By Don McCurdy


We have ways of making you talk…

Broward County Florida has been resisting the taxicab company’s press for information on the number of trips Uber has been loading at the airport. Uber has resisted the release of the information claiming the information is a “trade secret.” Consequently, the county released Uber’s report heavily redacted which sent the taxi companies to court.


Initially a judge ruled that the report was a trade secret, but later relented and said that the total pick up numbers and the fees paid by Uber were not proprietary. The judge didn’t believe having the total figures would provide an advantage to the taxi companies.

I believe that, if the taxicab companies have to release the information, all other similar services should provide the same information. That said, knowing how many trips your mysterious new competitor makes can tell you a few things.

Is your competitor taking enough trips to be a serious threat? Can you present this information to your drivers to prove they make more money as taxicab drivers, or demonstrate to the county that your fees should be lowered because of the high number of trips your competitor is absorbing.

The article covered everything except how many trips Uber loaded. This would have been the most interesting part of the article.

Who knew they couldn’t?

California is reported to have passed a law allowing breweries to pay for patrons safe rides home. Up until now, the state would not allow brewers or distillers to offer patrons free rides home for fear it would cause over consumption of alcohol.

The article, while providing no statistics, credits the creation of ride sharing with reducing incidents of drunk driving. While the change in the law appears to be common sense there were opponents to the plan saying it encouraged over consumption.

“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,”

The much ballyhooed tax reform bill has passed and the rumors are rampant as to what it means for ground transportation drivers, some believing that all deductions have been eliminated.

Of course the costs of doing business have not been eliminated, after all, the big complaint about the bill is that it reduces business taxes. Since most taxicab and “shared ride” drivers are independent contractors they still retain the vast majority of their deductions.

Drivers in high state tax states won’t get to deduct their state income taxes if the amount of tax they pay is over ten thousand dollars. At ten percent state income tax, that would
mean that you’re making over a hundred thousand dollars net income which I’m going to believe that most independent contractor drivers aren’t going to have to worry about.

The reported near doubling of the standard deduction should positively impact the overwhelming majority of drivers. I have always found it amazing the hysteria that surrounds a tax cut. There have been several in my lifetime, all of which we have survived.

What’s in a name?

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is reported to have ruled that Uber is a taxi service. The translation of that is that Uber must adhere to local taxicab regulations. The suit was brought by the union representing the taxicab drivers in Barcelona, Spain.


While Uber claims that it is in compliance with the vast majority of taxicab regulations, they have already withdrawn their “UberPop” from a variety of countries, but then installed UberX with an attempt to comply with local regulations.

It appears Uber is facing considerably stiffer competition in Europe and the court’s ruling is costing them to get in compliance. May be that it’s the new kinder, gentler Uber we’re seeing, or it may be that Uber’s, break all the rules market entry, is getting called to heel. Time will tell. Losing ground in Europe isn’t going to help their bottom line.

Uh oh.

Reports are that Uber had their own version of the Nixon plumbers unit. A letter from the former head of their “global intelligence” department surfaced during a court case brought by Waymo, the self driving car company, involving Uber’s alleged theft of Waymo trade secrets.

The “Strategic Services Group” is reported to engage in eavesdropping, bribery and data collection to obtain information on competitors . The judge in the Waymo case is reported to have postponed a hearing in the case until February to allow Waymo’s attorneys to review the letter and investigate the claims made in it.

According to reports, much of the data collection is automated collecting millions of records. There was also reports of physical surveillance including wiretaps.

They are also reported to have used under cover agents to gather intel on taxi competitors and politicians in an effort to gain business advantage.

If the charges can be proven by Waymo, there most certainly be a huge payout at the end of the road.

Driver product?

Uber is reported to have wrapped up their driver improvement campaign. No doubt, a lot of smart folks did a lot of planning and hard work implementing the campaign which included a new driver tip feature. I’m sure that was a big morale booster for drivers. I know tips always made my tail wag.

The real question I suppose is what is “driver product?” Having ridden in numerous Uber vehicles and numerous taxicabs I can tell you that they share a lot of common problems, the main one being the quality of the driver.

While Uber did attract a level of professional drivers from the taxicab industry, their mainstay is the part time driver.

There is most certainly a difference between a part time, amateur driver and a full time professional driver. The good news for Uber is that their main competitor, taxicab companies, have at least as bad a morale problem as Uber has.

Based on articles I’ve read regarding Uber’s handling of their driver force it would appear that their staff holds at least as much contempt for the drivers as the average taxicab company.

Uber does appear to have considerably less interaction with their drivers than the average taxicab companies. For some drivers like me, that would have been a big positive.

The downside of that is the difficulty in maintaining an esprit de corps. One of Maslow’s basic hierarchy of needs is the feeling of belonging to something greater than one’s self.

How do you make the driver feel important with little or no actual contact? Maybe Uber’s new driver product manager will work that out for us.


If you have any comments regarding this or any of my articles please feel free to contact me at: - dmc





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