“As you would have with any person who is driving long, long hours … your reaction times get worse and your driving ability gets worse,” Mr Wing said. “And that’s going on, it appears, day after day.”
What did Uber do?
- Failed to stop 37 per cent of drivers sampled doing shifts more than 12 hours long, with some extending to 17 hours.
- Failed to report more than 500 “notifiable occurrences”, which can include crashes that sent people to hospital or alleged sexual assaults, to the regulator.
- Let 50 drivers remain on the road despite having multiple complaints of mobile phone use or drowsy driving made against them.
- Did not properly monitor whether drivers were completing online training.
“It’s not safe for the passenger and it’s not safe for the driver.”
Uber’s spokeswoman said the company was “disappointed” it had not been allowed to respond to the audit’s findings before it was finalised and claimed some findings contained errors it planned to clarify with the commission.
“For example, the driver fatigue finding is misrepresented, referring to ‘continuous driving time’, when it actually includes the cumulative time a driver may be online, offline and then online again throughout the day,” the spokeswoman said.
But Mr Wing said the commission had reviewed GPS data from 30,000 driver shifts over a two-week sample period and found 37 per cent were driving more than 12 hours, the allowed maximum.
“What it appears is happening is the drivers log on and off the app but when we look at the actual GPS data the car is still moving,” Mr Wing said.
Mr Wing said the audit also showed a minority of drivers were not engaging with Uber’s training at all, evidenced by the fact they had completed it in only “several minutes”. He issued 13 improvement notices to Uber and said he looked forward to the company fixing its practices.
Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine blamed the fatigue issues on “driver exploitation”, arguing low wages forced drivers to work extreme hours to pay their bills.
“A $200,000 fine is a slap on the wrist for Uber. Given its deep pockets, it can pay a fine without fixing the underlying problems,” Mr Kaine said.
“The fact Uber failed to report over 500 incidents should shock all Australians,” Mr Kaine said. “It shows the corporate giant is prepared to thumb its nose at safety rules and legal obligations, exposing drivers and passengers to unacceptable risks all in the name of money.”
He argued there should be a federal regulator responsible for the gig sector to ensure fair pay and resolve complaints. Its drivers are not classified as employees and therefore don’t have the same protections, such as a minimum wage.
Uber came under pressure last year after several of its Uber Eats riders were killed on the roads.
Uber requires cars to have a five star safety rating, mandates safety training for new drivers and has a team of ex-police to help deal with urgent issues.