ACT News

Taxi driver defections expected as Uber starts up in Canberra

A widespread defection of taxi drivers to Uber has been tipped as the cut-price service prepares to start Canberra operations within weeks.

Teferi Gungul, 54, has been driving taxis since 2000 and said more than 100 Canberra taxi drivers were at a Uber registration and information evening in August.

Prospective Uber drivers Teferi Gungul, left, and Gary Woodbridge will have their cars tested next week as Uber prepares ...
Prospective Uber drivers Teferi Gungul, left, and Gary Woodbridge will have their cars tested next week as Uber prepares to start operating in Canberra. Photo: Graham Tidy

The Harrison resident said he expected many to do as he was and move to the more flexible model, even though there was no guarantee of the same income.

"I want to drive full-time for Uber," he said.

"When you drive for Uber you can avoid sitting at the rank at 3am or 4am, it is cashless, it goes to my account, I don't have to argue with customers – I expect a better relationship."

Canberra Taxi Industry Association executive director Tony Bryce said he had not heard of any large-scale defection plans.

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"I expect there will be [drivers] that test Uber and move from the taxi industry, but I'm not sure it will be anywhere in the hundreds," he said.

There were 313 ACT taxi licences at the end of August, with two drivers often working with the one vehicle.

Uber Australia public policy director Brad Kitschke said the company was not aware of how many of its 3500 ACT applicants were taxi drivers, but for most people Uber was about supplemental income only.

"The vast percentage, more than 70 per cent from the other markets, are people who come from non-driving professions," he said.

There would be no cap on the number of drivers Uber approved in the ACT, but he said he expected many applicants not to end up driving.

"I don't think we're going to have 3000 drivers on the platform, with Canberra the size it is," he said.

Uber cars must be four-doors, no more than nine years old and pass an independent inspection.

An investigation by consumer group Choice last month found Uber was 40 per cent cheaper than taking a taxi in most instances.

Mr Teferi said he got to keep about 50 per cent of the fare from his taxi driving. Uber would initially take 20 per cent of their fares, a figure Mr Kitschke said would eventually rise to 25 per cent as the ACT was a regulated market.

Gary Woodbridge, who has registered to drive for Uber after recently selling his small business, said the disruptive corporation would force taxi licence holders to change to retain drivers on current hours, but there would be strong competition.

"I don't think this could be a principal source of income for me, I'm not sure even if I was available seven days a week it would return [that]."

Canberra Taxi Industry Association chairman John McKeough has said taxi licence holders would be seeking full compensation for the damages the government's "taxi review" did to licences in failing to deliver a level playing field.