Eight Ordinary Drivers' Attitude Towards Stricter Rules For Chinese Online Ride-Hailing Market And Their Stories
摘要： What's the attitude of ordinary drivers for online ride-hailing platforms towards the draft regulations released by Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou? How will the draft regulations affect their life? How did they become drivers for online ride-hailing platforms? Do they regret making the decision? What alternatives do they still have? Who will benefit from the draft regulations?
On October, 8th, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou announced the draft regulations on online ride-hailing platforms. Among them, Beijing and Shanghai municipal government said that only people with local residency registrations—called hukou—can apply to be drivers on online ride-hailing apps. Owing to the stricter rules, many drivers might be left in an awkward situation and become unemployed. What’s the attitude of ordinary drivers for online ride-hailing platforms? What stories do they have? In this article, we record some stories between drivers with or without local “hukou” and online ride-hailing platforms.
From Cangzhou, Hebei Province, with Beijing license plate, a Didi driver
I guess Mr. Wang should have been a very nice man. When I stopped his Lavida car near Chaoyang Joy City at 23 o’clock, he just picked up a passenger via Didi and could just leave. However, he stopped the car, listened to me patiently, gave me his phone number and said to me he would contact me the other day.
However, when we met next day, he was so excited and kept throwing harsh words at Didi and the government. When hearing of the news from a push notification sent by the navigation app Amap, he became so shocked that he just “go blank”.
However, he didn’t think he was angry. Instead, he just said: “As if my heart sank.”
Mr. Wang, aged 40, is from Cangzhou, Hebei Province. It has been two decades since he moved to Beijing as a migrant worker in the 1990s. He used to do automobile parts business in south fourth ring, but as business soured and his wife was pregnant, he decided to move back to hometown.
It was not until the beginning of this year that he heard online ride-hailing platforms, took back his Beijing license plate, borrowed some money from relatives and bought a Lavida.
However, it turned out that subsidy for drivers declined several times since he started driving for the online hide-railing platforms. Mr. Wang is quite familiar with the road in Beijing, so he could pick up passengers and finish orders very effectively. At first, Mr. Wang could earn a subsidy of over a hundred yuan. However, the subsidy soon dropped to half a hundred yuan and then to zero. For him, Didi’s attitude about subsidy is very clear: you can drive and pick up orders as you like, but if you don’t want to do it anymore, that’s also okay.
However, Mr. Wang didn’t have much choice. His wife had heart disease and stayed at home most of the time, so she couldn’t work and earn some extra money. His son was in fourth grade at a primary school in his hometown, while his daughter just graduated from middle high school and went along with him to Beijing. Yet, when he was still trying to get her daughter into a senior high school, he was going to lose his own job.
Mr. Wang was okay with working hard every day. After all, he could still earn some money. He did some calculations: if he started picking orders at 10 o’clock in the morning, and came back home at 2 o’clock in the morning, he could complete almost twenty to thirty orders during these hours and earned around five hundred yuan. However, he had to put some of the money to pay for Didi the platform fee, gas bill as well as his own lunch and dinner. At last, he could earn around 200 yuan for his family every day.
Oops, he still needed to pay for the rent, which is around 10 yuan per day.
He didn’t think he would turn to other online ride-hailing platforms such as Uber, believing that as long as he could complete orders on Didi as many as possible, he’s already done his best.
After living in Beijing for around twenty years, Mr. Wang has become quite familiar with the road, so he could pick up riders and drive them to their destination more effectively than drivers who can only rely on navigation APPs. When the central government legalized online ride-hailing services, he even thought over the possibility to drive for online ride-hailing platforms as his full-time job and pay back his loan for buying the car.
However, when the draft regulations were announced, he realized how easily he could become unemployed. Although he had a Beijing license, and his car met the basic requirement for vehicle capacity, size as well as specific length measuring from the front of the car to the rear wheels, he don’t have the Beijing hukou. “The Beijing municipal government’s message is quite clear: non-Beijingers aren’t allowed to drive for online ride-hailing platforms,” he said, obviously unpleased with the new regulation.
