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 Cabinet welcomes Ethiopian, Eritrean peace agreement

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Jeddah on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 18 September 2018

Saudi Cabinet welcomes Ethiopian, Eritrean peace agreement

  • The king briefed the Cabinet on the results of his meetings with Eritrea President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to sign the Jeddah Peace Agreement
  • The king wished the two countries further security, prosperity and stability

JEDDAH: King Salman chaired the Cabinet’s session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Tuesday.

The king briefed the Cabinet on the results of his meetings with Eritrea President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to sign the Jeddah Peace Agreement.

King Salman expressed his congratulations to the two countries and said that he hoped the signing of the agreement would be a strong basis for closer cooperation and friendship, achieving security and stability, and would positively affect the security and stability of the region.

The king also congratulated Djibouti and Eritrea on their historic meeting in Jeddah — which came in response to his invitation — wishing the two countries further security, prosperity and stability.

The Cabinet praised the efforts of the two countries’ leaders to restore relations between them to establish a new stage that would witness a great development in relations and further cooperation.

The Cabinet congratulated the king and crown prince on the success of these efforts, which resulted in the signing of the Jeddah Peace Agreement and also the historic meeting between Djibouti and Eritrea after ten years of severed relations. 

The Cabinet praised the resolutions of the 150th ordinary session of the Arab League’s Council at the level of foreign ministers held in Cairo, and the statement issued by the Arab Quartet Ministerial Committee held on the sidelines of the 150th session of the Arab League’s Council, on the follow-up of the crisis with Iran and ways to address its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.

The Cabinet highlighted the terrorism practiced by Iran through its interference in Arab affairs, which needs cooperation to confront and deter, reiterating that the Kingdom has made efforts to combat terrorism and has not hesitated to provide support with the cooperation of the international community to address this.

The Cabinet expressed the Kingdom’s strong condemnation of the suicide bombings north of Tikrit in Iraq, the Somali capital of Mogadishu and Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, expressing condolences to the families of the victims, the governments and peoples of Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.