Friday, January 15, 2010

No Seat Belt for Taxi Drivers

No Seat Belt for Taxi Drivers

We do not have any valid reason or ground for compulsory seat belt for taxi drivers.

--- In, "union_faruque" wrote:

Re: Draft Presentation, URGENT comments TODAY please

It is o.k.

I don't share Ernie's "great soul" statement as because of one bastard we are wasting our valuable time.

--- In, "destodesperate" wrote:

Re: Draft Presentation, URGENT comments TODAY please


Congratulations on another excellent job pulling things together under pressure.
I certainly endorse the thrust and format of the submission and am struggling to come up with any improvements. However there a couple of suggestions below:

When you wrote:
… but much more would be expect to be done… Did you mean "expected"?

When you wrote:
Seatbelts are about safety; safety as a top priority for the NSW TDA and all taxi drivers.
Did you mean "…safety IS a top…"?

When you wrote:
… And interviews with drivers it is the impression that the majority do… Would you accept something like:
Many taxi drivers do already buckle up when they feel that circumstances warrant it.

In section 6 it seems unnecessarily provocative to say that Rossco is "not a member of any driver association" Perhaps he is, perhaps he isn't but it is not for us to say. More importantly his status is irrelevant to the argument except to say that we are confident that his views do not reflect the views of his peers. To describe his submission as simplistic and incoherent is a subjective assessment that may not be the views of all. (I haven't seen his submission but ours should not be anything other than factual.)

By all means describe his as a "lone voice" but the less attention he gets the better IMHO.

In the paragraph beginning:
Finally, it is necessary to stress the strength of feeling of driver about… I know that you meant "drivers"

When you wrote:
Compulsory seatbelts in the taxi industry are a punitive approach. I reckon you meant "…is a punitive…."

Reflecting on what (little) I have been able to contribute, above, I must again commend you on a sterling effort. The balance of rational argument and cautionary threats is a delicate one which you have handled with aplomb!



Below the Draft Presentation for tomorrow

It uses many of the arguments and words of Ernie (with thanks).

Any and all comments TODAY would be valued.




26 February 2009





The NSW TDA is the only democratic, elected organization that represents NSW taxidrivers. It is open and transparent. It was formed during its successful campaign against the No Desto proposals in mid 2004.

The motto of the NSW TDA is “A Fair Share of a Fair Fare”.

“A Fair Fare” reflecting the interests of taxi drivers in which safety is paramount.

And “a Fair Fare” which reflects its concerns for a viable, effective taxi industry and good service to the public.

Firstly, it is asked where the initiative for a review of non-compulsory seatbelts originates. And why compulsory seatbelts, as such a critical issue to the taxi industry, has not been introduced with a white paper setting out the reasons for any proposal and its pros and cons. To which informed responses could then be submitted, or discussed at a forum such as this. And what are the subsequent processes to this forum?

By unusual coincidence, this very week a letter from the Minister for Transport dated 19February 2009 was individually addressed and postal delivered to the home of every taxi driver.

It reports improvements effected as a result of the Madden Report (Taxi Industry safety and Security Taskforce) These improvements are commendable, but much more would be expect to be done resulting from the Madden Report - and from the many previous reports on the taxi industry going back as far as Keatsdale.

The Minister’s opening is that “ Taxi drivers and their families have the right to expect their safety to be a top priority … “

And on that the NSW TDA and all NSW taxi drivers and their families wholeheartedly support the Minister for Transport !

Seatbelts are about safety; safety as a top priority for the NSW TDA and all taxidrivers.

And the NSW TDA strongly supports the use of seatbelts by all drivers for their safety.

And in this regard the NSWTDA most strongly supports ongoing education campaigns for the use of seatbelts (if such education is considered warranted) and recommends that the Taxi Council and MoT should constantly encourage the use of wearing seatbelts for driving safety. But, it has to be asked, where are such campaigns, and why do they not occur? Especially when the Taxi Council derives its funding from drivers’ earnings.

And the NSW TDA would also encourage Networks seatbelt reminder messages, say monthly, on all taxi radio MDTs. Reminders that are effective and virtually cost free.

However, the NSWTDA and the taxidrivers of NSW do NOT support Compulsory seatbelts !

Compulsory seatbelts in the taxi industry are a punitive approach.

It is an approach open to petty revenue raising with devastating effects on the earnings and licences and livelihoods, and the supply, of taxi drivers.

It is an approach that is inherently unsafe for taxi drivers !

It is an approach that flies in the face of all known experience for the last 35 years of the taxi industry !

The NSW TDA unambiguously and very clearly represents the opinions of NSW drivers’ on the question of compulsory seatbelts.