Mr. Wang didn’t know who he could rely on. Up till now, Didi hasn’t issued any announcement to drivers. “I guess they are still busy improving public relationship with local governments, and still don’t have time to deal with us,” Mr. Wang complained. In a WeChat group with many drivers for online ride-hailing platforms, many drivers complained about Didi and even said they were almost set up by Didi.
“Now that the government has released the draft regulation, you should all get prepared and try to find something else to do. What else can you do, after all? Taxi drivers can go on a strike to voice their opinions, but we can’t, since online ride-hailing service is not even recognized by the government.”
Many Didi drivers have already found their way out. Some drivers would continue to pick up passengers, though illegally. Mr. Wang, however, didn’t dare to do so, fearing that he might face a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 yuan (around $2,968 to $7,421) once he was caught.
If it turned out that he really couldn’t pick up orders via Didi anymore, then Mr. Wang would have no choice but to sell the car. However, he was worried that he might have to sell the car at a price 40,000 yuan lower than the original price, since the car traveled over 40,000 kilometers in total within half a year, which is far too much for a normal private car.
This means that he ended up earning nothing for the past half year. He might even lose some money at last. At this point, I thought he was going to unleash his anger by smearing Didi, yet he didn’t. All he said is:
“Now that I am not welcome here, I will be welcome elsewhere.”
From Chengde, Hebei Province, with Heibei license plate, a Yidao driver
I used to be a crane driver. I didn't go to school for a long time, and became a driver at the age of sixteen. It has been thirteen years since then. How time flies.
Before I began to pick up orders via online ride-hailing platforms, I drove cranes at construction sites and moved concrete around the site.
However, the construction business in Beijing soured this year. In the past, real estate developers often built as many as ten buildings once; today, however, there were few construction projects within the fourth ring. Even if there were projects, developers would only build one building once, and build another when the first building was already sold out.
I worked for the construction company for five or six years also, so I wouldn’t be fired even if the company downsized. However, I was already so tired of the work since I had to work overtime day in and day out sometimes. I was fed up with the job.
So I quitted the job almost on impetus. Afterwards, many friends of mine suggested that I could drive for Didi. I loved the idea since the work time is very flexible, but I could still earn quite some money. Around 300 to 400 yuan, I was told by my friends.
However, I never expected that I would reach this point. At first, I pick up orders with a car from my relative. However, the cars so shabby, and I felt so tired after around ten days. Thus, I decided to buy a 1.8T Passat with a loan at around 200,000 yuan (around $29,694).
I admit that I am a little lazy. Now that nobody forced me to work, I became very easy on myself. So I would have a rest as I like and pick up some orders from time to time. I heard that many drivers would drive for fifteen hours every day, but I already felt exhausted after driving for twelve hours.
Later on, a friend of mine recommended me to drive also for Yidao. I thought I would feel less exhausted if I have a better car, so I made up my mind and bought the Passat with a loan. I loaned 110,000 yuan (around $16,326) in total, and pay back all the money within three years, so I need to pay around 3,000 yuan a month, that is, around 100 yuan a day. On average, I can earn 170 yuan by driving for online ride-hailing platforms.
I found that it was indeed much easier to drive for Yidao. Since Yidao’s users can afford to pay more money to enjoy better riding experience, drivers could earn much money per order. Mostly, I could earn 50 to 60 or even 100 yuan per order. Yidao’s drivers wouldn’t even bother to accept orders they could only earn around 20 yuan at last.
I seldom chatted with passengers, so many Yidao’s users would leave comments such as “Not talkative” when reviewing my service. Compared to Didi, Yidao attached higher importance to service. So we drivers were supposed to serve passengers very politely. For example, after we’ve arrived at the destination, we are supposed to get out of the car and help passengers open the door and bow to them. I never felt accustomed to acting this way.
