Morals and ethics: The tangled web of investment and business practice within the taxi industry

There has been much debate over the last few years in relation to morality or business ethics within the taxi industry. 

On one side you have a group of individuals attempting to dictate what should be best practice within the industry, based on their own beliefs or moral judgement, while on the other side of the fence you have people within the industry baulking against those individuals, preferring to tread their own path, based on what they believe is best business practice for them as a sole trader.

Right and wrong doesn't actually come into the equation. Any sole trader, in theory at least, does what is best for them, and them alone, to allow them to survive and flourish, another persons business practice may not be conducive to any other individual.

According to the Department for Transport there are 57,900 licensed taxi drivers, 223,300 private hire drivers and 80,300 dual licence holders in the UK.

What seems to get forgotten within the taxi industry that although in any given region taxi drivers are competing against private hire drivers, they are also competing against each other.

The commonalities that bind the taxi trade together is the over-arching legislation pertaining to every aspect of the taxi industry, the vocational qualification (in some regions) obtained to allow an individual the opportunity to work as a taxi driver, the need to make driving a taxi economically viable entity, and finally the unequivocal requirement to make sure that the industry itself survives, so as to allow both current and future incumbents of the taxi industry are able to make some sort of living from the industry.

This of course must be extrapolated across the globe. The business model is relatively similar across the planet, there are very few deviations worldwide, therefore the problems faced by the industry are similar across the planet.

Over the last half decade or so, we have seen the birth, expansion, and domination of app-based companies within the private hire industry such as Uber, Lyft and Taxify to name but three. The taxi industry of course has its own apps, with Gett, mytaxi and Taxiapp being the main players in London, although both countywide and worldwide there are many others which are linked to the taxi industry.

The one thing all of these apps have in common is financial investment, whether it be from a number of global corporations, or investment through driver subscription. Without financial investment these companies would not be able to function successfully.

Rightly or wrongly, technology has started to over-ride what are seen as traditional working values, but then in almost every industry that you can think of this has been the case, and certainly with legislation being the slow, ponderous beast that it is, invariably it will always fail to keep up with technology, which seemingly changes on a daily basis.

With ever increasing regularity from the taxi industry across the UK, we see people shouting from the roof-tops, ditch this app because it's unethical and have taken corporate investment or boycott this credit card system because their parent company has invested in Uber. The list of what the industry should ditch, because one group or another may not agree with, on any given basis reads like a copy of War and Peace. In fact some would seemingly have the taxi industry wind the clock back and return to driving a horse and carriage through the streets, although ironically enough, in London, you would probably never notice any diffence in journey-time given the average speed of traffic across the capital.

Unfortunately, whether those within the taxi industry like it or not, almost every aspect of our lives are touched by behemoths such as Uber, directly, or indirectly, either via investment or via the use of a technological or media product. Whether it be the taxi you drive to the choice of filling station that you use, all are inextricably linked to companies which are seen as utterly toxic to the taxi industry.

Here are a number of varying examples in relation to those links both within the industry as well as everyday life.

Geely own LEVC, they also own Volvo, Volvo have agreed to supply 24,000 self-driving cars to Uber. Geely supply the TXE to the London taxi industry.

Daimler own Mercedes-Benz, they have also been part of a group which has invested $175m in Taxify. Mercedes supply the Vito to the London taxi industry, they are also investors in mytaxi.