These are exciting and challenging times for the taxi industry. Never has there been so much competition for customers, as many people take advantage of more freely available taxi services, which are much more convenient and reasonably priced than a decade ago.
The main driver behind the rapid changes in the market is technology.
A wide-ranging report by Dr. Marcus Enich from Loughborough University outlines the key developments in the PHV sector: “(Businesses) have for some time been evolving in larger cities, with the market growing significantly as app-based bookings become an increasingly important element in delivering efficiency benefits.
There are now a wide range of equipment and systems available for managing every aspect of a taxi business, whatever its size. The three main elements to these systems are:
It can seem bewildering for the uninitiated when it comes to selecting the best option for you, as many businesses have entered the market in the last few years.
In fact, these kinds of business management suites have now become common, not only in the taxi sector but also in many other areas of business activity.This includes pubs, coffee shops, garages and all manner of small businesses.
Here we’ll take a more in-depth look at some of the software available taxi fleets and highlight the benefits they can bring.
Fleet management is the business function of ensuring the smooth running of a group of commercial vehicles. This includes maintenance, level of productivity and efficiency improvements to keep costs as low as possible. They also make sure that the business’s activities are totally compliant with any relevant legislation or regulations.
At its most general, logistics is the science of detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. When it comes to taxi businesses, it’s similar to the logistics behind every large company which uses a fleet of vehicles to transport its products – the activity of getting cargo (or passengers, in our case) from point A to point B. Nowadays, however, there are several variables:
Telematics is what enables drivers and fleet managers to operate their vehicles efficiently.
Defined as the branch of IT concerned with the long-distance transmission of computerized data, telematics uses sensors to monitor parameters related to vehicle performance, like engine temperature, idling engine time, tyre pressure, and fuel usage.
This data is stored and sent to the fleet manager, who can then act on it to make adjustments or take action as required.
These could include an alert about an imminent technical problem or lack of pressure in a particular tyre.
Timely action on these alerts could mean the difference between keeping the business up and running or having to deal with a series of breakdowns, or even accidents – both of which can have costly consequences.
The vast majority of fleet management software is labelled as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This means you are not buying the software as such, but rather ‘leasing’ it from a provider.
It’s the SaaS company that actually hosts the suite of applications you ‘borrow’, and these are available from the cloud, which means you can access them from any browser, on any device, at any time.
Many systems are licence-based, so you simply sign up for the number of licences you need, and your users log in.
A high-quality taxi dispatch system provides the operator with a range of tools that effectively manage the entire dispatch process. The more advanced (and more expensive) taxi software systems will provide real-time reporting, updates and other features like tracking of vehicle locations.
All fleet management software has an overview of all the functionalities provided on a dashboard (or portal) to manage the administrative tasks, the main aim being to significantly reduce paperwork. The system tracks and stores each job dispatched in the fleet and allows for customisation of invoice specifications and driver pay.
Customers can rate drivers and leave a short review, so a driver with a high rating will establish a competitive advantage over those with lower scores. This obviously incentivises drivers to raise their performance level and creates healthy competition among the fleet.
To monetize the network, many systems ensure that fleet drivers accept the agreed rules, commission percentage and contractual terms when they sign up to the fleet. Drivers submit their bank account information in the driver app to ensure smooth payment of commission. As they do their shifts, they add data for payments in and out for each job. The system calculates a summary of payment using the number of jobs completed and can even auto process the commissions and pay-outs. Drivers can also add payment and pay-out data.
‘White label’ means full ownership of your app and the attraction of being able to brand the app with your company’s logo and slogan. The online booking facilities these apps provide also permit the customer to book a journey from other linked websites on social media. Where the driver is concerned, a customised app allows them to screen booking, accept jobs, view GPS positioning maps and check customer ratings.
Most fleet management software will be able to leverage all the data the fleet generates by using analytics. This helps managers to make more strategic decisions on how to make the fleet more profitable, identifying peak times and areas for jobs and how to achieve greater fuel efficiency.