At present, I could complete as much as 10 orders and earn around 300 to 400 yuan every day. If I drive for Didi, I will have to complete more orders every day and drive almost for the entire day and earn at last around 200 to 400 yuan. A friend of mine pick up orders with a BMW New Six car, drive for around 10 hours and can earn around 1,000 yuan every day.
I first came to know the fraft regulations in a WeChat Group. Many drivers in the WeChat Group were Yidao drivers. Most of us had Beijing license plate, but few of us had Beijing hukou (three out of one hundred). The majority of drivers in the WeChat Group didn’t have Beijing hukou. So many of them would complain a lot in the WeChat Group.
In fact, it matters a lot if you have a Beijing license plate or not, since most orders fall within the second ring. Withouth a Beijing license plate, it is very difficult to pick up passengers around this area.
If the frafy regulations were indeed carried out, then I will be left in a very awkward situation. Maybe I can drive in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, since they don’t forbid drivers without local hukou to drive for online ride-hailing platforms. Maybe I can go back to Shijiazhuang, Heibei Province. But I am afraid I will have to drive for Didi, since few people can afford to use Yidao.
If Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen all forbid drivers without local hukou to drive for online ride-hailing platforms, then I really don't know what I can do. I don’t think I can become a “black taxi” (private vehicles illegally carrying passengers for money) driver and pick up orders illegally.
If draft regulations were carried out, I guess the entire online ride-hailing market would sour. I still didn’t tell my family because I really don’t know how to tell them.
Yidao has already responded that it would follow the new regulation. How could Yidao do that? I am still looking forward to seeing Didi’s official response.
From Beijing, with Beijing license plate, a Didi driver
Within twenty-four hours after the draft regulations were released, Mr. Duan had already received lots of messages. Everybody had his or her own opinion. For me, Mr. Duan was quite calm compared to other drivers. When I asked him what he would do if he can’t drive for Didi anymore, he listed three options for me in a very rational manner.
a) Help out with his wife’s beaut salon business;
b) Driving bus;
c) Become a “black taxi” driver.
For him, if he really decided to choose the third option, then he was “almost forced by the government”.
It was quite a coincidence that Mr. Duan, as a Beijinger, began to drive for Didi. Several years ago, he used to drive buses for a while. He had to drive a long time, but he could earn little money at that time.
Later on, his wife began to do jewelry business, so he decided to quit the job and maintain a small shop together with his wife. However, as the economy went downward, they found it hard to maintain the shop anymore. So they decided to sell the shop at last.
To earn the bread for the family, Mr. Duan also became a “black taxi” driver for a while. However, there were certain invisible rules in the circle. For every area, there were a certain group of “black taxi” drivers. It could be really hard for a new entrant to fit in. Mr. Duan never worried about such problem, since he also knew quite a few people in Beijing, and there were enough orders for all “black taxi” drivers.
Sometimes, other “black taxi” drivers would ask him to leave and pick up passengers elsewhere. He never bothered to argue with them. “There’s no need. Now that they don’t what me there, I can just leave. It’s no big deal,” he explained.
When Didi first emerged, he felt as if he could finally pick up passengers “legally”. As a matter of fact, drivers who joined Didi at first were mostly “black taxi” drivers, so they knew each other quite well. For them, they used to believe that they finally got the chance to pick up passengers legally.
At first, he didn’t bother to sign up. However, as more and more people did so, and his wife’s business still didn’t improve, he decided buy a new car and sign up to be a driver on online ride-hailing platforms. However, he already missed the golden time when drivers could earn quite a fortune with subsidies. Later on, as subsidy continued to go down, he could only earn a net profit of around 5,000 yuan every month.
