Ride-Hailing Services: BRTA allows registered cars to run
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has decided to allow only enlisted motor cars and microbuses to operate under ride-sharing service providers.
However, no motorcycle would be allowed to operate under the service for now due to health safety reasons, officials said.
If the decision is implemented, only a few vehicles would be able to provide ride-sharing services as the number of cars and microbuses that were enlisted is below 300, officials of BRTA and service providing companies said.
"We will send letters to all ride-sharing service providers in this regard within tomorrow [Sunday]," Lokman Hossain Mollah, director (engineering) of BRTA, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The development came after Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Ahmad Kaikaus yesterday held an online meeting over the issue.
Road Transport and Highway Division Secretary Nazrul Islam, BRTA's acting Chairman and officials from Uber Bangladesh Ltd, among others, took part in the meeting, meeting sources said.
Although bus and other public transport hit the streets on June 1, operations of ride-sharing services remained suspended.
Major ride-hailing companies, including Uber and Pathao, recently wrote to BRTA, requesting it to allow them to resume operations.
BRTA, however, did not accept their request and instead took a hard line on vehicles that had been providing the popular service without being enlisted.
Enlistment with the BRTA is a necessity for both companies and their vehicles to provide ride-sharing services.
Uber Bangladesh Ltd has sought intervention from the Prime Minister's Office to be able to resume operations in Dhaka and other cities.
At the meeting, Uber officials requested for permission to resume operation and sought time to enlist the vehicles that operated under their service, a participant of the meeting said.
The meeting decided to allow only enlisted cars and microbuses and not to allow any motorcycles since it is not easy to maintain health safety guidelines on motorbikes, the official said, wishing anonymity.
"VERY FEW VEHICLES TO PROVIDE SERVICES"
According to a BRTA document, there are some 1.23 lakh vehicles registered with different ride-hailing companies, of which 1.04 lakh are motorcycles while the rest are cars, microbuses and ambulances.
Of the total vehicles, only around 1,300 were enlisted with BRTA under 12 companies, and most of them are motorcycles, BRTA officials said.
For example, only 126 vehicles (15 cars and 111 motorcycles) under Uber have enlistment certificates, while 118 (two cars and 116 motorcycles) under Pathao have them, shows BRTA document.
"So, only very few vehicles would actually get permission to provide the service. The number of enlisted cars and microbuses would be around 250," a BRTA official said.
OFF-LINE SERVICE INCREASING
In the meantime, many motorcycle riders are taking passengers after manually fixing fares and the number of passengers have been increasing as many people find bike services more affordable and safer than buses.
"In the absence of formal ride-sharing services, many motorcycles are giving off-line services, which is riskier, because, if any accident occurs, no company would take responsibility," said Maliha M Quadir, founder and managing director of Shohoz, a ride-sharing service provider.
About BRTA's decision, she said in that case, only very few vehicles would get permission to provide the services and a majority of service-seekers would be deprived of it.
She said the authorities concerned should give permission for motorcycles to provide the service as it's relatively cheaper.
About safety issues, Maliha said, "Are health safety guidelines maintained on public buses properly? If not, then why should ride-sharing services bear the brunt?"
She said they have requested BRTA to give more time to enlist vehicles running under their service as there were some technical limitations in the BRTA enlistment portal and the process is time consuming.
But BRTA officials said when they started enlisting ride-hailing companies in July last year, it made the enlistment of at least 100 vehicles mandatory for the companies.
BRTA, on several occasions, asked those companies to enlist their vehicles, but they did not comply, officials said.
Contacted, Sayeda Nabila Mahabub, director (marketing and public relations) at Pathao, said, "While we still await a formal notification, we are surprised to learn BRTA's decision to continue the ride-sharing suspension and allow only four-wheelers with enlistment certificates to operate.
"We are also disappointed that this decision was reached upon after consultation with only one ride-sharing company and without involving any of the remaining 11 enlisted companies, including Pathao."
She added, "Based on this decision, only 17 four-wheelers that have enlistment certificates can offer ride-sharing services on two of the largest [ride-sharing service] platforms. How can the ride-sharing industry provide reliable service to our users with such a limited pool of vehicles?"
Pathao urged the authority to reconsider its decision, taking into account the plight of the users and service-seekers who are being denied access to safe transportation and the livelihood of the drivers that are unable to support their families during the ongoing shutdown, said Nabila.
The Daily Star could not reach Uber for comments.