IRREGULARITIES in and the violation of rules and regulations in app-based ridesharing services have been a cause of concern. The service providers have so far no monitoring in place to contain irregularities. Passengers, meanwhile, allege that drivers, particularly motorcyclists, charge extra fare during peak hours. In addition to complaints of unskilled driving, there are some reported incidents of mugging and other criminal activities involving drivers of such services. In the absence of any protection mechanism, drivers, too, have been victimised. In August 2019, a motorcyclist was murdered by a passenger in Dhaka. Ridesharing companies, however, complain that the drivers are illegally offering offline services to earn more and avoid paying them their share. Motorcyclists waiting for passengers on city roads has become commonplace. The tendency to offer offline service became more common in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak when ridesharing services were suspended to contain the disease. The prevailing situation makes it evident that the sector is in desperate need of a regulatory intervention on part of the companies and the government.
Since its introduction in 2016, the app-based ridesharing services quickly became popular. There are now 12 companies registered with the Road Transport Authority and 11 others are in the process of getting their companies registered. The registered companies have about 21,400 vehicles with mandatory enlistment certificate, but it is said that a large majority of the vehicles using the app are still unlisted. However, the Ridesharing Services Guideline 2017 which came into effect in March 2018 requires all vehicles offering the service to be enlisted. The guideline also makes it mandatory for the companies to install an SOS system to protect passengers or drivers from any threat or crime. But most companies have not implemented it. The ridesharing companies acknowledge that without the enlistment and inbuilt system to track a trip, it is almost impossible for them to monitor the service, but they are yet to install a monitoring system. The transport authorities at a recent meeting with service providers have raised concern about an increased number of complaints and violation of the guideline and decided that the police and transport authorities would strengthen their monitoring.
Ridesharing services brought city people some relief from nagging traffic congestion, but for the service to be sustainable, the Road Transport Authority needs to have a monitoring mechanism. It is disparaging that five years since the emergence of the service, companies still lack an inbuilt monitoring mechanism. The authorities must register companies before the enlistment of all vehicles under their fleet and ensure that registered companies have fully complied with the guideline.
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