After the draft regulations were released, many drivers became worried about their future. Although drivers like Mr. Duan, who were very familiar with the road in Beijing, have Beijing hukou as well as license plate, the engine displacement of their cars was only 1.5L. However, according to the draft regulations, only vehicles with a displacement of 2.0L and above can be used to drive for online ride-hailing platforms. All of a sudden, it seemed that they were going to become unemployed.
Mr. Duan had already thought over the issue. Compared to drivers who almost bet on online ride-hailing platforms, he still had other alternatives. After all, he could still pick up passengers just like before, but just “illegally”.
Mr. Duan quite sympathized with drivers without Beijing hukou, saying that “Why should the government get them unemployed all of a sudden when they didn’t do anything wrong?”
When I asked him if he thought they should go back to their hometown, so that the city would became less crowded, he said: “What do you expect them to do when they go back to their hometown. After all, they are not well-educated. Most people in their hometown basically do nothing every day.”
His wife was busy doing weight loss business in the past two years and already rented an office and some partners. After all, he could just join her, drive buses or became a “black taxi” driver and picked up passengers “illegally”.
From Handan, Heibei Province, with Heibei license plate, a Didi driver
Mr. Yang had already waited for around 40 minutes at the gate of blue harbor before he accepted my order and I got on the car at 03:45 PM, October, 9th. Soon after we started, he told me that he received a message from Didi, saying that he had to be responsible for himself and take care of something…
Obviously, he was talking about the requirement set out by the draft regulations.
By the time I got on this car, he had already earned around 50 yuan. He earned inly 80 yuan the day, though he drove for 15 hours. Two years ago, he could earn 30,000 (around $4,452) a month. “At that time, I would buy a couple of smartphones, send requests and accept orders all by myself. All I need to do is bring all my smartphones and drive for a while,” he recalled.
From Shannxi Province, with Shannxi license plate, a Didi driver
Mr. Yue, aged 39, didn’t have the same luck. He moved from Shanxi Province to Beijing in 2013. During last year’s Spring Festival, a guy from his hometown told Mr. Yue that he earned over 10,000 yuan a month. So Mr. Yue made up his mind and bought a Chevrolet Cruze at 80,000 yuan. At first, he drove for Yidao. A month later, he turned to Uber, but soon he turned to Didi a week later.
“Many drivers have stopped driving for Didi and accept orders. Haven’t you found out that there are increasing number of ‘black taxis’ these days around Dawang Bridge area? At night, that area is now packed with ‘black taxis’,” he added.
After Mr. Yue moved to Beijing, his first job was to drive cement tank truck. The company would take care of meals and accommodation, and he also had “five insurances”. He was supposed to load the cement tank truck, drive to the construction site, wait and rest for a while and load another truck and so forth.
Although the basic salary was only 2,000 yuan, he could get a bonus for every trip can earn 5,000 to 6,000 yuan a month. Besides, he could take a day off every other day. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt later. “The construction business is already quite saturated in Beijing. When many projects were shut down due to environmental reasons, many company couldn’t maintain anymore, so they went bankrupt,” he explained.
Mr. Yue told me that he only drove for eight hours and earn 200 to 300 yuan every day. At first, he chose Yidao because the fellow man from his hometown told him that the basic price was higher and it was more cost-efficient. For a while, he could earn a net profit of 700 yuan every day after paying a gasoline bill of around 200 yuan. Later on, as many deliverymen began to drive for online ride-hailing platforms and Yidao’s users could select car types when hailing cars, his business soured because his car wasn’t competitive enough.
So he turned to Uber and Didi. However, he could only earn 500 to 600 yuan every day after paying a gasoline bill of 200 yuan. Another reason he turned to Didi was that Didi would cover the fine once he was caught by the traffic police.
“A friend of mine was fined 8,000 yuan by the traffic police. It would take me two months to earn 8,000 yuan. I don’t want to take the same risk.”
For a while, he could complete 20 to 30 orders every day; now, however, he could complete at most 10 orders. “From 09:00AM to 01:00PM, I only completed 6 orders and earned less than 100 yuan. After Didi and Uber merged, orders reduced a lot. Worse still, Didi would take 20 per cent of the money as platform fee,” he explained.
