Queensland taxi, rideshare drivers issued hundreds of fines for incorrect parking, signage

17 January 2023

More than 600 fines have been given to Queensland taxi and rideshare drivers found to be operating in violation of industry guidelines.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey told ABC Radio Brisbane Mornings host Rebecca Levingston the enforcement blitz started in December and focused heavily around rides ordered and taken in Brisbane and the Gold Coast on and about December 31.

Authorities intercepted 2,056 taxis, limousines and booked hire vehicles.

Fines were issued for 31 different offences from December 2 to January 15, of varying amounts starting at $575, and included:

  • Failure to display a compliant booked hire sign — 179 fines
  • Unauthorised vehicle stopping in a bus zone — 130 fines
  • Stop in taxi zone while providing a booked hire service — 57 fines
  • Driver failure to carry their driver authorisation – 57 fines
  • Stop contrary to continuous yellow edge line – 67 fines

Other serious offences for which penalties were issued included driving an unregistered or defective vehicle, driving a vehicle with an unapproved security camera system, failure to ensure a security camera system is fitted and operational, or failing to display a security camera system sign.

“The majority of drivers do the right thing … but there were a number of drivers doing the wrong thing — not taking short fares, overcharging, not running meters,” Mr Bailey said.

“If you’ve had a few drinks and want to go home at 2am … you need to have confidence that cab is going to look after you and stick to the rules.

“We were very concerned over the Christmas period that this was happening.”

Mr Bailey said transport inspectors had worked 24/7 shifts, “sometimes covertly, sometimes uniformed”, and recorded 613 offences since the start of December totalling about $146,000.

Taxi drivers accounted for 80 fines while 524 fines were issued to rideshare drivers. Limousines and privately registered vehicles made up the remainder.

He said the department “particularly targeted New Year’s Eve because we knew that would be an issue”, intercepting 475 vehicles and issuing 104 fines in that time period as a result.

“We’ve had a lot less fines for over quoting and overcharging since the operation started in November, which is pleasing to see,” Mr Bailey said.

“But my message is that drivers breaking the rules, committing traffic offences or failing to carry their driver authorisation will be caught.

“There is no place for these dodgy practices and drivers need to obey the rules.

“We will continue our compliance operations, but we also ask the public to report any taxi or rideshare driver doing the wrong thing to help stamp out illegal behaviours.”

The Gold Coast area was a focus on January 14, with increased visitors for the Magic Millions race day.

Mr Bailey called on companies in the taxi and rideshare industry to improve self-regulation.

“It shouldn’t take fines for companies and drivers to step up and follow the rules that are in place,” he said.

“If this non-compliance continues, we will not hesitate to hand out fines of up to $5,750.”

Queensland’s Taxi Industry Council previously said it was aware of rogue cab drivers refusing to switch the meter on and instead insisting on cash-only and inflated fares during peak times at hospitality venues, major events and at the airport.

Australian Taxi Industry Association boss Blair Davies said the organisation had been encouraging the government to crack down on bad behaviour.

“Professional drivers have worked out the transport department is serious about catching this behaviour, and the number of incidents have significantly dropped off,” he said.

“I don’t know if they’ve been eliminated but they’ve dropped.

“Now, there are many more fines going to rideshare drivers for things like stopping in taxi zones and not having appropriate signage on their cars.

“We’re encouraged by that but we’d like to see a little bit more enforcement of touting.”

Touting describes drivers and customers doing cash deals outside of the safety of rideshare apps or taxi booking services and meters.

“In a nutshell, we’re supportive of the minister’s actions and appreciate his intervention, because at the end of the day, these small number of rogue taxi drivers are giving the industry a bad name,” Mr Davies said.

Repeated offences could result in much larger fines or being given fewer jobs by booking services.

Mr Davies said ultimately the transport department could cancel drivers’ booked hire taxi authorities, which were a form of license to operate such a business.

An Uber spokesperson said drivers who broke its guidelines could be banned.

Mr Bailey responded to reports in early November, of taxi and rideshare drivers demanding inflated cash fares without metres or apps at peak times by promising to stamp out the illegal practices.


