China’s Didi adds driver training program to counter sharp decline in rides

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing company by number of users, has been struggling to recover from a major setback following the deaths of two passengers earlier this year. On Wednesday, its founder and CEO Cheng Wei released a letter detailing the company’s moves to step up safety oversight and meet new government rules, including a training program for drivers.

The SoftBank-backed transportation giant, which acquired Uber’s China-based service in 2016 and was last valued at $56 billion, has been hit by a shortage of rides as regulators slashed stricter licensing requirements on drivers in the aftermath of the murders.

A number of Didi drivers with whom TechCrunch recently spoke said they were considering quitting because the cost of compliance outweighs the return. Drivers need to, for instance, study and pass an exam to obtain the desired papers. They also must register their car as a commercial vehicle and scrap it after eight years.

To attract drivers, Didi plans to offer training sessions and help them legalize, according to Cheng.

“We look forward to helping tens of millions of drivers to reach compliance goals and continue to work with us to meet the mobility demands of users and achieve sustainable long-term growth of the industry,” the CEO says in a statement.

There are still a large number of illegal rideshare drivers on the road, China’s Ministry of Transportation said during a joint meeting with the country’s internet security agency and other government organs on Wednesday. But that may change as soon as January 1 when Didi starts to ban unlicensed drivers from taking orders.

Other safety measures that Didi has taken include a continued suspension of its once popular carpooling service — which is linked to the passenger murders — Cheng announced today.

Didi isn’t the only ride-hailing firm facing increased regulatory scrutiny. During the government meeting, the Ministry of Transportation also lambasted smaller players, including state-owned Shouyue, Meituan Dianping’s ride-hailing app and Alibaba’s AutoNavi, for lax safety practices.