Govt. mulls mandating drop-off display to cut down cancellations by cab drivers

In a bid to reduce the number of cancellations by cab drivers, the Delhi government is now looking to ask aggregator companies to ensure that their drivers are shown both the pick-up and drop-off locations before they accept a booking.

This comes in the backdrop of Ola recently introducing a similar feature after recognising that a large chunk of cancellations from drivers after accepting a booking was because they did not wish to travel to the destination. An Uber spokesperson said the company is testing a feature that is alike, which has currently been made available to select drivers across different cities.

Now, the Delhi government’s Transport Department is considering mandating the feature by working it into its Draft Motor Vehicle Aggregator Policy of 2022, which was put out in the public domain in February this year for suggestions. The drop-off mandate would also apply to food delivery and other delivery executives.

A senior government official told The Hindu that the government has so far held three rounds of consultations with around 20 stakeholders regarding the policy, which include food delivery companies, cab aggregators, intra-city parcel delivery services and other agencies.

Ashish Kundra, Transport Secretary and Commissioner, said the draft policy is just a beginning to see how they can strike a regulatory balance between the interests of the end-users, the drivers, and the aggregator companies .

Mr. Kundra said even after regulating fares by capping surge pricing, cab aggregator companies charge more than the cab fares notified by the Transport Department. However, he added, as the customers are willing to pay the high fares, they expect a basic quality of services in return. This is one of the reasons why the current draft includes action against drivers based on the ratings they get from passengers, he added.

Regulatory action against drivers

The Draft Motor Vehicle Aggregator Policy, 2022 mandates vehicle maintenance through a number of criteria — vehicle registration, vehicle age not older than 5 years, valid fitness certificate, insurance, pollution certificate, clear branding logo of the aggregator and installation of panic buttons, fire extinguishers, child lock mechanism, etc.

It also provides for specific actions against drivers with a rating lower than 3.5 stars for over one year, which includes a period of remedial training, followed by an observational period to monitor improvement; failing to achieve these, drivers may lose their PSV (Public Service Vehicle) badge.

Apart from its programmes that sensitise drivers and suggest ways to improve their ratings, Ola said it has penal provisions for drivers against whom serious grievances are raised, ranging from a short-term suspension from the platform to permanent blacklisting, which is a rarity. Asked about similar penalties for Uber drivers, the spokesperson said, “Consistent poor rating and negative feedback may result in the driver or a rider losing access to the Uber app.”

One-sided policy

Kamaljeet Gill, president of Sarvodaya Drivers Association of Delhi said the policy gives the passenger too much power over the driver. “Firstly, riders should be placed as drivers have been. Just like drivers are subject to an action for their 1-year rating, passengers should also be subject to dismissal from the platform based on their ratings.”

As for cancellations, Gill, who is also the vice-president of the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, added that passengers should also face consequences for frivolous cancellations.

When made public, the Draft policy was touted by the Delhi government as a “historic step” in the Capital’s efforts to switch to electric vehicles. Along with spelling out other regulatory mechanisms for the aggregator companies, the Draft most notably mandates a minimum threshold of electric vehicles in their fleets. By March 31, 2023, 50% of all new two-wheelers and 25% of all new four-wheelers onboarded by aggregators and delivery services should be electric.

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