Revealed: thousands of Shenzhen drivers for car-hailing apps Uber, Didi Chuxing have criminal records, history of drug abuse

Over 3,600 drivers have been involved in traffic accidents while working for the apps

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 4:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2016, 11:01am

Thousands of drivers working for popular car-hailing apps like Didi Chuxing and Uber in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen have been found to have criminal records including drug offences, sparking public concern, local authorities said this week.

The city declared the services of car-hailing apps that connect drivers of private cars with customers to be illegal last September, but authorities there have since been trying to come to terms with how the industry is changing and regulate it more thoroughly.

On Tuesday, the city’s municipal transport committee summoned executives from Uber, Chinese market leader Didi, Yongche, Zuche and ihavecar.com, the five major car-hailing apps in the country, to uncover safety problems among their operations, news website sznews.com reported.

The authorities blamed the apps for being lax gatekeepers to select qualified drivers, saying they found a total of 1,425 private drivers working for ride-sharing apps in the city with records of drug abuse. Another 1,661 were found to have criminal records for other offences, while at least one driver was a registered psychiatric patient with a history of violent behaviour in public.

The committee said that more than 3,600 of the drivers had been involved in traffic accidents while working for the apps.

As a new invention, online ride-hailing services have been a good experience for consumers, and welcomed by some passengers. So our solution is to provide a legal way (forward)
Yang Chuantang, China’s Minister of Transport

The committee also blamed the app operators for hiring at least 300,000 drivers with licence plates from other cities last year, which increased congestion and tailbacks.

The authorities criticised the apps for adopting a strategy of providing subsidies to commuters and drivers, which they said brought unfair competition to the market.

During the meetings, representatives of the companies summoned were warned to “restructure” their services to align with local regulations within a certain time period.

They were ordered to dismiss any unqualified drivers, including those engaged in illegal activities or without a local licence plate, and cease all activities leading to unfair competition.

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Although data showing the number of vehicles working for such apps in the city is hard to come by, Didi alone had about 300,000 drivers in neighbouring Guangzhou last September, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, public polls show that few people feel comfortable about being ferried around town by a driver with a criminal record.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 93 per cent of 827 local people polled by news site sznews.com said they felt afraid or angry at learning just how many drivers had records. Over 38 per cent of respondents said they would stop using the apps due to safety concerns.

The use of private vehicles for car-hailing, app-based services has triggered a backlash from taxi drivers across China and in Hong Kong since last year.

In January, police in Shenzhen arrested three taxi drivers for damaging commercial vehicles, after taxi drivers in the city launched a massive protest against ride-hailing apps.

Didi Kuaidi, other car-hailing apps ‘adding to Beijing’s traffic problems’ says transport chief

Meanwhile, the central authorities said early this month they would officially give a green light to services provided by the likes of Uber and Didi. They are now drawing up rules to regulate the fast-growing ride-hailing market.

“As a new invention, online ride-hailing services have been a good experience for consumers, and welcomed by some passengers. So our solution is to provide a legal way” forward for the industry, Yang Chuantang, China’s Minister of Transport,said on the sidelines of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing two weeks ago.