Driving change: Training for driver, rules of conduct for passenger in Kerala’s cab aggregator policy

Kerala Motor Vehicles Aggregator Policy lays down rules on cancellation by driver citing reasons of sudden medical emergency/mechanical snags

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Apr 11, 2024 | 10:00 AMUpdatedApr 11, 2024 | 10:00 AM

Ola Representational image (iStock)

The introduction of cab aggregators (CA) has undeniably revolutionised the transportation sector. It not only offers convenient and efficient options for commuters but also provides economic opportunities for drivers.

However, with this innovation, came a host of regulatory and competition concerns that necessitated government intervention to ensure fair practices and safety standards.

Kerala has become the latest state to regulate the operations of CA as it unveiled its State Motor Vehicles Aggregator Policy on 8 April. This policy aims to establish guidelines for the licensing and conduct of business for CA operating within Kerala’s borders.

It was on 27 November 2020 that the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) shared the Motor Vehicle Aggregators Guidelines-2020, with the state governments/union territories to consider for issuance of licenses as well as regulating the business being conducted by the CA.

Now, after four years, on 8 April, Kerala rolled out its aggregator policy ‘to ensure the conduct of responsible, effective and efficient conduct of business by the aggregators and urges every statutory authority to implement this policy in letter and spirit.’

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Eight hours of compulsory induction training

Kerala’s policy

While the state had retained a majority of the provisions in the Motor Vehicle Aggregators Guidelines-2020, some changes/additions were indeed made.

One such is what kind of induction training the aggregator should provide to a driver for a grant or renewal of license.

As per the state’s policy, the induction training programme refers to a compulsory one-day training programme lasting eight hours cumulatively.

It will be conducted by the aggregator before the commencement of the onboarding of a driver, either in person or virtually by liaisoning with the Kerala Motor Vehicles Department.

The MoRTH stated that the induction programme will be a compulsory five-day training programme totalling 30 hours.

The state also stipulated that among others, the course shall apprise, educate, and train a driver to improve rider experience on the platform.

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Special focus on passenger

Another specialty with the state’s policy is the inclusion of a special clause on ‘General Conditions to be observed by the Passenger’. It has been specified that while traveling or riding in the public service vehicle, the passenger or rider:

  • Shall not smoke and drink
  • Shall behave in a civil and orderly manner towards the driver and co-passengers
  • Shall not wilfully or negligently damage the public service vehicle or any of its fittings
  • Shall not cause a driver to drive the vehicle in contravention of the provisions of the notified speed limits
  • Shall not carry any contraband material in violation of rules in force

The state specified that an additional service charge of ₹20 may be collected from each of the riders in the pool ride, by the aggregator only.

It also stated that the total gross fare for the ride shall be distributed among the riders proportional to the distance travelled as per the algorithm designed by the aggregator in the app.

Other features

Another major addition to the policy is the clause that the aggregator will be required to seek prior approval from the competent authority (Transport Commissioner or any officer designated by them) for valid reasons allowing a ride to be cancelled by the driver after acceptance, without incurring penalties.”

“In case of cancellation made by the driver due to his/her sudden medical emergency/mechanical or electrical disorder of the vehicle, the driver/vehicle shall not be allotted any ride for at least the next six hours after such cancellation,” read an excerpt from the policy.

The state policy stated that any violation of the policy guidelines shall attract the provision of Section 193 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (which mentions the punishment of [agents, canvassers, and aggregators] without proper authority).

“The competent authority or any officer notified by the State Government shall impose such fine/penalty as the case may be,” it said.

According to the policy, the competent authority will be empowered to request information and documents from the CA as deemed necessary to ensure the aggregator’s compliance with the policy, with prior written notice.

This also includes the power to investigate the drivers who have been off-boarded at more than one instance. Another power is to conduct a search and investigation of the aggregator’s premises.

It will also enable the aggregator to update the details of vehicles and drivers integrated with the app to portals like VAHAN and SARATHI.

Why a policy of this kind is important?

A study by the Competition Commission of India points to why regulation is the need of the hour.

In September 2022, it released a report titled ‘Market Study on Competition and Regulatory Issues Related to the Taxi and Cab Aggregator Industry: With Special Reference to Surge Pricing in the Indian Context.’

The study found that ‘there seems to be considerable dissonance in the stated business practices of the CAs and the knowledge of the riders and drivers concerning surge and base fare differential, emphasizing the adoption of better transparency prescriptions on the part of CAs to convey their actual adopted business practices more coherently and unambiguously among riders and drivers.’

It further added: ‘Thus, a need is felt to address concerns related to transparency and information asymmetries on CA platforms to ensure a basic level of transparency.’

At the same time, the Motor Vehicles Department thinks that by implementing these regulations, Kerala aims to strike a balance between promoting innovation and safeguarding the interests of both consumers and service providers within the transportation sector.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)