The NSW TDA deliberately asked this question in its Squeaky Wheel newsletter of June 2008 last year, debated it at its August 2008 AGM and advised drivers of the outcomes in the following Squeaky Wheel issue. 4000 copies of each newsletter are always distributed to drivers. Notably, when the June newsletter first raised the issue as a question, a number of angry calls were received from drivers who had misread it as the NSW TDA advocating compulsory seatbelts. The debate at the AGM was strongly and unanimously against compulsory seatbelts.

Driver opinions are universally that seatbelts must NOT be Compulsory !

The reasons why the taxi industry is, and was originally in 1974, exempted from compulsory seatbelts is that it is a unique industry.

An industry unfortunately with unique safety problems.

The following are some of the major reasons and examples for the exemption from compulsory seatbelts.

They are strong, realistic and very practical reasons.


- Compulsory seatbelts make taxi drivers the easy targets for revenue raising. Petty infringements fines and loss of points due to the nature of taxi driving work will inevitably result. Seat belt offences carry severe licence
demerit point penalties that could rapidly strip taxi drivers of
their vital driver's licence.

- There are innumerable situations where taxis are highly vulnerable to vexatious fines and loss of points from overzealous rangers and police. The reputation of police and rangers for revenue raising bookings are unfortunately widely recognized. (The RTA No Stopping rules in direct conflict with Taxi Regulations are a notorious and devastating case in point.)

Under compulsory seatbelt legislation taxis will be easy revenue raising prey. The most obvious example of this threat to taxi drivers is the rigmarole of moving a taxi, one car space at a time, forward along a long line of ranked taxis.
It is not uncommon for a taxi driver to spend a full hour edging forward car space by car space to reach the head of a taxi rank. The taxi driver is literally a sitting target if he has not fastened his seatbelt each time that the taxi creeps forward.
Similarly a taxi will often wait and then move when the passenger comes out at the next driveway at an apartment pickup.

Or often is told “thanks driver for loading that luggage, now please pick up my friend around the corner who also has a suitcase.”

Or in the Airport waiting pens ; or traveling at slow speed from the pens 300 M to the airport rank. Presently the airport is targeted for easy taxi inspections ; will the airport also be invaded by police for easy seatbelt bookings and revenue pickings ?

Compulsory taxi seatbelts do nothing for the serious purpose of seatbelts saving lives.


- Compulsory taxi seatbelts are unfortunately a major safety problem for taxi drivers. Seatbelts are an unsafe restraint if a taxi driver is assaulted in the taxi. Seatbelts are a serious impediment if a driver needs to escape quickly from the taxi.

And, dreadfully, the driver can be strangled by the very seatbelt that should save his life.

And such situations occur disturbingly often.

- Violence is on the increase as officially reported; incidents at and away from hotels and elsewhere have been increasing. The Sydney Morning Herald (page 1, 21/2/09) reported there were 13,086 violent, alcohol related, incidents recorded by police in the eleven months to July 2008. Taxidrivers are expected (and indeed exhorted) to provide services to the patrons of hotels and expose themselves to this potential violence. And taxi /hotel incidents do occur very frequently, both at hotels and on the journeys away from the hotels.

Taxi drivers know these risks ; it is a major reason why unfortunately increasing numbers feel compelled to drive with their vacant lights off.

- The incidence of alcohol related violence for just 11 months is more than 33 times the number of traffic fatalities. Considering that not all alcohol related incidents are reported to police but that all road fatalities are, then it is abundantly clear that taxi drivers have far more to be concerned about than the comparatively rare event of a serious traffic accident.

- The decisions that taxi drivers have to make when carrying drunk customers include whether or not to ‘gamble’ on wearing the drivers' seatbelts. That critical decision must be left to the drivers, literally in the hot seat.

Only the taxi-driver can make that judgment depending on the circumstances.

Taxi drivers are neither foolhardy nor reckless. They are all imbued with survival strategies, not death wishes.
And the taxi driver must be able to legally make that seatbelt judgment.


- Given that taxidrivers already consistently wear their belts when driving their own, private, cars it is clear that their choices to not

wear belts in taxis are directly attributable to the unique aspects of taxi driving.

Usually for many very good reasons indeed, including the situations above.

- And interviews with drivers it is the impression that the majority do in fact buckle up when they are “on the road”.

To illustrate this, many passengers are surprised to learn that taxi drivers need not wear their seatbelts; presumably because their experience is that the taxi drivers usually do wear their belts.

- If such practices need improvement, then, as stated above, education and reminders are the desirable way to go.

- (12 hours of wearing seatbelts ?)


- The present laws have worked well since 1974. The laws have been effective for taxis for 35 years ! For what overriding reasons should they be changed now?

- The Madden Report, it must be clearly noted, made NO recommendation to make seatbelts compulsory for taxidrivers ! At the very end of its last Chapter titled “Long Term Work” it carried a small mention only of seatbelts. It stated “It was clear to the Taskforce that this issue merited further investigations. 11.3 Recommendations: 22. Government to review the current exemption for taxi drivers in NSW from wearing seat belts under Schedule 1 of the Road Transport.” The report carried no supporting statistics of any kind. Obviously that is the primary and first intention of its recommendation.

