Dodgy cabbies may face demerit point system under gov’t proposal

Taxis on a busy street in Hong Kong in 2015.

Dodgy cabbies would face license suspensions under a demerit point scheme proposed by the government to stamp out all-to-common bad behavior by Hong Kong’s taxi drivers, according to reports.

Under the system, currently being considered by authorities, drivers would lose points for 18 offenses, ranging from overcharging, refusing hires and taking unnecessarily long routes to failing to give correct change, loitering and smoking in the car, reported Apple Daily

“Serious malpractice” would incur 10 points while 3 to 5 would be deducted for minor violations, reported the Standard.

Drivers who lose 15 points over two years would have their license suspended for three months, according to Headline Daily.

The points system would run concurrently with the current penalties stipulated by the law, which may also be increased to boost deterrence, according to the Transport and Housing Bureau.

The government proposals are up for discussion by its Committee on Taxi Service Quality, the SCMP reported.

According to the newspaper, Hong Kong Taxi Owners’ Association executive committee chairman Wong Po-keung said many drivers were concerned about the 18 offences, describing some — like loitering — as “unfair” and “outdated”.

According to HK01, Wong Po-keung, a member of the Committee on Taxi Service Quality (CTSQ) — which advises the government on taxi service standards and training — proposed installing CCTV cameras in taxis to obtain evidence and handle complaints “fairly and effectively”.

Another member of the CTSQ, To Sang-tong told Apple Daily that the courts can suspend a taxi driver’s license, and warned that a points deduction system might put people off from joining the taxi industry and aggravate the city’s taxi driver shortage.

The Transport Complaints Bureau, according to recent statistics, received a total of 2,720 reports about taxi services in the last quarter of 2017. The figure marked a 6.8 percent drop from the previous quarter, though represented a 2.8 percent increased compared to the same period in 2016.

Some 97 percent of the cases related to “driver malpractice,” which included cabbies refusing fares, improper driving behavior, overcharging, meter irregularities, and failure to take the most direct route.

Frustration with taxis have led many into the arms of ridesharing service Uber, though the government continues to hold that private ride-hailing drivers are breaking the law if they carry passengers without a hire-car permit, which most don’t have.

The Transport and Housing Bureau would table its final recommendations about improving the taxi sector at Legco in the first half of next year .

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