What a strange bunch of folk we taxi drivers truly are.
A chap on one of the taxi forums on social media has spoken about giving up The Knowledge of London because of the air of negativity permeating across many of the online forums. The person in question is being given mixed messages left, right and centre.
What amazes me as a taxi driver with almost three decades of experience is the myopia that seems to engulf some within the industry, a proportion of taxi drivers seem unable to comprehend the fact that without people signing up to The Knowledge there is no taxi industry. Knowledge student uptake is at the lowest level I’ve seen in my lifetime, and quite possibly, it's at its lowest uptake percentage per capita in its history. The industry as a whole needs to be welcoming and encouraging new students, not pushing them out of the door and into a private hire vehicle Yes, things have changed over the last three or four decades and yes times may have been better back then, we all hark back to the days when a 3 bedroom house in London cost £30,000, a Ford Cortina was £2,995, riding on a bus was tuppence and a Yorkie Bar was the size of a house brick, however, life has moved on, not everything is for the better, but that's life. Taxi drivers have been going under financially since the day of the horse drawn carriage, that can be through a myriad of reasons, from an unfortunate turn in health to sheer bad management of their finances, nothing has changed and so that will ever remain. This constant diatribe of "this new cab will be the end of us" or "if you aren’t on the right app then you're a trade killer" or "you don't work the way I do so you're a scumbag who is wrecking the trade" or "if you aren’t on a protest you are the problem" blah blah blah, ad-nauseum. This of course is complete rubbish and the people expounding this nonsenical garbage should be given short shrift.
The sheer hypocrisy across the board from some within the industry is utterly breathtaking, the advent of social media has amplified this. I, myself, know for a fact that some of the taxi drivers who are shouting the loudest about all of the above will be buying a new cab, are on any given app despite seemingly spending half of their day telling others not to go on that same said app, spend more time in a cafe moaning that there is no work than they do actually working and are only attending one the five protests this particular week, despite abusing others for not going to every single protest. Make of that what you will. I was told by a colleague, this week, that only demonstrations will save the taxi industry, we must forget the political route (this is not the first time that I have heard this). After slamming my head against the table I opted to give up any form of response as any counter-dialogue would have been akin to nailing jelly to the wall.
What this person and some other taxi drivers fail to appreciate is that everything that we do as an industry is controlled politically. We cannot and do not make laws based on protest, they have to go through the political process. A demonstration is a stand made so as to get your voice heard in the hope that those in power take notice and act accordingly. If we do not engage politically then absolutely nothing changes. Lets get this absolutely clear, If the taxi industry as a whole does not encourage people to take up The Knowledge and show that it is a viable, vibrant industry, then not only is the future of the industry finished but the present also. Investment in developing purpose built vehicles will go straight out of the window. The ability to get direct finance for any remaining vehicles wont be granted. Investment in app based technology will dry up because there wont be enough drivers to keep it viable. We then will start to see official minicab ranks being granted and eventually minicabs will be using bus lanes and then plying for hire via street hails, and that is all because the industry will not have enough taxi drivers to maintain the current status quo.
Nobody is asking anybody to paint a happy clappy picture of the industry, there is no pot of gold at the end of some mythical rainbow, but lets get real here, there aren’t many professions where you can dictate your own hours, your own holiday schedule, your own income (assuming you've not overstretched yourself in the first place), an industry that has an incredible reputation of being the best in the world, plus many other plus points that I’ve left out The choice is a simple one, if driving a taxi, or any job doesn’t work for you then endeavour to change jobs, if its working for you then encourage new blood. A new cab won’t save the industry, legislation won’t save the industry, an appwon’t save the industry, warm words and rally cries won’t save the industry, hypocrisy won’t save the industry. The only thing that will allow the industry to prevail is encouraging an uptake in The Knowledge, everything else around that is meaningless without a workforce.
The taxi industry must encourage these Knowledge boys and girls, without them we will all, eventually, be out of a job.