Kenyan taxi drivers took to the streets early Thursday morning to demonstrate against unfair targeting by traffic police, lack of regulation on the welfare of digital cab drivers and underhand tactics employed by app owners to harass and intimidate their lobby groups’ leadership.
Representatives of the various drivers using online hailing platforms took exception of Uber’s move to introduce Suzuki Alto on the roads “to manipulate the pricing”. This has led to even lower prices, which has led to fatigue-related deaths, insecurity and piling of debts by the car owners, and drivers.
“We have been left with nothing but to actively agitate for regulations. We are not fighting technology. All we are seeking is regulation,” said Wycliffe Alutalala, Digital Taxi Forum’s president.
The Alto does not have safety features such as airbags, and is not suitable to be on Kenyan roads, agitated the lobby groups.
“They are unsafe. They should not be on our roads. And the drivers using them work literally 24/7 yet they go home with nothing. They make nothing,” said Derrick Mbugua of the Liberation Movement.
Mr Alutalala revealed more; the year has produced 15 confirmed cases of fatigue-related deaths. This, he added, was due to overworking as drivers seek to eke out the bare minimum as app owners continue to lower their respective pricing rates as they seek to retain and improve customer base.
“Our struggle for pricing has not stopped. Our investments are bleeding,” he said.
Hundreds of cars have also been auctioned, as the drivers are increasingly failing to meet the pricing models crafted by cab-hailing app firms.
“We are witnessing a lot of frustrations on the road from the drivers. This can erupt into anger issues and, if left unchecked, can erupt into insecurity issues for the riders,” said Digital Taxi App Providers national chairman David Muteru.
The e-taxi drivers have also bore the blunt of the recent Michuki Rules crackdown on matatus as traffic police are arresting, harassing and extorting them for lack of yellow lines on their cars.
This is despite assurances by National Transport Safety Authority’s compliance team that they do not need to enforce yellow lines or remove factory-tints on their windows.
“We are kindly asking the traffic commandant to liaise with the NTSA and Inspector General of Police on this matter,” said Mr Alutalala.
“The police are tasked with enforcing the laws. What we are witnessing here is police crafting their own laws,” signed off Mr Muteru.