How to be an eco-friendly taxi driver

Whether you’re just starting out or have been behind the wheel of a cab for decades, taxi drivers everywhere are becoming increasingly aware of the need to be eco-friendly. It’s impossible not to be conscious of the fact that this line of business isn’t a typically sustainable one and it’s true that countless trips in a car each day don’t do your carbon footprint any favours. Transport remains the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, after all. 


However, there are multiple ways to be greener as a taxi driver, so you can continue to deliver your services without feeling bogged down with eco-guilt. Lots of these are easy to implement and can become a routine part of your minicab service, just like renewing your taxi insurance or regularly cleaning your car.


Why is it important for taxi drivers to be eco-friendly?


With worries about climate change and its impacts on the environment ever-growing, it’s important for everybody to do their bit. But where other industries have already made some steady progress towards cutting emissions, transport pollution has barely fallen in comparison to the pollution produced by other sectors. In fact, there’s only been a two per cent decrease in transport pollution over the last three decades. Taxi drivers, firms and the wider industry have some catching up to do.


The industry is responding, though, with the environment becoming a much bigger focus in decisions made by both individual drivers and companies in the last few years. For instance, Uber told its London drivers they must use hybrid or fully electric cars by 2020, in a bid to reduce their contribution to air pollution in the capital.


Plus, there’s a good chance that lower carbon initiatives, which are largely voluntary at the moment, will become legal requirements in the future. That’s especially true as pressure on the Department for Transport is on the increase. It’s a sensible idea to stay one step ahead and start taking action now. Otherwise, you risk missing the green wave that’s sweeping the sector and getting left behind.


Being an environmentally-friendly taxi driver is not only good news for the planet, thanks to the reduction in your emissions and fossil fuel usage, it’s kinder on your pocket, too. That’s because lower emissions equal lower running costs, saving you and, potentially your taxi firm, money. Of course, it might take some major investment to get there, but it should be an economically savvy decision for the future.


There is yet another important benefit from a business point of view. You’re meeting the demands of increasingly eco-conscious customers, who are looking to make green choices in every area of their life - the taxis they ride with included. Studies are already finding huge numbers of consumers pushing for sustainability in industries like fashion, and this reflects the wider public mood. Promoting yourself as an eco-friendly cab service could then win you new customers as well as ensure you don’t lose out to competitors who are offering a greener service than you.


With plenty of reasons to motivate you, let’s dive into a handful of specific ways to be an eco-friendly taxi driver and reduce your carbon footprint when you’re out and about.    


Low-emission vehicles


The first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about reducing your carbon footprint as a driver is bound to be which car is best? As you would expect, hybrid and fully electric models top the board for being environmentally friendly. An electric car might be suitable if you generally only offer short distance pick-ups and drop-offs, but if you are a cab that’s relied on for long-distance journeys, a hybrid is a much more practical option until the wider car-charging infrasturcture is properly in place.


Then you have a choice between hybrid and plug-in hybrid to weigh up. The first uses a traditional engine that gets a bit of extra help from an electric motor. A plug-in, on the other hand, relies on an electric motor with the combustion engine kicking in when the battery power is low. This makes plug-ins a superior eco option, with less fuel used, but both are definitely better than your average car in terms of eco friendliness.


The variety of hybrid cars is always on the increase, offering more and more choice for drivers of all kinds. A well-known choice for taxi drivers looking to lower their emissions is the pioneering Toyota Prius, which is frequently featured in top ten lists of the greenest cars. Likewise, the Volkswagen Passat GTE and the Honda Insight are favourites in the industry.


Of course, changing your car might not always be an immediate option. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make eco-friendly changes to your taxi service straight away.


Carbon offsetting


One way to balance out unavoidable carbon emissions is by offsetting. This is when you put money into schemes or organisations dedicated to reducing carbon in other ways, such as planting trees to compensate for deforestation and soak up CO2 or developing clean energy technology. There are plenty of organisations offering this service out there - Carbon Footprint, the World Land Trust and Trees for Life to name a few. Once you decide on the right scheme, there are carbon calculators that work out your emissions based on the number of miles you travel and the amount you need to donate to offset that figure.


Every driver has a carbon footprint, even if you drive a hybrid, so this is something anyone can do on the journey to being carbon neutral. It’s a trend that is growing in the general public, particularly for air travel, but also within the cab community. You might have already read about black taxi firm Gett committing to carbon offsetting alongside their on-demand electric service, making every ride carbon neutral.


