New rule to fine taxi drivers for refusals

Updated: 2012-01-19 08:25

By Xin Dingding and Li Xinzhu (China Daily)

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New rule to fine taxi drivers for refusals

BEIJING / SHANGHAI - Starting on April 1, taxi drivers who, without justification, refuse to take passengers or deliberately take longer routes to increase fares could face fines up to 200 yuan ($32), according to a new regulation by the transportation authority.

Taxi drivers could also be fined for pre-arranging a price higher than what the meter would read for the same trip or for dumping passengers in the middle of a trip, according to the regulation on management of taxi driver qualifications, released by the Ministry of Transport on its website on Wednesday.

Passengers can file complaints to local transportation authorities, the regulation says.

Previously, some cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, also drafted rules regulating the taxi sector, but there was no nationwide regulation with clear punishment set for taxi drivers who discriminate against clients or cheat passengers, said Liu Meiyin, a ministry official in charge of taxi business.

Also, the new regulation for the first time asks all taxi drivers to take qualification tests, which was not required before, he said.

The new rule has drawn great interest from the public because it is getting more and more difficult to catch a cab in large cities, such as Beijing.

Li Huijuan, a consultant in Beijing, said she has been refused by cab drivers several times recently because the drivers wanted to take passengers to a particular direction that is near the drivers' home or the place where the cab will be handed over to the next shift.

"Sometimes I waited for nearly an hour and could not get a taxi willing to take me," she said.

A student from Thailand studying in Beijing, who only revealed her Chinese name as Guo Ruiqing, said she and many of her foreign friends also have been rejected by empty taxis around Sanlitun area.

"Sometimes they don't use the meter and ask more money for our trip. So we have to step out and find another," she said.

Taxi drivers said they have their reasons.

"No one wants to break rules on purpose. The maximum fine imposed by our company could reach 1,000 yuan," said Sha Xiaocao, 46, from Shanghai Qiangsheng Holding Co Ltd, who has been a taxi driver for more than nine years.

"But we are also human beings. We also need to take a break or eat a meal. That's why sometimes we won't stop when a passenger hails a taxi," he said.

Wan Weidong, a Beijing taxi driver, said that when he needs to rush to a place to hand over the car to the next shift, "it's really best to have one more trip in the same direction".

"I have to say no. If I agree to take some passengers to a place far away, I cannot give the car to the next shift at the promised time. If such a situation happens several times, I will have problems with the next driver," he said.

Many passengers said they understand the drivers' predicament but are frustrated nonetheless. "What troubles me are those drivers who stop in front of a bunch of people, ask one by one where they are going and pick only the one on their way. If they are in a rush to hand over the car to the next shift, they should just suspend business," said Sang Jie, a Beijing resident.

"Sometimes, after standing in the cold for 20 minutes for a cab, it is really heartening to see an empty taxi approaching. But being declined without a good reason really makes me angry," she said.

Although the new regulation supports punishments for such drivers, many passengers said that they will not file complaints against them.

Some said they could appreciate the difficulties taxi drivers have making money, while others said providing evidence could be a problem.

The Beijing municipal commission of transport said that it has opened a 24-hour hotline (010-68351150) to hear passenger complaints, and passengers can use cell phones to record their conversations as proof. "I don't think that is practical. Who would switch on a recorder and just wait for a taxi driver to turn them down?" Sang said.

Also, taxi drivers believe that the transport authority should not only think about the needs of passengers but also protect drivers against false complaints.

Fang Minhao, 57, who has worked as a taxi driver for five years in Shanghai, said it is crucial to specifically define reasonable excuses for refusing to take passengers.

"I have had lots of experience taking drunken passengers who threw up in my cab and did other unbearable things. I am really unwilling to take them. If their complaint against me is accepted, it could be unfair to me," Fang said.

According to rules, taxi drivers are allowed to refuse drunk people without company, passengers who try to get cabs in areas where vehicle parking is prohibited and passengers who are carrying flammables and explosives. In Beijing, they can also say no to passengers who take pets.

Driver Sha agreed that taxi drivers should guard their own rights since complaints are often made against them for the wrong reasons.

"Some of my colleagues even bought a voice-recorder in order to prevent unreasonable complaints," he said.

Yu Ran and Zheng Jinran contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 01/19/2012 page3)