When he could complete 20 to 30 orders every day, Mr. Yue could also receive a subsidy of around 100 yuan or even 200 yuan every day. “Basically, the subsidy can cover my gasoline bill. This means if I earn 300 yuan that day, I can get all the money… After the merger, however, Didi stopped to give any more subsidy,” he recalled.
Mr. Yue predicted that after draft regulations were carried out, only rich people could afford to use online ride-hailing platforms. “According to the draft regulations, I should charge at least 200 yuan if I pick up a passenger from Chaoyang Joy City and drove to the Beijing International Airport, since the cost was around 70 or 80 yuan,” he explained.
From Heibei Province, with Beijing license plate, a Didi driver
Mr. Zhang came from Hebei Province and he had a Beijing license plate. According to him, many driver friend of his had become designated car driver. They could still earn 8,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan that way. However. Mr. Zhang didn’t think so. “Even if I join a designated car driver company, I could earn at most 5,000 to 6,000 yuan every month,” he told me.
“Few people with Beijing hukou wouldn’t bother to drive for an entire day and earn around 5,000 yuan a month,” Mr. Zhang said, “They are not lacking in money. Even if some Beijingers joined, they only take it as a part-time job. I often see drivers who sat around their cars and play card games such as ‘Fight the Landlord’. When it’s time to have lunch or dinner, they would just get offline and go home.”
“This is unfair for people without Beijing hukou,” he murmured, stopped for a while, and then repeated, “Not fair… Why should the government make a distinction between people with and without Beijing hukou? Beijing belongs to China, not merely Beijingers. Can the local government of my hometown forbid Beijingers from doing anything because they don’t have the local hukou? Of course not!”
Nevertheless, Mr. Zhang was thinking over the possibility to go back to his hometown. However, his wife didn’t agree. “She’s been working as a homemaking nanny for the family for three years. They treat us very well. Our kid is 17 years old and studying at a vocational college at Xi’an. My wife is thinking that we could wait for our kid to graduate and find a decent job, so we don't need to feed him anymore. At present, I give him 1,500 yuan every month, but he always complained to me that he often felt hungry. He loves playing basketball, so he has a very good appetite. Food price is also rising. It takes as much as twenty to thirty yuan to ear a bowl of noodles and two Chinese hambergers…”
From Beijing, with Beijing license plate, a driver for some “Zhuanche” platform
I met Mr. Gou at a restaurant called “Northeastern Family”. He is a Beijinger and helped me find a few other drivers with Beijing hukou.
After the dished were all served, including Mixed Cold Dishes, Cabbage and Boiled Pork, Stewed Chick with Mushroom, etc., Mr. Gou asked me if he could start to complain:
As long as you are using a private car to pick up someone and charge them after the trip, traffic police will fine you, whether you use Didi or other online ride-hailing platforms or not.
This is what traffic police do now. They keep on guard in places such as Beijing West Railway Station, Beijing Railway Station, Beijing South Railway Station, Beijing International Airport and Beijing Nanyuan Airport where people use online ride-hailing platforms the most.
I used to work in a bus company. In 2001, I sold tickets at Bus Line 757. Later on, I changed to Bus Line 405 and 403. I learned to drive then and drive buses for around two years. In March, 2014, I quitted the job. I became bored after working in the bus company and was thinking about finding something else to do. That’s why I ended up here, driving for an online ride-hailing platform.
There isn’t much difference between online ride-hailing platforms, whether it’s Yidao, Shenzhou or Didi. At first, I could earn around 10,000 yuan every month. But gradually, as more drivers joined, every driver would accept less orders.
Besides, I can’t just drive on the road and pick up passengers. Unlike taxi, we don’t have lamps glowing on the top All we can do is wait. If lucky, we can accept an order every several minutes; however, sometimes, we could wait for an entire morning and accept no order. In addition, the traffic police don’t care if you use online ride-hailing platforms or not, and would fine us 30,000 yuan once we are caught.