Some systems can generate promotions and special offers to boost customer loyalty. It does this by using push notifications and SMS messages. So, for example, the manager could push discounted journeys at quieter times of day (or during the year at specified times) or could even offer a form of loyalty scheme for regular customers. As with any other business, the aim is to enhance customer loyalty and maintain and expand the customer base.
At particularly busy times, or peak hours, where demand outstrips supply, surge charging can automatically be applied. A multiplier to the standard fare scale is displayed, so for example, if the multiplier displays 1.8x, a £10 fare will become £18.
This gives the fleet manager instant access to stats – mileage, booking volumes, loss-making and profit-making areas of the business.
Fuelling a taxi fleet can be very expensive, especially if the majority of driving is done in the stop-start environment of a busy city. If fuel is being used on an as-needed basis, it’s critically important to keep up with individual vehicles and driver performance, so the dashboard should indicate a real-time overview of fuel usage across the fleet. Once again, the use of telematics technology offers such features as optimising journey routing (in real-time, heavy traffic conditions). Moreover, engine monitoring will often have a cost-saving outcome.
You want technical support 24/7 so that the system always stays up or at least suffers only minimum disruption.
Poorly maintained vehicles obviously put drivers at risk on the road. A fleet management system can provide information about safety alerts so vehicles run safely, and drivers are not put at any unnecessary risk. Of course, safety is one of the biggest reasons why you should also make sure you’ve arranged taxi fleet insurance to cover your entire fleet.
We’ve seen the words ‘monitoring’ and ‘tracking’ a number of times. For the company, the driver and the customer, safety has measurably improved. Systems are now equipped with advanced monitoring tools and support for tracking specifically designed for the taxi industry. Moreover, as awareness of safety precautions when hailing a taxi has been heightened over recent years, using taxis as opposed to public transport is becoming a more attractive and competitively-priced option.
Systematic dispatch systems help to reduce the risk of car accidents and unnecessary or excessive maintenance. GPS technology makes it extremely easy to monitor vehicle safety and control costs.
Happy drivers are key to the success of your taxi business and a fleet manager needs to do all they can to help. The software suites enable the driver to concentrate on core competence rather than needing to worry about time-consuming paperwork. Hopefully, this makes a qualitative difference to the driver’s shift.
With the advent of fleet management software, gone are the days of handwritten timesheets. Information can now be completed and standardised across all employees, so potential discrepancies are much easier to spot.
On most company websites for taxi fleet management, you are invited to submit information to receive a quote for your particular business.
It’s difficult to give an average cost, as it does depend on the size of the fleet you manage and the nature and extent of the business.
The payment terms are scalable (so you can get more functionalities for more vehicles and the bigger you get, the more you pay for the service) and are generally offered on a monthly subscription basis.
This is actually a convenient way for many managers of smaller fleets to spread the cost across the year.
The pricing can vary, and you will find different methods used such as:
Whatever product you choose, you’ll need to assess their qualities and features but pay careful attention to their pricing structure so that you don’t end up paying for functionality you don’t need.
Determining the best taxi fleet management software is very much in the eye of the beholder, as it depends on the size of the fleet, the budget you have, and the functionalities that will be useful for your particular circumstances.
Be aware that most providers ask for personal and business information when offering to send you a quote for a bespoke service, but they will be using that information to focus on what they perceive as your precise needs.
Below is a list of some of the most well-known providers out there. It’s not intended as an endorsement, more an idea of the types of companies available.
MT Data is one of the biggest providers worldwide and they offer bespoke services.
Autocab Driver Companion is an example of a stand-alone driver app (although the company also offers a wrap-around service package).
Ghost Cloud Premium Package is, as the name suggests, intended to be a catch-all software solution to fleet management, but here’s a good example of why it pays to read reviews from actual users before committing to a particular product.
Smart Car offers a clone of an Uber-like taxi-hailing app.
Fleet management software is an essential tool for any taxi manager hoping to compete realistically in a market where customer expectations have changed radically in a relatively short space of time.
But one thing has stayed the same – the need for good taxi fleet insurance.
Here at Taxi Insurer, we are specialists at finding the right taxi fleet insurance cover for your circumstances. Feel free to get in touch with us so we can assess your needs.