TCQ wants your input on taxi licensing reform

The Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) is planning to hold another round of town hall meetings across the State over the next few months to update members on developments and hear from them directly about what they would consider reasonable and acceptable in regard to taxi licensing reforms and compensation. The meetings will be similar in format to those held previously. TCQ wants to hear from all members of the industry so that we can use our seat at the negotiation table for maximum advantage. So, if you have a stake in the industry and want to have a say in where it is heading, TCQ is welcoming you to get involved.


With 13cabs data showing female taxi drivers are in high demand, could women help to fill the cabbie shortage?

26 April 2022

Over the Easter long weekend the wait time for a taxi from Townsville airport was more than an hour.

There are 132 licensed cabbies in the city of 200,000 and Townsville Taxis director Darren Morse says that is about 80 drivers too few.

“The hardest part we’re now facing is … finding available drivers to put into those cars,” he said.

“And that’s drivers for day shift, drivers for night shift, and drivers who can just fill in those shifts when [they] need time off.”

Mr Morse said the business had tried to boost numbers through newspaper and radio advertising and by targeting university students and retirees looking for flexible work.

But the calls have gone unanswered and with the peak tourism period weeks away, Mr Morse says wait times will only increase.

But some think the answer to the driver shortage could be women.

Queensland’s largest taxi company, 13cabs, estimates only 11 per cent of drivers are women.

Data from the company’s app shows female drivers are increasingly preferred.

Townsville driver Colleen Babao says she has found herself answering the same question time and again from passengers.

“They feel very strongly there are safety concerns [for me] — I’m asked about this constantly,” Ms Babao said.

“People really have the idea that if you are driving a taxi you are at a great risk.”

With more than 20 years’ experience operating across the region, Ms Babao said she believed there was a misconception when it came to women’s safety.

She said the fear of being attacked or harassed could deter women from entering the profession.

“I think that’s at the heart of it,” Ms Babao said.

“They [passengers] express this very deep concern of ‘you be careful’, because they think it’s something that happens all the time.

“I just think the word need to be put out there — we can debunk the myth, so to speak, change those misperceptions.”

Taxi Council Queensland chief executive Blair Davies said those concerns had to be addressed to get more women into the industry.

“We need to get out there and promote driving a cab as a good, safe profession to segments of the community who maybe haven’t thought about it before,” he said.

Mr Davies said since the introduction of security cameras in Queensland taxis in the mid-2000s, there had been a reduction in the number of attacks on drivers, but technology could not eliminate the risks entirely.

“Some of the new drugs out there, things like ice, affect people’s thinking such that they don’t worry about being hurt or the consequence of their actions,” he said.

“They remain a concern.”

Ms Babao said drivers could find themselves in the “wrong place at the wrong time”, but wanted to reassure women that the job should not come with an expectation of compromised safety.

“I wouldn’t be working at night if I didn’t feel safe, but something I do is lock the doors if you’re in certain areas, particularly in the city,” she said.

“Good advice, I would say, is to trust your gut instincts — that’s the best advice I could give someone.”

Townsville’s only Shebah driver, Felicity Finau says she cannot keep up with the demand for her services.

“I have to turn down work because I cannot possibly put it in,” she said.

“It’s very hard at times, but I do what I can do.”

Founded in 2017, the all-female rideshare service caters to women and unaccompanied minors.

In the 12 months driving for Shebah, Ms Finau said she had seen demand for more female drivers in the region increase.

She said the flexible working hours made driving an attractive career choice.

“Especially if you’re a young mum that wants to get back into the workforce,” she said.

“This is something that can get you back out there and enjoy — you may not want to go back to your old job.

“There’s work out there for anyone who wants it.”


Queenslanders with disabilities left in limbo as wheelchair-accessible taxis fail to turn up to bookings

26 April 2022

Mark McGrath has had to cancel countless appointments, social gatherings and almost missed his father’s funeral due to taxi delays.

The Gold Coast resident relies on wheelchair-accessible taxis every week but said he would do anything to avoid it.

“You never know whether they turn up in 20 minutes or an hour and a half,” Mr McGrath said.

“I will even take my power [wheelchair] and drive for two and a quarter hours, just to avoid that same cab trip.”

Even when he pre-booked a taxi to attend his father’s funeral, Mr McGrath almost missed it.