Good vehicle maintenance


As well as good fuel economy, the condition is another factor that determines how efficient a car is. Thorough, regular maintenance by the owner is key to great condition. We’re sure that as a professional taxi driver, you’ve already got this covered and are meticulous with servicing your cab. Here’s a quick reminder of a few of the most important factors around vehicle upkeep to consider nonetheless.


Aim to be driving with the optimum tyre pressure as much as you can. When pressure is low, your car uses more power – and therefore more fuel – because of the increased friction, so a properly pumped-up tyre always offers greater efficiency, not to mention safety. It’s one way to make your tread last longer, too. Once a month is usually the recommended frequency for checking tyre pressure, but as you’re going to cover a lot more miles than an average driver, it’s best to do so more regularly.


Topping up your oil is also another fuel-saving action, again because of friction. When there isn’t enough oil to sufficiently lubricate parts in your engine, more fuel is used up to get the car moving. What’s even better is if you can get your hands on re-refined motor oil, which has been recycled and so doesn’t require tapping into fossil fuels. Checking your oil is a good time to look at your air filters, too – if they’re clogged up, replace with new ones to improve your performance and mileage.


Keeping your cab’s operating temperature at the perfect level is yet another way to ensure the best fuel economy, as you can lose a few MPG when it gets too low. Finally, dirty spark plugs can be a cause of fuel wastage, so remember to check regularly and replace if needed. 

During the drive

It’s not just what you drive, but how you drive that affects how eco-friendly your taxi service is. Everything you associate with good driving can reduce fuel consumption and make you a greener driver – think of it as fuel-efficient driving.


First and foremost, you should maintain a steady pace and never speed. Your mileage begins to significantly drop once you reach over 50mph and there’s always the benefit of missing out on unwanted speeding tickets if you stick to the limits. If you have cruise control, make the most of it on flat roads, where it will keep you at a fuel and emission-saving speed.


Avoid heavy acceleration and braking, too, unless absolutely necessary and change gear as early as possible, both up and down. Generally, you know it’s time to shift up if you’re running over 2000rpm or change down if you’re keeping your foot heavily pressed down to maintain your momentum, as we’re sure you’re aware.


A good deal of stopping and starting is the norm for cab drivers. You’re collecting and dropping off passengers throughout the day, sometimes waiting in the same spot for a while, not to mention the time spent stuck in traffic. Starting you car up again uses less fuel than keeping it switched on, so try to opt for cars that have start-stop technology built in.


Aerodynamic drag can bring mileage down by around 5 per cent. To avoid this, use your boot to store customers’ items rather than a roof rack if you can help it, as these are one of the worst causes of drag when loaded up. 


Anything that requires your car battery to work harder also pushes up your fuel usage. Turn off extras like air conditioning and seat warmers to minimise the strain when they’re not absolutely necessary. Obviously, you still want to provide a comfortable service for your passengers, so if they request these be turned on it’s completely understandable to oblige. But leave it for them to ask rather than blasting them preemptively, to keep your eco-conscience clean.


Join a green taxi company


If you’re ready to take a leap somewhere new, joining a taxi company committed to being eco-friendly will mean a chunk of the hard work is done for you or you’ll at least be given a lot of guidance. They invest in low-emission vehicles for drivers to buy or lease, take care of carbon offsetting and can even offer bonuses for smooth, efficient driving.


While perhaps few and far between at the moment, the number of green firms or those with a growing commitment to sustainability is only set to climb. Maybe you could even turn your own business into an eco-friendly firm, if scaling up is a possibility in the near future. We can help you with taxi fleet insurance, should you go down this route. Whether it’s your own business or someone else’s, go green and you’ll get the feel-good factor and extra satisfaction from your work knowing it’s having a positive effect on the planet.


Do your bit outside of work


One of the best ways to be an eco-friendly taxi driver? Be an eco-friendly person in general! Living a low-waste, environmentally considerate lifestyle can only be a good thing, balancing out those miles you stack up in your working life. Consider walking more (when you’re not working!), reducing your food waste, using less single-use plastic and repairing possessions instead of throwing them away, for starters.


Even following just one or two pieces of the above advice for being an eco-friendly taxi driver is a move in the right direction for making the UK’s roads greener and enhancing your cab services. And don’t keep all the tips we’ve shared to yourself – spread the eco-friendly driving knowledge far and wide. Tell your workmates and any friends and family who own cars. Small adjustments by everyone can add up to big changes in the long run.  


Don’t forget your taxi insurance


Whichever of our suggested steps you take, make sure you do it with the right taxi insurance in place. Our team of specialists can help you find a policy geared to your specified requirements and can discuss how a change to a more sustainable vehicle might affect the kinds of premiums you’ll pay. Contact our friendly team to get a quote for taxi insurance today.