Digital platforms are gaining more and more ground in Colombia. However, the dispute does not end between the taxi drivers who want to eliminate them and the applications, which ensure that Colombia must adapt to the need for new forms of transport.
Currently, the platforms that move the most passengers are Cabify (2.5 million), Uber (2 million), Taxis Libres (2 million) and Picap (1.5 million). And according to a 2021 Fedesarrollo study, the income of nearly 150,000 people depends on messaging, home and mobility apps; and if they did not exist, 44 percent would be unemployed, 32 percent would have another independent job, and 14 percent would have a formal job.
As for taxis, the National Association for Sustainable Mobility (Andemos) points out that there are more than 276,467 of these vehicles in the country. Cundinamarca is the department that concentrates the largest number, with 57,113. And in terms of cities, Bogotá leads, with 50,174. But the work with platforms is not exclusive to private cars, since 230,000 taxi drivers are also registered on them.
The competition represented by transport applications, which is not given on equal terms and which is added to the rise in the price of gasoline, led taxi drivers to lead protests in different cities last week. Although they did not last long because the Ministry of Transport and the representatives of the union agreed to 17 commitments to lift the strike.
As the regulation indicates that the public transport service must be provided in registered and authorized vehicles, Minister Guillermo Reyes asked the municipal and district authorities to enforce the law.
Therefore, unauthorized cars found to be providing this service will be immobilized for periods of up to three months. and, if they reoffend, they will also be penalized with a fine that is between 5.8 and 23.2 million pesos.
For José Daniel López, executive director of Alianza In, the operation of the platforms is legal because “while the public is only allowed to do what the law says, the private is allowed to do everything that the law does not prohibit. There is no legal prohibition for the service provided through digital mobility platforms, other than that it is not regulated”.
Although it was also announced that the ICT ministries; Science, Technology and Innovation; Labor and Transportation are going to work together on the technological platforms, the exact aspects were not specified, since Minister Reyes clarified that any regulation that is intended to be issued will correspond exclusively to the Congress of the Republic.
In this regard, López assured that it must be the Government that puts on the ’10’, brings together all the actors in technical tables and promotes a bill that regulates the operation of mobility apps and balances the pitch because, as taxi drivers have disadvantages, private vehicle owners as well.
Gasoline price: another discussion
The increase of 1,221 pesos, on average, that the price of a gallon of gasoline has had in the last five months is another issue that worries the taxi drivers’ union. This fuel went from costing 9,180 pesos in September to 10,399 pesos currently. Even, in some cities like Cali and Villavicencio it already costs more than 10,800 pesos. For this reason, they have asked that it not continue to rise; even, that a special rate for taxis be established.
For Julio César Vera, president of the XUA Energy Foundation, the ideal is for the provision of any public service to have the same general market rules as any other service or product.
“If you want to give incentives to the sector, you need to be specific and not through the inputs they use, which is always difficult and expensive to control. One should always keep in mind how cost-efficient it is to generate said benefit, if it is redistributive and if it really reaches the Colombians with the greatest needs”, he added.
Government sources assure that for now there are no intentions to put an end to the increases because it is necessary to continue lowering the fiscal gap that the Fuel Price Stabilization Fund (FEPC) has, which according to estimates could reach approximately 30 billion pesos. at the end of 2023.
Therefore, they propose that to counteract the high cost of gasoline, local authorities authorize an increase in the price of the minimum stroke. in a percentage similar to what the gallon of this fuel has done: 13.2 percent.
In this sense, César Vera considers it important to keep in mind that the taxi service is used, for the most part, by Colombians with better possibilities. Therefore, it must be carefully reviewed whether the resources are focused on said sector or on another that benefits a vulnerable population.
Minister Guillermo Reyes also reminded the taxi drivers that the Government complied with the union with the 50 percent reduction in the cost of Soat, a benefit that was proposed as a way to compensate for the rise in gasoline and that was not applied to private cars.
However, on March 2, at 5 pm, a meeting will be held with the ministries of Finance and Mines and Energy to discuss the fixing of the price of gasoline and its revision.
Among the agreed commitments, it will also be highlighted that the National Development Plan has proposed the creation of a Fund for the Promotion of Technological Ascent for taxis, which allows them to be a source of incentives and resources for the energy transition of this sector.
The idea is that more ‘yellows’ switch to environmentally friendly fuels, Well, according to Andemos, by 2022 there were only 56 electric taxis in the country. While Naturgás reveals that 653,576 vehicles operate with natural gas in the country and the vast majority are taxis.
What the drivers of both modalities think
In the midst of the debate that arose this week around the regulation of the applications and the provision of the taxi service, there are miles of drivers who depend on any of the modalities and who demand better conditions to carry out their work.
For this reason, EL TIEMPO spoke with Fernando Suárez Gómez, a 61-year-old taxi driver, and with Samai Camacho, a young driver who has been working with applications for a decade, who give their point of view on this controversy and tell what their day is like. one day at his job.
Before becoming an individual public service driver, Suárez Gómez worked for several decades as an escort and last year, after a lot of effort, he modified to buy his own taxi.
From that moment until today, he works 25 days a month to cover the expenses of the vehicle fee —for which he will have to pay 120 million pesos, which includes the quota— and take something for his pocket.
“My goal is to earn 130,000 pesos a day, out of gasoline, working from 6 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon. That is, the eight legal hours that correspond, ”he said.
On the taxi driver’s strike and the debate around the regulation of applications, he prefers not to speak. However, he believes that taxi drivers are at a clear disadvantage compared to enforcement drivers. “Three insurances are paid a year.
In addition, there are monthly payments such as health, bearing and other bi-monthly payments such as the preventive review. I pay a credit, which is something separate, but it is still more than 2 million pesos, ”she explained.
According to the driver’s accounts, last year he paid more than 2,200,000 pesos between compulsory and non-contractual insurance, maintenance expenses and the operation card and another 2,376,000 between the stamp on the card and his medical insurance.
Samai’s case is similar. She ran for a long time with leased vehicles until she was able to buy a car. Now that she has finished paying for her car, she works two shifts, an average of 14 hours a day, with a break at noon to be close to her baby. «It is very relative, there are days that one can get 90,000 and others that it reaches 150,000 pesos,» he said.
His opinion regarding this week’s debate is clear. Camacho argues that it cannot be seen as a war between drivers who use apps and taxi drivers. “This problem has existed for many years. I don’t know if the government’s priority is to shake hands with companies or with the 200,000 families that survive thanks to applications and taxi drivers. Here, what there is is a social reality rather than a legislative problem. We have been in the same situation for years,” said Samai.
Although his accounts do not reach those of Fernando Suárez Gómez, they are not of low value either. Monthly, he says, he pays 300,000 pesos in social security, something that nobody demands, but it is part of his budget. “There is also all-risk insurance, which has gone up a lot. Before it was 90,000 pesos and today he paid triple. There is also Soat, insurance for which he paid 400,000 pesos and maintenance costs, «added the host of an application.
To this we must add the three or four gallons of gasoline that he spends daily —he makes between 15 and 17 trips a day—, the cost of the data plan, the meals and the produce that he must leave for his home, whose goal is of 50,000 pesos per day. “People think we are getting rich, but we are part of the Colombian economy. For us everything goes up too, ”she assured.
In the midst of this discussion, both drivers agree that the way for everyone to live in harmony and generate income is legalization and, for this reason, they expect responses from the Government.