Human Interest

Nightlife returns to Beijing with drivers to get drunk patrons home

By Javier Triana

Beijing, Aug 5 (efe-epa).- Zheng was a truck driver in his hometown in the central province of Shanxi before he moved to Beijing five years ago to join the ranks of Dai Jia or substitute drivers.

His job is to wait for someone who has drunk too much alcohol during dinner to hire his services through a mobile application.

He then goes to the restaurant in question on an electric, foldable bicycle which fits inside a car trunk and drives the client home in their car.

“Some customers fall asleep in the car and don’t wake up no matter how much you shake them,” says Zheng.

Mo, another driver who usually operates in central Beijing, describes a similar problem: “Sometimes the customers don’t want to get out of the car, sometimes they get out and sit in the street… and we have to wait for them… We have to make sure that they arrive safely.”

Zheng and Mo are strategically placed outside Hua’s, one of the busiest duck restaurants on the popular Ghost Street in the Chinese capital, which is resuming its usual activities following the easing of the city’s lockdown.

The drivers are from rival companies – Zheng from E-Dai Jia and Mo from Didi DaiJia – but the comradery is clear as it is only a matter of time before they both get behind the wheel.

These drivers usually work from eight in the evening to five in the morning, with Fridays and Saturdays as the busiest nights of the week.

They work at night and sleep during the day, hardly seeing any sunlight.

“It’s not good for your health,” explains Zheng, who still prefers his life as a “drunk” driver to that of a truck driver, as he charges more and works fewer hours.

They earn between 7,000 and 10,000 yuan a month, between 851 and 1,215 euros, not including tips.

In addition to being a well-paid job by local standards, their employment has had a positive impact on road safety.

The Dai Jia industry had succeeded in reducing the number of drunk driving accidents in China by 3.5 million compared to the previous year, according to a report by Tsinghua University published in 2017.

It has also saved around 830,000 people from fines and material losses worth 46.2 billion yuan (5.6 billion euros).

These figures make E-DaiJia’s vice president Zhang Dongpeng proud.

“People can’t drive after drinking alcohol. We are exactly what the market needs,” he tells Efe.

Zhang says around 10 years ago when the company was founded, before the mobile app boom, there were already substitute drivers but they operated through private contacts with restaurants, resulting in high fees and corruption.

Nowadays the sector is closely monitored by authorities.

E-DaiJia operates in 400 Chinese cities and employs half a million drivers.

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