Increasing numbers of drivers touting for work is a direct result of deregulation of the taxi industry according to Eastern Metropolitan Region MP Rod Barton.
Mr Barton said the recent media stories of young women being contacted directly by drivers was an extreme breach of privacy and an indication of how desperate competition was for work.
“Touting in any form can be an aggressive and intimidating act and these young women have good reason to be frightened by these messages. This is unacceptable behaviour from both the driver and booking network,” said Mr Barton.
Whether intentions are sinister or not, Mr Barton said since touting laws were scrapped in 2017 aggressive behaviour to secure rides was becoming more common.
Touting is the sad outcome of a system that is now socially, economically and commercially unsustainable.
“This type of behaviour needs to be stopped. Competition for a fare is fierce and touting is the sad outcome of a system that is now socially, economically and commercially unsustainable,” said Mr Barton.
Touting involves a driver approaching people on the street – and now by text – and asking if they want a ride. Often, it also comes with the offer of a ‘cashie’ – an agreed amount paid in cash.
“If you get in a vehicle following a touting offer your ride may not be legal, and it is not safe. There may be no logging of the ride through meters or ride-share apps and none of the safety measures of a proper transaction.
“Touting is becoming an increasing problem because we find ourselves in a situation where deregulation of the taxi and car hire industry has led to the dumping of tens of thousands of unviable commercial passenger vehicles on the streets of Melbourne,” Mr Barton said.
Since deregulation of the taxi and car hire industry the number of cabs has risen from 5600 to to 11,807. Hire cars are up from an original 2800 to 50,192.
“There are now about 92,479 accredited commercial drivers registered – all of whom are trying to live on less than a living wage,” said Mr Barton.
Mr Barton said he would urge Transport Minister Melissa Horne to reinstate the touting laws that were scrapped in 2017.