Hearing someone yell “Taxi!” in the street is becoming increasingly rare these days, owing to the rise of technologically-enabled taxi-hailing services like Uber. However, this doesn’t mean smaller taxi businesses are struggling – there’s still huge demand for taxis all over the UK.

                   

Setting up a taxi business requires a systematic approach, especially when it comes to having the necessary documentation and safety measures in place. Additionally, once you start expanding, taxi fleet insurance is crucial.

This is because you need to ensure you have the protection in place to offer your customers a safe and comfortable experience, so that you get repeat business – the lifeblood of any taxi service. 

 

How do I start a private hire taxi business?

 

The taxi industry is not an inherently difficult business to enter. Even so, as with any business venture, there are good and bad ways to go about it.

 

Firstly, put together a business plan (this online guide is a useful start – it’s an absolute must if you need a loan for start-up capital. It’s also a systematic way to focus your mind on the following:

 

  • Your fixed and variable costs over the year (for example, vehicle servicing and fuel).
  • Your marketing plan for promoting the business – including branding and your logo.
  • Your niche or speciality (or exactly how you intend to establish and maintain customer volume).
  • Your projections for turnover/revenue over a specific period.
  • Repayment planning for any loans.
  • Your planning and policies for safety and quality.
  • Analysis of the competition.
  • Whether you want to concentrate on a niche market.
  • HR subjects like training, recruitment and working conditions.

Man driving in the morning traffic with phone set up to navigate 

How much does it cost to start a taxi business?

 

Finding out about the specifics is clearly part of your research, but bear in mind the difference between fixed costs and variable costs, of which fuel is probably the biggest.

Check the vehicle’s fuel economy figures to calculate probable costs. After your vehicle, your next biggest fixed cost will be insurance – make sure you compare quotes with Taxi Insurer so you can be sure you’re getting a great deal.

 

You’ll need a taxi licence. This means doing the basics, like proving you have the right to work in the UK and have a full UK driving licence, to the more complex, such as submitting an enhanced criminal records check, which many local authorities around the UK require.

In the UK, the requirements vary between regions and countries, so it’s best to get the necessary information from the most definitive source – the government.

 

Spend some time looking for the basic equipment you need, such as a fare metre, a sign and lights for the roof, a logo and legally-required signage for inside of the vehicle. Obviously, you will need insurance as well.

Initially, it’s for yourself and a single vehicle, but as your business grows and you contract more drivers, taxi fleet insurance becomes a significant (but obviously necessary) expense for the business.

 

Can I use my own car?

 

When it comes to buying a car or a specially-designed taxi vehicle, you should do plenty of research into new and used vehicles, so that you don’t regret it later. Check out what your potential competitors are driving and see what their experiences are.

If you decide to use your own vehicle, find out what alterations need to be made, particularly when it comes to access for passengers with physical disabilities. Whatever your case, the car needs to be road legal, and comply with all the taxi laws in your area.

Preferably, it should be almost brand new, so that repairs are kept to a minimum. One potential option (but more expensive) is to buy a bespoke vehicle from a specialist dealer.

 

Can I run a taxi business from home?

 Close up of hands on a steering wheel with bright daylight coming through the windscreen

The cheapest way to start up on your own is to operate from your home as a way of getting your company ‘off the ground’.

Many people do this as the most economical start-up option, but just bear in mind that if you have a family, they have to buy into the impact of the inevitable change in lifestyle it will cause for you (and them).

 

You also need to think about the impact on neighbours and the surrounding community if you are operating from home, as there are certain legal requirements you need to observe.

Once your business grows, using your home as your business base begins to be less practical. This website shares some useful information on choosing an operational base for your taxi company.

 

How can I improve my taxi business?

 

If you want to know how you can improve an existing service or make sure your start-up hits the ground running, think carefully about the current profile of your target market.

Given the higher profile that Uber and the like have created in the taxi market, the average taxi passenger is considerably savvier regarding their expectations of a taxi service. So, your aim should be to please!

 

What areas can you focus on to improve the service your company offers? At the level of service provider, the following are important:

 

Friendly service

A friendly, courteous and helpful service is a must if you want to attract repeat business. You will need to draw on your personal resources of patience and tact, especially at peak times.

 

Driver competence

A good, safe driver – bearing in mind what might constitute ‘good’ and ‘safe’ to you might not correspond to your passengers’ definitions! Observe road rules to the letter, especially where speed is concerned.

 

A clean and tidy vehicle

If you take pride in your vehicle’s cleanliness, it demonstrates that you care about the comfort of your customers.

 

Vehicles in good working order

An absolute must seeing as it’s the tool of your trade. Keep up to date with regular checks and keep your vehicle spotless.

 

Reliability

This might not be a game-changer, but when the traffic is bad or there’s an unexpected snarl-up, passengers appreciate a driver with enough knowledge of the route to have a ‘plan B’. Timing is very important. If you give a time for pick-up, make sure you respect it. Late taxis cause passengers anxiety at best and anger at worst!