I work for a car rental company and the car I drive belongs to the company. In case my car is caught, the company would help us take care of it.
If the company maintains a very good relationship with the traffic police, then we can get back the car within a day. The draft regulations you mentioned won’t have much effect on us.
If I drive all day, I can complete around ten orders. If I only accept orders during the rush hour (07:00 to 10:00 in the morning and 17:00 to 19:00 in the afternoon), I can complete four to five orders. I can get a subsidy of around 20 yuan for every order I completed during the rush hour.
The only problem with our company is that there aren’t enough orders. Didi is certainly the dominant online ride-hailing platform in China. At present, I can earn 4,000 to 5,000 yuan every month. My wife work for 718 Factory and can only earn around 2,000 yuan every month. I don’t want her to keep that job anymore. It’s completely a waste of time. However, she doesn’t think so, saying that we still need to pay the kindergarten fee for our kid.
I also want to buy a car of my own earn some extra money, but I haven’t got my license plate yet, though three years have passed since I registered. My wife also registered, but both of us haven’t got the luck. One night, I even had a dream about getting the license plate finally.
After a while, Mr. Gou’s friends finally came, saying “What are we supposed to talk about? We have already started drinking baijiu, or white wine, but I got your message”. They didn’t accept much order this morning, so after several rounds of toasts, they began to rubble their eyes and share with me their understandings of the draft regulations.
From Beijing, with Beijing license plate, a driver for some “Zhuanche” platform
The following is Mr. Liu's story:
I believe it’s a good thing both for me and for passengers. I have Beijing hukou, Beijing license plate and the size and engine displacement of my car meet the basic requirement set out by the draft regulations. For me, I might have more orders to accept; for passengers, it would be safer to have a Beijinger as driver after all.
I worked as a real estate agent for three years. For a while, I can earn 10,000 yuan every month. However, the business soured badly since last year. At that time, my brother advised me that I could become a driver for online ride-hailing platforms. I thought for a while and find that in terms of Zhuanche business, the harder I work, the more I can earn.
I often met drivers who drive almost around the clock. They have quilts and food along with the car, and earn 10,000 to 20,000 yuan every month. However, most of them are not Beijinger. Few Beijinger would bother to work so hard. For people without Beijing hukou, the more they earn, the better. Still, these drivers work so hard and rest so little, so it could be not safe enough sometimes.
For Beijingers, it’s okay to just earn enough money to support everyday life. At present, I can earn 6,000 to 7,000 yuan every month, while my wife do clothes business and can also earn 6, 000 7 ,000 yuan monthly. Together, we need to support our kid for pay for his school fee. Basically, our salary is enough to support our life. I won’t ruin my health by doing the job. Since our house is relocated, we’ve got a house and a car. Therefore, we don’t need to work as hard as people without Beijing hukou.
Safety and comfort are the most important things for us. Passengers can also trust us. If you hail a car and find the driver to be a Beijinger, you would certainly feel very homey. Suppose if your driver is from Northeastern China or Henan Province, what would you think? They are certainly not as familiar as us about the road in Beijing.
When foreign tourists come to Beijing, it would also be great if they find their drivers are Beijingers. They are more familiar with local food and culture, so they can recommend to them what places of interests are fun to visit, what restaurant has the best Beijing food and highest discount. Besides, since they don’t need navigation app, they can drive tourists to their destination more quickly.
For him, there can’t be a better thing to have drivers who are Beijingers.
Written by: Xiaofeiren, Hu Xin, Zuo Heng, Wu Xinyi
Photographed by: Cui Shen
Interviewed by: Xiaofeiren, Hu Xin, Zuo Heng, Wu Xinyi, Cui Shen
Edited by: Xi Weian
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Bowangzhii please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.