Ride-sharing apps end ‘good days’ for taxi drivers in Saudi Arabia

Drivers say good old days are over for traditional taxis as ride hailing apps muscle in. (AN photo)
Updated 07 September 2018
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Ride-sharing apps end ‘good days’ for taxi drivers in Saudi Arabia

  • I don’t want to waste my time waiting for a service-seeker who might not show up or delay me, says driver
  • I think taxis will disappear from the scene, predicts another

Taxi drivers say that they had “good days” before the arrival of Uber, Kareem and other ride-sharing apps in Saudi Arabia. 

Abrar Hussein, a Pakistan taxi driver, said that previously cabbies used to earn from SR350 ($93) to SR400 a day. “At that time, I used to give the company SR170 but that was fine for me as I worked from seven in the morning and got back to my house for a rest at one in the afternoon. I would then go out at four until it was midnight,” Hussein said.

Nowadays, he gives SR140 to his company. “Everyday, we suffer until we get that amount. It takes me 15-17 hours of hard searching for passengers. The maximum amount I can collect every day is SR250,” he said.

He said that he used to pay SR17 to supply his car with fuel, then that increased to SR33. Now he fills his car with SR55-60 per day. According to him, only a sum of SR40-60 remains in his pocket. He spends most of that amount on his daily needs.

“I receive a monthly salary from my company of some SR1,000, but that is not enough for a dignified life of a family,” he said.

Asked why he is not using an application to hunt for passengers, Hussein replied that he could do that, although it is not allowed, but he thinks the applications are useless. “I don’t want to waste my time waiting for a service-seeker who might not show up or delay me,” Hussein said.

As a father of two children, Hussein remits from SR1,500 to SR2,000 to his family. Despite that, Hussein is thinking of returning to his country after 10 years of what he described as “good days” in Saudi Arabia.

 “It is true that the amount I send to my family is somehow enough, but I myself can’t continue in such excruciating circumstances. I have my own personal needs that I can’t secure, unless I deduct something from the amount I remit to my family, which will worsen their financial situation,” he said.

Battle for passengers

Another Pakistani taxi driver, Mohammed Azeem, who has been in Saudi Arabia for three months, told Arab News that he has to pay SR100 to his company every day.

“I start working at 7 a.m. and continue until 10 p.m. The 15-hour work can sometimes bring me up to SR200. Half of this amount goes to my company while I spend the other portion on fueling my car and getting my daily needs of food,” Azeem said.

Azeem said that they are not allowed to use any ride-sharing applications such as Uber, Kareem and Easy Taxi. He revealed that such applications have caused them to work hard to find customers.

“Sometimes, I go around the city for more than an hour without finding a taxi-service seeker. These applications seem to have lured passengers,” he said. Azeem added that he is not optimistic about staying in Saudi Arabia with such “unfair” competition. “This is not fair, and I think taxis will disappear from the scene,” he said.

Abdullah Al-Mutairi, spokesman for the Public Transportation Authority (PTA), told Arab News that there are more than 250,000 Saudi drivers using ride-sharing applications, and the authority has so far approved 18 applications as per the third quarter of 2018.

Responding to a question about using an unlicensed application to find passengers, Al-Mutairi said that in addition to blocking the application, the PTA imposes harsh fines on both the driver and the company.

 “We count on the awareness of the public in following the regularly updated list of authorized applications, which we have announced through our website and Twitter accounts,” he said.

Al-Mutairi added the fines against violators vary according to the regulations. For example, any cabbie who is caught or reported to be using an unlicensed application will be fined. 

“Moreover, a fine of SR5,000 will be imposed on the company recruiting him. We will also demand the blocking of unapproved applications,” he said.

The PTA has announced on its official account that they warned customers against dealing with some illegal applications such as Taxifyksa meaning (Taxi in KSA), Saeqty (My Chauffeuse) and Twadeeny (Give me a ride?)

Air pollution 

The measure came as part of the PTA’s concern about the safety and security of citizens and residents.

The spokesperson noted that taxis driving around the city looking for business could contribute to increasing rates of air pollution. “Furthermore, such taxis can cause traffic congestions on the streets. There are cab ranks in front of malls, hospitals airports and many other places where taxi drivers can wait to be hired,” he said.

Al-Mutairi warned that violating drivers would expose themselves to financial penalties. “A violation of such a kind would bring a fine of SR500. 

“All transport service providers should adhere to the instructions and rules to avoid punishment,” he said.

Fawaz Al-Sahli, PTA vice president of the Land Transport Sector, said that it is working on reforming taxi-application services to ensure the interests of both the companies and Saudi drivers. “We are also keen to make the services available for customers at reasonable prices,” he said.

Al-Sahli said that the PTA had stopped issuing licenses for new non-shared services until the PTA finalizes an overall systemization for the business.

 


We have a story to share with the Saudi people, says new US official in Riyadh

Cultural and educational exchange programs between Saudi Arabia and the United States help build stronger ties. (AN photo)
Updated 19 September 2018
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We have a story to share with the Saudi people, says new US official in Riyadh

  • We have a story to tell and a story to share in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi people. We are pleased that so many Saudis want to study in the United States: US Public Affairs Counselor in KSA

RIYADH: Cultural and educational exchange programs between Saudi Arabia and the United States “help build stronger ties between the two countries and bring them closer together,” according to Brian Shott, the new US Public Affairs Counselor in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at a reception to welcome him at the US embassy in Riyadh on September 18, he said: “One of the main things we do is we try to share aspects of the United States and of American culture, but we also learn from Saudis and Saudi culture.” 

In her opening speech, the embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Martina Strong also highlighted the enduring relationship between the two countries, saying: “Tonight is a celebration, a celebration of a friendship that has extended over many, many decades.”

Shott, who previously served in Morocco, Cairo and Baghdad, will be in Saudi Arabia for the next two years, during which he will promote educational and cultural exchanges.

“There are some real opportunities here and we have been fortunate enough to be able take advantage of partnerships with Saudi organizations and Saudi agencies, whether it is the General Authority for Culture or the Ministry of Education,” he said.

“We have a story to tell and a story to share in Saudi Arabia with the Saudi people. We are pleased that so many Saudis want to study in the United States.”

Meanwhile, the reception also served as a farewell to Robin Yeager, the cultural attache in Riyadh. She said that it had been a “very dynamic time to be in Saudi Arabia. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be here at a time when I get to know first-hand the future that Saudis are trying to build.”

The night that women were were given the right to drive, she said she went out and saw the “thrill on their faces.” To assist with empowerment and other progressive policies, embassy staff work on social issues and provide leadership training for women’s groups, she said.

“It is beautiful because they take something that an American expert talks to them about and they turn it into the Saudi way to approach it,” she added. “It’s not that we are changing things; it’s that we are giving them tools, so they can build what they want to build.”