Uber and taxi congestion in Albert St, Brisbane CBD
Uber and taxi congestion in Albert St, Brisbane CBD

Heat on street as driver pay plummets

QUEENSLAND taxi driver earnings have plummeted over 40 per cent since Uber first arrived on Brisbane streets in 2014, new figures reveal.

News Queensland can also reveal the number of drivers licensed to carry private passengers in the state has more than doubled in the two years since ridesharing was legalised.

The explosion in authorised driver numbers from 16,012 in 2016 to nearly 34,000 in June this year has led to escalating tension on city streets, and a warning that the industry is on the verge of a "chaotic breakdown".

Analysis of driver earnings over the past five years highlights a steady erosion since ridesharing arrived on Brisbane streets in early 2014.

In 2013, full-time taxi drivers were earning between $45,500 and $64,500 for working five shifts of up to 12 hours.

Those earnings had dropped to between $26,250 to $39,250 at the end of last year, with drivers often working longer hours.


Analysis done by the Queensland Taxi License Owners' Association has shown drivers were struggling to make $16 an hour, which was below the national minimum wage.

Ride Share Drivers Association of Australia secretary Les Johnson said low earnings were also common in the rideshare industry, with many drivers not factoring in realistic running costs for their vehicles.

The association has been calling for the introduction of a minimum rideshare fare to ensure drivers can earn a living wage.

Taxi operators have reported that many drivers who left the industry to operate a rideshare vehicle have since returned to driving taxis because they believed they had more earning potential.

The State Government has not collected data on the total number of rides in taxis and rideshare vehicles, however there is near universal agreement in the industry that more people than ever are using private vehicles for point-to-point transport.

But while the number of trips have risen so has the number of drivers, with many targeting peak periods such as Friday and Saturday nights.

Uber and taxi congestion in Albert St, Brisbane CBD
Uber and taxi congestion in Albert St, Brisbane CBD

Arthur Wood, who operated four taxis based at Strathpine, said drivers were so desperate for customers on the weekends that it was "bordering on chaos".

"You've got this ill-disciplined mass of drivers jostling for fares, and it's almost like a medieval carnival watching them on a Friday night or a Saturday night," he said.

"You've got the rideshare drivers who aren't supposed to use ranks, and they're just trawling the streets, driving around and around in circles looking for illicit hails, which they're not allowed to take, but they do take for cash fares, and they're also trying to jostle in to pick up the fares that are booked.

"We are on the verge of a chaotic breakdown, which is not good for passengers."

Uber Queensland state manager Alex Golden said more than 7000 Queenslanders were using the Uber app to earn extra income on their own schedule.

"We want driver-partners to be successful, which is why we are investing in innovations to encourage more riders to choose the app, and proactively share information about when and where the best times to drive are," he said.