 

Training for your drivers

Whoever your drivers are, they work for you. Therefore they must uphold your standards of service at all times. That way, passengers will be happy, and the likelihood is that there’ll be repeat custom work for all of you.

Let’s say you’ve become so successful that you’ve now got a fleet of vehicles and employ a group of drivers. They seem to be happy and they recognise that safety and security is an important issue for both passengers and drivers. Despite this receptive audience, a systemised training programme can still have a positive impact on your bottom line.

 Lit up taxi sign on top of hackney carriage

There are two broad areas of training. The first concerns driver competence and best practice in his or her routine duties other than driving. These include:

 

  • Awareness of equality and disability legislation.
  • The importance of wheelchair accessibility and assistance dogs.
  • Overall competence in customer service.
  • Manoeuvring the vehicle safely when picking up and dropping off (location, safety checking and so on).
  • Dealing with a wide range of typical customer queries.

 There are several companies offering courses online, like this one from IAM Roadsmart.

 

The second area of training is aimed at the driver’s responsibility for any issues affecting passenger welfare. This could include situations where certain behaviour could compromise the welfare of other people in the vehicle. Much of this training focuses on safeguarding issues such as:

 

  • Recognising the typical signs of a vulnerable passenger.
  • Protecting vulnerable passengers.
  • Identifying signs of child-trafficking and child abuse.
  • Reporting concerns with behaviour around sexual exploitation and/or domestic violence.
  • Acting with total professionalism and confidentiality in these areas.

 

Again, there are several courses available (this overview gives you a rough idea of the subjects covered) for you and your drivers to access.

 

If you want to take a deeper dive into how the private taxi industry is developing, and the issues affecting it, this extensive report by the Urban Transport Group makes for interesting reading.

 

Remember, there’s nothing to stop you having periodic get-togethers to do some informal training based on your own fleet members’ experiences. Checklists like this, published by the International Road Transport Union, are a handy reminder to yourself as well as them about fundamental safety principles.

 

The welfare of your drivers

 

These people are quite literally the drivers of your business success. Making sure they feel positive about their working conditions should be a primary concern for you. In terms of safety, the most important factors for your drivers are that:

 

  • You take the time to demonstrate your awareness of the safety issues around taxi-driving as a profession.
  • You offer support to drivers who have been affected in any way by incidents or events that have compromised their safety.
  • You don’t work them into the ground! Taxi drivers spend a lot of time sitting down so you need to encourage them to stretch out and move around on their lunch breaks. If you make a point of mentioning the importance of exercise, healthy eating and regular breaks, it sends a positive message to your drivers about the company culture.

 Driver using phone for navigation

Keeping your fleet of taxis safe

 

The vehicles in your fleet need to be checked, serviced and undergo an MOT regularly and you need to be on top of that maintenance schedule, not just leaving it to the drivers to sort out. Taxis are subject to intensive use in busy traffic, with a lot of reversing, manoeuvring, stopping and starting and sudden braking. Even outside of regular, scheduled maintenance events, insist that your drivers regularly check that:

  • Seatbelts are functioning correctly.
  • Mirrors are in the correct position and aren’t cracked or loose.
  • Windows are correctly fitted with shatter-proof glass.
  • Tyre pressures and tread depth are within legal limits.
  • Oil, water and brake fluids are monitored and are at the correct levels.
  • All lights are in full working order – that’s head, fog, indicator, rear, side, hazard and registration plate lights.

Getting taxi insurance for your fleet

Understandably, taxi insurance is one of the most expensive forms of motor insurance because it falls into the category of ‘high risk’ – passenger safety means that as well as requiring cover for the everyday insurance, you have to take out business use and public liability coverage. Taxi fleet insurance is a broad area, generally covering three or more vehicles. Taxi fleets come in varying sizes and you need the right policy to match the volume and types of your vehicles.

 

Make sure you and your passengers are safe, secure and covered

 

As a taxi company owner, you’re not only insuring yourself, but your drivers, the vehicles and the company’s reputation as well. For obvious reasons, taxi drivers are at greater risk of being involved in an incident or accident than the average road user. For that reason alone, they can expect to pay higher premiums, despite being some of the most experienced drivers around.

 

It’s important to look for the specialists when it comes to insurance for taxi fleets, so visit us for a quote to make absolutely sure you have the best deal and the right kind of coverage for your taxi fleet insurance needs.

 

Here at Taxi Insurer, we can help you compare quotes for cover on cars, minibuses and MPVs as well as offering a UK-based call centre and a handy 24-hour claims management service.

 

We also understand that running a taxi business can be a time-consuming business so we also enable you to pay by instalments so you can budget your business costs more efficiently throughout the year.

 

Why not give our specialist team a call today and let us help you find the right taxi fleet insurance cover for your needs?

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