It goes without saying that it has been a tough 2020 for a lot of sectors including the taxi industry. But even before the pandemic took hold in March, the taxi trade had been challenged by numerous issues whilst also making the transition into a modern-day fleet and industry.
Like every year, this year was always destined to mean change. There were new statutory guidance created which included criminal reference checks every six months and safeguarding training for cabbies. There was also a nod for CCTV usage if the local authority sees fit.
COVID-19 has pressed fast-forward and meant a swifter shift to ‘greener’ vehicles and acceleration in road restrictions across the UK.
The changes that 2020 has brought, and will bring, have been impacted by, accelerated and in some cases quite simply caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Some might say the industry has taken the proverbial kicking since March. But what if the pandemic has also accelerated the RESPONSE from the industry on topics which were already in the pipeline? See it as a reset if you like.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), was asked by TaxiPoint whether he thought it would be a slow or sharp recovery for the industry once leisure and travel restrictions are lifted. McNamara said: “Before the pandemic, the taxi trade in London was doing well. At the beginning of this year, we were having the best kipper season ever. With ZEC taxis and contactless card payments, we were attracting new customers and things were on the up. As I keep telling people, the taxi trade is a viable industry that was thriving pre-Covid and can be again once restrictions are lifted and life starts to return to some kind of normality. There was a brief period in the summer when trade had started to pick up as restrictions were eased, there was still a long way to go don’t get me wrong, but this showed how the trade can bounce back. So I would expect there to be a sharp recovery.
“However, this requires an end to lockdowns and the most harmful restrictions, which keep people out of central London. We need to get people back to work and get London moving again as soon as possible. In the meantime, we also need short term financial support to ensure that drivers can keep their cabs on the road and are not put out of business permanently. One of the biggest threats to that recovery is cabs potentially being repossessed – many of our members are now starting to receive letters from finance companies threatening to take their cabs away, and if that happens they won’t be able to come back.”
There is an opportunity now to look at all sides of the business; do cabbies have the best tools to find work and increase turnover, can expenditure be cut, what can be invested in? Crucially, what will bring long-term stability?
Once a form of normality resumes, and it will, it will involve people going back to the office, enjoying sports and leisure events, spending money at restaurants and bars, and eventually travelling abroad. And once again taxi drivers will be ready and waiting.