Hundreds take first exam for multipurpose taxi license

TAIPEI (CNA) – More than 800 people in Taipei showed up on June 18 for the first in a series of specially organized exams that are being held by the government to issue commercial driver’s license for operators of non-traditional types of taxis.

About half of the 800-plus drivers who took the multipurpose taxi driver exam were people who work for the ride-hailing service Uber Taiwan, the local subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc., according to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).

The exam was held under a multipurpose taxi service program initiated by the government primarily to encourage Uber and other types of non-traditional taxi services to adhere to the relevant laws, the ministry said.

Under Taiwan law, a multipurpose taxi is defined as a ride service in which the driver is not legally required to use a yellow taxi. The fares are metered, but passengers must contact the drivers via an app, the law states.

The driver’s license exam Tuesday was the first in a series of tests that are being held until September in Taiwan’s six major municipalities and in Hsinchu to bring the approximately 10,000 Uber drivers in the country under the banner of multipurpose taxi drivers so they would not violate the newly amended Transportation Management Regulations, according to the MOTC.

The amended regulations, which took effect June 6, ban Uber from offering taxi services through business partnerships with local car rental operators, as it had been doing.

After a four-month grace period that ends in October, violators will be subject to fines of NT$9,000 (US$285) to NT$90,000, the MOTC said.

The ministry revised the regulations after Uber was found to be offering taxi services through partnerships with vehicle rental companies, a practice that the ministry said was severely disrupting the market.

The new regulations require Uber to charge its customers for a minimum of one-hour rental, regardless of the distance.

Uber, however, has argued that the regulations will limit customers’ choice of services, hurt market competition and deprive drivers and rental cars companies of business opportunities.

Uber has called for constructive discussions on the issue to reach a workable solution.

On Monday, the MOTC said it was considering allowing more flexible fare arrangements in the multipurpose taxi service program, which currently permits upfront pricing and flexible rates with a minimum fare base.

The ministry said it was working to ensure that Uber did not disappear from the Taiwan market and that Uber drivers would not lose their jobs but rather would be able to operate legally in the country.

According to Uber driver Lee Wei-er (李威爾), who is also the spokesperson of a self-help association of drivers, there are about 2,000 multipurpose taxis and 12,000 Uber vehicles in Taiwan currently. ●

By Wang Shu-fen and Evelyn Kao