Dear Lifehacker, With my wedding coming up I am in search of ideas to make extra cash on a flexible basis. I already work a full-time job with quite varied hours (it does not pay overtime) so getting a second job in the time I do have is near impossible. I have been reading so much about all of the taxi apps like Uber. My question is, is it legal to operate as an Uber driver around Melbourne? And if so what are the requirements? Thanks, Cash-Strapped
If you're looking for a quick way to make some spare cash, Uber isn't a bad way to go; especially if you're going to be driving around anyway. Drivers can reportedly earn up to $20 per hour and aren't (technically) required to hold a special licence or taxi plate. However, before you sign up there are a few legal risks to consider, which we'll get to in a moment.
Uber currently offers two tiers of service in Melbourne; a professional chauffeur option (dubbed 'Uber Black') and budget ride-sharing ('UberX'). To become an UberX driver, the only requirement is that you own a mid- to full-sized four-door vehicle that's in excellent condition and no more than nine years old. You also need to be at least 24 years old and have comprehensive car insurance. By contrast, taxi companies require their drivers to display the meter, a license and some other form of identification and fare structure.
Signing up as a driver is relatively straightforward. You need to send them a traffic history report, a photo of your vehicle, a copy of your insurance and license.
The legal situation is where things get tricky. Ride-sharing apps like Uber are in contravention of Victoria's passenger transport laws. Under the relevant section of the Transport Act, drivers must register their car as a commercial passenger vehicle if they wish to charge a fare to the public. The act also ensures that vehicles are properly checked to make sure they’re safe and that drivers have passed relevant police background checks.
In recent months, a handful of Melbournian UberX drivers were reportedly fined $1732 for providing a ridesharing service without a permit. Apparently, representatives of Victoria's Taxi Services Commission issued the fines after using the app to take rides with unaccredited drivers.
In other words, it's probably a good idea to become accredited as a hire-car driver before you join UberX. You can apply for Commercial Passenger Vehicle and Bus Driver accreditation via the Taxi Services Commission. Click here for more information.
In addition to the accreditation hurdle, there are other caveats to be mindful of too: namely, the passengers. Unlike professional taxi services, there aren't any safety nets in place for Uber drivers. For example, if a passenger falsely accused you of theft or sexual assault, your car is unlikely to have a security camera installed to prove they are lying. Likewise, if a drunk customer vomits or vandalises your upholstery, the cleaning/repair costs are usually on you.
Have any readers signed up with Uber as a driver? Share your experiences with CS in the comments section below.
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