Ride-Hailing Services: Key guidelines gathering dust
With ride-hailing services growing rapidly in Dhaka, user complaints are also on the rise. But errant operators, drivers, and riders cannot be held accountable because the companies are yet to be registered with the BRTA.
As a result, Bangladesh Transport Authority (BRTA), the government regulator, cannot implement the guidelines approved nine months ago for the companies even though some of them have been operating for three years.
Registrations of the companies and their drivers remain stalled because operators and law enforcers are yet to figure out how a customer or a driver could seek help from police in an emergency, a requirement for implementing the guidelines.
In the meantime, complaints of users against drivers, riders, and service providers keep piling up.
Last month, Nayeem-ul Hasan hailed a motorbike via an app as he was in a hurry to go to the secretariat from his Nakhalpara home. The biker arrived, but the ride was not pleasant at all.
The rider weaved through traffic at speed, picked up a phone call on the move, and flouted numerous other traffic rules despite Hasan's repeated requests not to do so.
"But what made me more worried is that the rider did not know the city much and was constantly looking at the satnav on his phone attached to the handlebar," Hasan said.
Many have similar experiences.
Allegations against service providers include charging extra fare; drivers not knowing the way to a destination; refusing to go to a destination; cancelling trips after wasting the users' time; misbehaving with passengers; and violating traffic rules.
According to the guidelines, these offences could lead to cancelation of the service provider's and the driver's registrations. But the authorities have little control over the yet-to-be-registered service providers.
“We are not saying that they are under our control [service providers]. On the other hand, they are not out of our control. Actually, we are allowing them to continue operation as they have already sought registration, showing respect to the law,” Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) of BRTA, told The Daily Star.
Twelve companies have applied for registration, said the BRTA official, adding that they inspected 10 companies and gave them their observations.
The BRTA also held several meetings with the ride-hailing companies, police, BRTC, and other relevant authorities.
“We are almost ready. But everything got stuck over how police and ride-sharing companies will deal with the security issues. Once this issue is settled, it would not take much time to register them,” said another BRTA official involved in the process.
At a meeting on September 25, the BRTA decided to start registering companies from November but “it might not be possible”, the official said, wishing anonymity.
As per the guidelines, the apps used by the service providers must have features that let both passengers and drivers send signals to a police control room in case of an emergency.
Contracted, Mostafizur Rahman, a senior assistant superintendent of police, who is working on the issue at the Police Headquarters, said it might take another three to six months to complete their work.
He said they were working with ride hailing service providers to develop an integrated system so that police could respond immediately after a passenger or rider seeks help.
Sayeda Nabila Mahbub, lead marketing manager of Pathao, told The Daily Star on Tuesday that the guideline mandates ride-hailing service providers' integration with 999 (national emergency number) so that any user can ask for help.
She said numerus discussions were held between the 999 division at the Police Headquarters and the ride-hailing companies. As per the decision in the last meeting, the integration process is expected complete by the end of November.
Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, assistant professor at the Accident Research Institute at Buet, said, “As these companies are not registered, they can't be held accountable.”
Shifun said the authorities must control the number of vehicles running under a particular company because uncontrolled rise of vehicles, motorcycles in particular, would increase the risk of accidents.
App-based ride-hailing services were launched in Dhaka in May 2015, and more than two dozen service providers are now available in Dhaka.
The cabinet on January 15 approved the guidelines with effect from March 8.