Nosipho Gumede
3 minute read
25 Jul 2022

Bolt drivers concerned over safety

Nosipho Gumede

Bolt drivers raise concerns over Bolt South Africa.

Bolt vehicles in Pietermaritzburg.

A group of disgruntled Pietermaritzburg Bolt drivers are concerned about their and their customers’ safety following reports of “ghost” drivers who are part of crime syndicates.

Members of the group, who asked not to be named, have said that they have raised these concerns along with those concerning the price increases with Bolt South Africa, but these have fallen on deaf ears.

“We have asked Bolt SA to at least upgrade their system or app, so we can also see information about the person we are picking up, because we have also become victims to crime.

People request rides, only for us to get robbed and hijacked when we get there,” said one of the drivers.

According to the drivers, Bolt has never replied to any of their requests and suggestions regarding their safety; however, they said, Bolt is very quick to block a driver and stop them from working should a client complain about anything, no matter how small.

“I once picked up a client and she wanted to make a few stops. Obviously, the app adds more money, the longer the trip is, so by the time we got to the destination, the price had increased and the client was not happy about that.

“I tried explaining that it is not me, but the app and she was not happy at all. She ended up paying and gave me a low rating and I was blocked because of that I could not work for a week because I was blocked from the system,” said another.

The Pietermaritzburg drivers said one of their biggest threats is “ghost drivers” who register on the Bolt app, and then use different cars so that they can rob people.

They said this is giving all Bolt drivers a bad name.

The drivers sent a petition to Bolt South Africa on July 11 and they said that they have yet to get a response.

In the petition, the drivers state that the commission percentage that Bolt takes from rides is too high and have asked for it to be reduced or the parties agree on a regulated monthly fee.

Meanwhile, Bolt SA country manager, Takura Malaba has said that driver safety is a top priority for the company, and that they unequivocally condemn any violence of any form directed towards ride-hailing passengers or drivers.

“Bolt continues to look for ways to make e-hailing safer for everybody, in consultation with the SAPS, the Department of Transport, drivers and other stakeholders,” said Malaba.

He added that they are continuously developing safety features and tools that have a real impact on addressing the safety concerns of drivers and passengers.

“This includes a partnership with Namola via an in-app integrated SOS emergency button that shares the driver’s details and location with Namola’s 24/7 call centre, and then deploys private security and emergency services immediately.

“Drivers that want extra peace of mind can purchase a Namola physical button that is separate to their mobile phone, that can be kept on their person,” said Malaba.

He said that Bolt shares information from Namola and other sources about danger hotspots with drivers, and drivers can decline a trip if they are concerned about the safety of the pick-up location.

Malaba added that drivers can decline a trip if they are concerned for their safety, without fear of penalty.

Malaba said that drivers are only suspended for a very limited number of reasons, with suspensions based on data gathered over time, and implemented based on the platform’s algorithms.