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Why are written English tests being administered to Uber drivers in London?

Mar 10, 2017 | Insurance, Travel

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Why are written English tests being administered to Uber drivers in London? Does it really have that much to do with driving?

The art of ordering a taxi has changed somewhat in recent years. It was not that long ago you were  using your landline to order a local taxi or flagging a black cab down in the street. These options are still available, but alongside the ability to hail your cab by lifting up your mobile device. You can see where your drivers are up to and how long they will be, you can pay on card in advance and you can leave reviews of your driver. The concept of Uber is brilliant, however the reality is that many argue that Uber licences are too freely distributed to drivers. Not only this but rules on traditional cabbies are more stringent and include specialist knowledge of the areas, especially in London. Now Transport for London has just won a court case against the smartphone taxi service where drivers must be able to write a 120 word written English exam in order to be licensed.

My personal views on Uber are in somewhat grey areas. I do agree it is a great service and the idea that parents can have a preset card for the Uber app on their child’s phone provides a new level of safety and peace of mind. The only real issue I have is that they are owned by Google, so whatever charges or membership fees are incurred during one’s time as an Uber driver is being taken out of the community, and away from local taxi firms. Therefore, I don’t feel too badly about the imposition of a written English exam for Uber drivers. 120 words is not a long essay to write, I did a word count for what I am now writing and it totalled my first five sentences or so. You need to factor in for safety of passengers by knowing that your driver is competent enough in the language to be able to fully understand traffic bulletins, road signs, written instructions or even the vocal instructions of their passengers.

Uber feel that this will deter non-English drivers from becoming drivers for the company, and the imposition of a written English exam is effectively going to cause a racial divide in the application process. I think they are clutching at straws a little here. If you are driving in a foreign country you will not always understand the road markings – fair enough. But if you are being paid to drive somebody then it is in the interest of your choice of job that you understand the signs and understand your customers. Jobs require qualifications! The notion that Uber is flagging this motion in court as a catalyst for a racist coup is ridiculous. If I were in a customer service role in a country that was not my native country, I would expect to be expected to know the language. You can’t serve a customer you do not understand put simply. I think Uber are blowing a lot of smoke under this as they are aware that some drivers they currently have shouldn’t really be taxi drivers, and they don’t want this to come to light. Are dodgy Ubers going to be driven out of town? Or is this another case of minorities taking a hit with legislative changes in the workplace? We will have see how London’s Uber presence changes from here.

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