“I rang the day before, and I booked the cab to pick me up at 1pm and the ceremony was at 2pm, and it was only about 15 minutes away.

Mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras – get the facts

Portable and fixed cameras to detect illegal mobile phone use, and failure to wear a seatbelt are operating across Queensland. The cameras operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in urban and regional areas. You can be caught anywhere, anytime.

The cameras were introduced to address the dangerous behaviours of mobile phone distraction and travelling unrestrained in a vehicle.

Research shows mobile phone distraction quadruples the risk of crashing and is just as dangerous as drink driving. If you take your eyes off the road for just two seconds, in a vehicle moving at 60km/h, you will travel more than 33 metres while distracted.

A properly worn seatbelt is proven to reduce the risk of serious injury by 50 per cent and death by 45 per cent. A crash without one, at just 40km/h, has the same impact on your body as falling from a two-storey building.

The technology

The cameras use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect front seat occupants committing mobile phone and seatbelt offences and have been introduced following a successful six-month trial of the technology in 2020.

The cameras, both fixed and portable, take multiple images of every vehicle that passes, including the registration number plate, and images of the front seats of the vehicle.

If a possible offence is suspected, the image is put through a rigorous adjudication process by an authorised officer, who determines if a penalty should be issued. If no possible offence is detected by the AI, those images are automatically excluded and deleted.

The penalties

From 1 November 2021, the following camera related penalties will apply. Roadside enforcement by police continues as normal.

  • $1,033 and four demerit points for illegal mobile phone use while driving.
  • $413 and three demerit points for failing to wear a seatbelt. Drivers can also be fined a further $413 and three demerit points for each passenger not properly restrained.
  • Double demerit points apply for repeat mobile phone and seatbelt offences committed within a 12-month period. This means anyone persisting in these dangerous behaviours can lose their licence.

The cameras can detect mobile phone and seatbelt offences at the same time, and penalties will apply for each detected offence. Learner drivers will lose their licence after just one mobile phone offence. P-Platers can also lose their licence after just one mobile phone offence.

Mobile phone rules

It is illegal to hold your phone in your hand or have it resting on any part of your body, including your lap, while driving. This applies even when you’re stopped in traffic or at traffic lights. The phone doesn’t need to be turned on or in use for it to be an offence.

However, a phone may be used hands-free, for example, mounted in a cradle for open licensed drivers. These mobile phone rules do not apply to Mobile Display Terminals (MDTs) in a taxi. However, the position of the phone or MDTs must not obscure your view of the road, you must have proper control of your vehicle, and drive with due care and attention at all times.

All drivers can hold a phone when safely stopped to:

  • pay for goods and services, for example at a drive through;
  • gain access to or from a road-related area, such as a car park;
  • present a digital driver licence or other document to police when asked; or
  • get a card or money out of a phone wallet for the above purposes.

You can also use your phone when safely parked. Parked means stopped with the intention of staying at that place.

Seatbelt rules

Taxi drivers are required to wear a seatbelt at all times – not just when transporting a passenger in the vehicle. If the driver of a taxi does not have a seatbelt exemption certificate lodged with TMR and is detected by a camera not wearing a seatbelt, and infringement notice may be issued. This will be sent to the registered operator of the vehicle. If the registered operator was not the driver at the time, they will need to identify the driver and follow standard arrangements to transfer the fine to that person.

Adults and children 7 years or older must wear a correctly fitted seatbelt, and children up to the age of 7 must wear a correctly fitted Australian Standard approved child restraint. Children less than 1 year old can be held on the lap of someone 16 years or older.

Taxi drivers are exempt from the requirement to ensure their passengers are wearing a seatbelt if:

  • your passenger is over 16
  • your passenger is under 7 and you do not have an Australian Standard approved child restraint in the vehicle.

At present, because it is not possible to determine the age of a person in the images captured by the cameras, infringement notices will not be issued if a passenger of a taxi is detected by a camera not wearing a seatbelt. It should be noted that these offences are still subject to roadside policing.

Making Queensland roads safe for all

The mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras are part of the Camera Detected Offence Program. Money collected from camera fines is used to fund important road safety initiatives and education across Queensland.