Updated: Feb 13, 2022
The Govemment ‘FAILED SPECTACULARLY’ to support private hire operators and drivers at a level that would have helped to sustain the driver numbers that prevailed pre-pandemic, said a leading private hire sector voice.
Demand for peak-time taxi and private hire services is returning quickly as final Omicron coronavirus restrictions are eased. However, a shortage of drivers, and in some cases vehicles, could see a significant proportion of that demand become un-met.
In the Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) sector there is a shortage of drivers. PHV drivers left the industry during the peak of the pandemic to discover similar paid jobs in delivery, logistics and other sectors. The risks, both monetary and safety, are now far less in their new jobs so operators are faced with offering big incentives to entice these lapsed drivers back. Many ex-PHV drivers no longer have the pressure of footing large vehicle expenses and do not have to deal with the public late at night, and it will take some convincing for them to return.
Steve Wright MBE, Chairman of the Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA), said in Private Hire News: “As we predicted back in mid-summer 2020, the taxi and PHV trade is facing a catastrophic shortage of drivers. Not maintaining the levels that were in place pre-pandemic is already proving to be disastrous, furthermore because of the nature of the services we already provide, demand is likely to increase post pandemic.
“Sadly, Government failed, spectacularly to support operators and drivers at a level that would have helped to sustain the driver numbers that prevailed pre-pandemic.
“The LPHCA sought simple practical measures to help the industry, such as extending car repayment holidays and making grant money available directly to Licensing Authorities for driver licensing costs, which would have ensured that some of the drivers who have left the industry may have, stayed or would have returned.
“Sadly, Government mandarins at the Treasury failed to listen to our pleas and passed up the chance to be forward thinking and help our industry. Instead, billions were given to rail, bus and coach entities and many other modes in the travel sector, but not to the taxi and PHV trade.
“The reason is simple, these industries have powerful lobbyists supported and paid full time to fight their comer, whist we have little budget and are reliant on donations and the goodwill of those who contribute to the LPHCA fighting fund, alongside members who give their valuable time to help the cause. This needs to change as there are more and more demands upon the sector, so we need to ramp up our political work from hereon in.
“Now that we will hopefully be returning to 'some kind of normality' after lockdown, we will be resuming where we left off by continuing to build a strong national LPHCA to address the industry's needs for the future.”