote.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: A Didi Chuxing driver checks orders on the ride-hailing companys mobile app in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, Oct. 25, 2016. VCG)