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AROUND THE RANKS: Getting right balance between number of cabbies and demand is key, says Lewes Rep

Image credit: James Kiernan

Driver shortages, taxi vehicle age limit issues and fuel prices are the big three talking points for drivers on the south coast, says union representative.

In this month’s inaugural ‘Around the Ranks’ section in our DigiMag, we began asking different industry representatives from around the UK to explain some of the key issues facing their regions and look at how they marry up with wider issues being faced.

James Kiernan, a Unite Union Shop Steward for Lewes District Hackney Drivers, highlighted some of the successes and problems facing drivers, or lack of drivers, working in the south coast region.

Kiernan said: “Like everywhere else the Lewes District is short on drivers due to the pandemic and lack of local authority help during the pandemic.”

While the shortage of taxi drivers is a long-term concern nationally, it has however increased demand for those still working in the short-term. Fears as to whether demand for taxis would return post-coronavirus featured in most taxi drivers’ minds throughout the country.

Finding the right balance between the number of cabbies to fulfil the current demand is a juggling act most people are coming to terms with. Too many cabbies would place pressure back on drivers within the industry to earn a living, and too few means loyal customers look elsewhere for a service.

Kiernan commented on the work levels in Lewes: “It's not doing too bad, but that is just down to lack of drivers. Takings are at pre-covid levels, but if we had the numbers, it would be down and drivers would be struggling.”

Rapidly rising fuel costs remain high on the agenda for all those in the trade. Some local authorities acted fast by implementing a metered fare increase. There are many though that are still consulting or simply sitting back and waiting.

Kiernan said: “The biggest drain on drivers’ incomes is the fuel costs with diesel hitting the £2 a litre this week. You have to take a fair amount to cover them costs before you put money in your own pockets, so we asked for a fare review back in November. After

so many errors on the Council’s side and them not taking our advice when pointing out issues, I think we are now in the final stages of getting the much- needed rise, but it’s still a mess and there are possibly changes still to come.”

Having emerged out of the pandemic, the focus on drivers investing in newer vehicles has begun again. However, with many cabbies losing thousands of pounds throughout the lockdown periods, many deposits for new vehicles were swallowed up on general living expenses.

In Lewes the representatives have asked for vehicle extensions beyond the ten years granted to cab owners. Despite exemptions being made for private hire vehicles, taxi drivers are yet to see the same leniency offered.

Kiernan said: “Hackney drivers are unable to get age extensions as we only get 10 years on a plate but there are currently over 30 private hire vehicles over 10 one being 17 yet it still holds a licence.

“We have a licencing team split between two councils so getting hold of them is extremely hard and they fail to communicate.”


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