Here’s what an Uber driver in Belgium must do to reach the same standard as a taxi-driver
Tue 5 May 2015
Yesterday the first of approximately thirty prosecutions against edict-breaking Uber drivers in Belgium resulted in a non-disclosed suspended sentence and the confiscation of the offender’s Renault Megane – but in future Brussels Uber chauffeurs are likely to get the chance to achieve parity with traditional taxi-drivers, in order to integrate the ride-hailing company’s operations into the existing Belgian legal framework.
The amateur-taxi service’s invasion of the country met with fairly typical resistance, both from status quo cabbies and the legislation which governs them, when it launched in February of 2014. Traditionally deaf to civil or legal warnings, Uber ignored the ban that was imposed on it in late Winter of last year and inspired a Brussels court to declare the UberPOP ride-sharing service (wherein any registered Uber driver with a certified working car and a minimum of Uber background checks may offer taxi-services to app-hailing customers) illegal in Belgium, appending a fine of €10,000 (approx.. £7358) to every infraction. Prior to this the government had already begun to appropriate the vehicles of UberPOP offenders.
Following the traditional pattern of Invasion > Protest > Fines > Tentative Accord/Compliance, the $40bn U.S.- based company is now working with the government of Belgium to get its operations on an equitable basis, in terms of quality, with traditional taxi-drivers.
Becoming one of Uber’s ‘independent contractors’ is rather less effortful than qualifying through the traditional route to taxi-driver status. Though requirements for background checks vary from country to country, according to the exigencies and intractability of the law in Uber’s invasion sphere, the core requirements are that drivers be at least 21 years of age, have a 4-door vehicle manufactured no later than 2005 (lowered to 2000 in certain cities), possess a valid driver’s licence and insurance – and have ‘A great personality and some entrepreneurial spirit’.
In most U.S. cities a Commercial Driver’s Licence is not required for Uber drivers, saving participants £100-300 dollars in training and several weeks (or even months) of work. Though drivers must pass a background check, the extent of this check is not public knowledge – and was widely thought to have failed late last year when an UberPOP driver in Delhi was arrested for raping a passenger despite years of involvement with the Delhi police regarding sexual offences. In most U.S. cities ‘authentic’ taxi-drivers must be fingerprinted to begin working, but this is not currently a universal requirement across Uber’s territories.
Both UberPOP and traditional taxi drivers must be at least 21 years of age, but Uber drivers pay no application fee to begin working with Uber, as taxi-drivers do to their host companies.
If Belgium is to bring its new generation of non-infringing Uber drivers up to spec and on a par with its existing taxi ranks, drivers in Brussels will apparently need (PDF) a ‘certificate of good conduct and morals dating less than 3 months’, an identity card confirming the driver as domiciled or otherwise resident in Belgium, and also to have passed a series of behavioural tests.
The tests include information on security, tests of concentration, personality tests and one-on-one interviews. At this point the candidate will have needed to provide an identity card in addition to a Belgian or EU driving licence, and non-EU candidates must also provide proof of marriage to a Belgian or certificate from their embassy or similar proving that they have either been resident in Belgium for five years or that they have valid refugee status.
That isn’t the end of it – having passed that gauntlet, taxi candidates must then either complete a local-authority-approved 30-hour course or undertake vocational training over eight weeks with an accredited taxi company. Both include a theoretical component which must be passed within three weeks of the start and will cover specifics such as knowledge of legislation regarding taxis, regulations about specific sites within the city, social legislation, the use of ‘common phrases in Dutch and English’, reading maps and other related technical fields of study related to taxi-driving.
Additionally non-EU nationals who apply will need to supply evidence from an embassy or similar source attesting to the candidate’s ‘good conduct and morals prior to their arrival in Belgium’.
Having completed all this, the candidate must then work for a taxi company for four months and provide satisfactory weekly progress reports signed by their tutor before being issued the full certificate to operate as a licensed taxi-driver.
Not exactly point-and-click.