Few hearts would not have been warmed this week by the story of the Uber driver who came to the rescue of an American couple who arrived during Cyclone Debbie last month. Landing at Auckland after a 20-hour flight from Minneapolis, they learned their flight to Wellington for a business meeting had been grounded by the weather in the capital.
They sell software for medical and dental practices and the meeting could not easily be rescheduled. They checked bus and train services, taxis and flights to other cities. None of them would get the couple to Wellington on time. Around midnight, in desperation, they tried Uber.
They reached Harpal Kang who was already at the end of his shift. "I thought I would take one last shift," he later told the Herald, "but when I talked to them they said, 'We need to get to Wellington, can you drive all night?'"
He did, driving through the filthy night with his customer, Matt Kottke, in the front passenger seat helping to look out for flooding on the roads. His wife Lisa in the back seat. Flooding reduced many of the roads to one lane in places but he made it, doing the 650km in nine and a half hours. They made it to the meeting with just 30 minutes to spare.
Kang took the job knowing he could not get a return fare. His Uber contract applied only in Auckland. He left an American couple with the highest regard for New Zealanders.
Few hearts would not have been warmed but those few made their feelings known when the story was published on Wednesday. They seized on the fact he had been at the end of his shift and therefore must have driven beyond the permitted hours without the required rest period. The NZ Transport Agency has been under pressure from taxi drivers to hold Uber to the same rules they face and NZTA has told him it would decide in the next two weeks whether he faces a fine or court proceedings.
This is madness. All regulations need to be applied with common sense. No rule can cover all situations. This rule exists for the safety of passengers. In this case the passengers would have been well aware they were asking the driver to make a tiring trip and their safety could be left to their own judgment.
NZTA should use its discretion and give this man a medal.