- The Minister’s 19February 2009 letter refers to further “… implementation of the remainder of the recommendations … (of the Madden Report) “ and then details these. However, very significantly, it makes no mention whatsoever of Compulsory seatbelts !

- The question then clearly arises, at whose initiative is the present review of seatbelts legislation and what is its motivation ?

Undoubtedly, compulsory seatbelts for taxidrivers would be a revenue raising bonanza in fines, as per above. These are not valid

arguments for change. Similarly, seatbelts can be an instrument of attack or worse for taxidrivers.

- There are some 22,000 taxidrivers in NSW of which 17,000 drive in Sydney. This is a tiny percentage fragment of the NSW seatbelt population for which to change present legislation. And compared also to many more busdrivers in NSW.

- NSW celebrated its lowest road toll since the Second World War last year (only 395). The accident rate for taxis has always been
relatively low and there is scant evidence that seatbelts for taxidrivers would have made any difference to the NSW road toll.

- The Minister’s 19February 2009 letter refers to “Improved data gathering and monitoring of taxi related crime … “. The NSW TDA fully supports the Minister’s call in this regard. There are no known Police statistics kept for taxi accidents, crimes or incidents. There are currently NO statistics on the percentage of taxi drivers currently not wearing, or wearing, seatbelts but it can be easily verified that many in fact DO routinely wear their belts. Legislative changes to seatbelts for taxi drivers must be resolved by reference to facts, not unfounded assumptions.

Accident statistics for taxis and violence incident stats must be produced for any legislative change; in view of the known increases in Police statistics on public violence !

- For these long standing laws to change, the RTA and authorities must PROVE beyond doubt that circumstances have changed to such a degree as to warrant changing legislation that has worked well for 35 years.


- Neither train nor bus drivers nor taxi drivers are obliged to wear seat belts. To make changed regulations just for taxi drivers is inconsistent with the Government's approach to other forms of public transport.

- There are many more bus drivers than taxi drivers. Given that taxi drivers are greatly more vulnerable to assault and other incidents and problems, and greatly more vulnerable to predatory petty fines and licence point losses, why consider changing the rules for taxidrivers? This is not rational.

It would appear to many that a move to add the risk of even more penalties to the role of taxi drivers is a form of intimidation and unfair singling out of a group.

- Will review of taxidriver seatbelts lead to changes of the laws for bus drivers too?


- Any initiative for changing the laws for taxidrivers does NOT come from the taxi industry.

- ( The opinion of one taxi driver, in written submission supporting Compulsory seatbelts (Mr Ross Nelson), is a lone voice in the wilderness. Mr Nelson is not a member of any driver association and does not represent any drivers. His submission centers simplistically on the (recognized) safety of wearing seatbelts but only reluctantly and incoherently tries to reconcile the unique problems of taxi drivers. )

- The taxi industry is most strongly represented by the NSWTDA and the Taxi Council Ltd (Country TDA ?).

- The views of the NSWTDA directly reflect the very strong views of the 22,000 drivers of NSW. They are set out in detail above.

- The Taxi Council does not represent drivers and it may not be in attendance today. But it draws its funds from drivers via the compulsory levies from the Networks. The NSW TDA Committee members, who are well connected and cooperative in the industry, have contacted the senior levels of several Networks which, as far as gathered, are all set against Compulsory seatbelts, primarily on the grounds of Safety !

The Taxi Council would therefore be expected to reflect the Networks views that it is completely against Compulsory seatbelts.

And as has been the Taxi Council’s public position going back at least 6 years.

- In a word, the views of the total taxi industry are totally and strongly against Compulsory seatbelts !

Finally, it is necessary to stress the strength of feeling of driver about compulsory seatbelts. The proposed No Desto issue was defeated by demonstrative driver action. The recent proposal to cancel the return Harbour Crossing toll faced the prospect of strong driver resistance. These issues pale in comparison with drivers’ feelings about compulsory seatbelts. The taxi drivers’ resolve to fight this attack on their livelihoods and safety ought not to be underestimated.

In summary, it is submitted that the existing legislation exempting taxidrivers from compulsory seatbelts is effective and appropriate.

If anything the conditions justifying the exemptions of taxis have grown far worse since 1974.

Compulsory seatbelts in the taxi industry are a punitive approach.

It is an approach open to petty revenue raising with devastating effects on the earnings and licences and livelihoods, and the supply, of taxi drivers.

It is an approach that is inherently unsafe for taxi drivers !

Vitally, the exemptions are critically important to the safety and protection of taxi drivers!

It is an approach that flies in the face of all known experience for the last 35 years of the taxi industry !

The present legislation should be retained unchanged.