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

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.


Saudi women mark National Day behind the steering wheel

Saudi women are celebrating the National Day behind the steering wheel. (Supplied)
Updated 3 min 48 sec ago

Saudi women mark National Day behind the steering wheel

MAKKAH/RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s celebration of its 88th National Day comes at a time when the Kingdom is achieving remarkable progress economically and socially, most notably lifting the ban on women driving.
This is the first National Day in which Saudi women can drive their cars. Writer Heba Qazi said it is a beautiful feeling, and Saudi women can now participate in celebrations and exercise their legitimate right nationwide.
The 88th National Day is a great opportunity to remember past glories and recognize the great sacrifices of those who have held high the banner of Saudi women’s rights, she added.
Under King Salman and his crown prince, women have been able to obtain their rights and become ambassadors to all the countries of the world, she said.
The king and crown prince are “consolidating the stature of this nation and granting women all their rights, including driving cars,” added Qazi
“We take pride in this great day and this important privilege, celebrating National Day for the first time from behind the driving wheel,” she said.
“We also take pride in the nation’s achievements at all levels, and we are endeavoring to highlight the status of women in all fields.”
Psychologist and sociologist Hasna Al-Tallahi said the Kingdom has established itself as the strongest nation in the region by promoting its political and economic position, winning the respect of the entire world and respecting women’s status.
“It also managed to hinder the efforts of many parties to diminish the role of women in all fields,” she added.
“When women obtained some of their rights, most importantly driving, they felt free. They were responsible for their time and family, and were not at the mercy of drivers and society.”
King Salman supports the rights of the most vulnerable worldwide, and the rights of Saudi women by listening to their demands, Al-Tallahi said, expressing great pride in her nation, its leadership and people.
“Challenges are always present and so are their solutions,” she added. “With each new challenge, solutions are created … to achieve women’s progress, growth and advancement.”’
Mesbah Abdulhakim, a supervisor at a hotel in Makkah, said the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan gives a great deal of attention to women’s issues.
“Lifting the driving ban imposed on women paved the way for many job opportunities in various sectors, not only in health and education,” she added.
Journalist Amira Qatabri said: “Lifting the driving ban on women led to a division between the conservative movement, which controls many aspects of social life in the Kingdom, and a more understanding and open elite.”
Women being able to drive is not just symbolic, but part of what may be the largest transformation in Saudi society in half a century, she added.
Hind Khalid Al-Zahid, the first female Saudi executive director — for the Dammam Airport Co. — and head of the Businesswomen’s Center at the Eastern Province’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “This is a very important year in the Kingdom’s history.”
She said: “It establishes a foundation for equal rights and opportunities for men and women, giving women an opportunity to be part of what is happening in the Kingdom regarding national transformation, in line with Vision 2030.”
Saudi actor and presenter Khairiah Abu Laban said: “I am really short for words, and do not know how to thank our leadership for this beautiful feeling.”