Sexual assaults and crashes among 500 incidents Uber failed to report
Uber drivers were involved in more than 500 serious incidents over 18 months including sexual assaults and crashes that put people in hospital, but the ridesharing giant failed to tell the regulator despite a legal requirement.
A NSW Point to Point Transport Commission audit also found Uber failed to check if drivers were properly completing its online training, let some drivers do shifts of up to 17 hours and allowed 50 drivers with up to six separate complaints about distracted and drowsy driving stay on the road.
A damning report has found Uber systematically failed to notify the industry regulator about serious incidents.Credit:AP
In all, the commissioner fined Uber a record $203,500 for 37 of the most serious breaches uncovered in the year-long audit that started in 2020 and was quietly revealed last week. Of those, a third related to “inappropriate behaviour” that was reported to police but unintentionally not disclosed to the commission.
Commissioner Anthony Wing said the audit initially uncovered Uber had not reported a number of “notifiable occurrences” as legally required. That term includes things such as complaints to police about alleged sexual assaults or other violence, accidents requiring hospitalisation, and drivers charged with major traffic offences.
Uber then did its own audit and found 524 additional customer reports that it should have passed on in an 18-month period.
An Uber spokeswoman said the company prioritised safety and “the overwhelming majority of these reports related to minor matters, such as minor collisions” and any person involved in a serious report has their account access immediately removed while the company investigated.
“While only a small number of these notifiable incidents were with regard to sexual misconduct – we want to make it clear that we take all allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously and work to take action quickly and fairly,” the spokeswoman said.
Mr Wing said there was no suggestion the failings documented in his report were deliberate, praised Uber for co-operating with the audit and noted most drivers did the right thing.
However, Mr Wing said a loophole allowed some Uber drivers to clock shifts extending past the maximum of 12 hours, which risked accidents.
“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.
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