It’s 2009, and your minicab office calls you with a booking. You check out your brand new sat-nav, put a CD in your stereo, and head off to pick up your passenger.
What a difference a decade makes!
Few professions have been more affected by the passing years than taxi drivers, who’ve seen technology transform their industry. So what are the main changes, and what’s driving them?
There’s no getting around it: there are more cabs on the streets now.
Since Uber launched in New York in 2010, it has disrupted the industry internationally and spreading to more and more cities across the UK.
The good news is that a study by Oxford University found that apps such as Uber hadn’t driven other cab drivers out of business but had instead expanded the market, creating more jobs. The bad news? According to the survey, drivers’ wages have dropped.
But there is still money to be made in cab driving.
So how do you stay streets ahead of the competition? Good service never goes out of fashion. Stand out from the crowd by being reliable and courteous, and your reputation should soon be winning you bookings.
Word-of-mouth is still important, though these days, that might take place on social media. A Facebook page for your firm can work wonders – particularly if you have loyal customers ready to leave five-star reviews and share your posts!
And get in gear for the next big trend. Think about what your customers might want and stay tuned for digital developments.
A decade is a long time in the car industry. Perhaps the most important change has been the rise in electric, hybrid and other ultra-low emission vehicles.
As environmental concerns grow, some local authorities, such as Bristol, now issue hackney carriage licences only to such vehicles. Diesel cabs are banned in some areas, too: check your local authority website for details.
In 2009, the London congestion charge was already in place. Now, in 2019, you’ll have to contend with the Ulez charge, too if you’re driving a cab in the capital – unless your vehicle is ultra low emission, in which case it’s exempt.
Another area of rapid change for the good has been in disability rights.
In 2017, it became illegal for wheelchair accessible taxis to discriminate against wheelchair users by refusing to take or assist them, or charging them extra. Sadly, many disabled people still experience problems.
But most private hire vehicles are now wheelchair accessible, particularly in London and other cities. Some newer black cabs are also fitted with induction loops and intercoms for hearing aid users.
Whichever vehicle you choose, you can still buy or lease. It’s your livelihood, so make sure you get the very best taxi insurance.
Back in 2009, being a taxi driver outside of London meant waiting for calls. Customers would call your office, who would phone or radio you to find out if you were free.
Apps like Uber are changing all that. Nowadays, no passenger wants to be on hold while your staff field Friday night calls. While minicabs can still be booked by calling up, and hackney carriages hailed on the street, apps are now leading the way for convenience.
Gone are the days of opening an A to Z, checking a bulky sat-nav, or asking the customer for directions. Nowadays, your map app on your smartphone guides you to your destination.
But does this mean that the famed ‘Knowledge’ for London black cab drivers is obsolete? Far from it.
It’s still an essential part of the accreditation process in London. And many other areas also have a ‘knowledge’ test of their own for all those applying for a coveted hackney carriage licence.
Seems that sometimes, the old ways are the best ways!
So you’re on the road with your passenger in the back. How has that changed?
After a post-recession dip in 2010-12, vehicle numbers are rising again. Your smartphone map app, though, should keep you up-to-date with congestion ahead and even work out a new route for you.
Then as now, accidents happen. Make sure you’ve got excellent taxi insurance to keep you covered.
One thing that hasn’t changed is good, courteous customer service. In fact, since Uber introduced ratings for drivers and customers, it’s more important than ever to maintain a friendly atmosphere in your cab.
Perhaps your passengers don’t want to chat. No harm, then, in a little music. In 2009, that might be your favourite CD: maybe Lily Allen or JLS. Nowadays, you probably use Bluetooth to connect to a Spotify playlist on your mobile.
Then as now, you might tune into the radio to catch up with the news. Back in 2009, you’d be hearing about Prime Minister Gordon Brown or President Barack Obama. Maybe you’d wonder if Hillary Clinton would win next time?
New technology has been a boon for driver and passenger safety, at least in theory.
Firstly, if you use an app such as Uber, you know in advance the identity of the lead passenger. You can refuse passengers if you have good reason – but make sure that your reasons for doing so are not discriminatory.
And secondly, your route and location can be tracked by GPS.
However, you should never be complacent about personal safety. It’s hard to better good old-fashioned networks of mutually supportive drivers.
Get excellent taxi insurance too, so you’re covered for any accidents or damage.
Remember the days of driving to a cashpoint so your customers could withdraw your fare and wondering if they were going to do a runner?
The good news for just about everyone is that cashless payments are now the norm in cabs. With card readers, Apple Pay and other systems, it’s much harder for passengers to claim they have no money.
And with apps, money is taken directly from passengers’ bank accounts on completion of a journey. It’s a simple click for them to add a tip, too.
But as with all services, the customer is king so just remember that some of your passengers may still prefer to pay in the traditional way.
One thing hasn’t changed: you still need the very best taxi insurance.
Taxi Insurer finds quotes from insurance providers for you to compare. You can choose which extras you need and set the right level of cover for your needs.
Why not call our friendly team today and get a quick quote over the phone?