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How do you strike the right balance of working street and apps?

For taxi drivers, balancing the demands of street plying and app-based bookings is an art form.

Plying for hire on the streets and ranks involves waiting for immediate fares, allowing drivers to keep the full fare, minus any card processing fees. However, this approach comes with uncertainties, such as unpredictable wait times and the challenge of finding the next fare.

Street plying, or "working the streets", is the traditional method where drivers pick up passengers from designated ranks or simply hail them down as they cruise the roads. This method allows drivers to keep 100% of the fare, providing a direct income stream. The only deductions are minimal, typically limited to card processing fees if the passenger pays by card. The downside, however, is significant. Waiting at ranks can be time-consuming, and driving around in search of the next passenger can lead to wasted fuel and time, especially during off-peak hours.

Conversely, taxi apps provide an alternative stream of potential income. While these platforms can reduce idle times and increase the likelihood of securing fares, they come with their own set of drawbacks. Drivers must account for the additional travel time to pick up passengers and the substantial commission fees charged by app operators. These fees can significantly eat into profits, making it essential for drivers to weigh the benefits against the costs.

Apps offer drivers another bite of the cherry whilst looking for street fares. When a booking comes through the app, drivers must consider the lost running time to pick up the passenger. This is time when they could potentially have picked up a fare from the street. Additionally, app operators charge a sizeable commission, which can range from 10% to 25% of the fare, impacting the driver’s overall earnings.

The key to success in this dual approach lies in finding the right balance. Too much time spent waiting on the streets can lead to lost income opportunities, while over-reliance on app bookings can eat into profits due to high commission rates. Striking a balance between these two methods is crucial. Drivers need to minimise dead time—periods spent without a passenger—and avoid paying excessive commissions to maintain profitability.

Understanding when and where it is busy is a skill and a gamble taken by all cabbies. Peak hours, such as morning and evening commutes, weekends, and special events, often see higher demand for taxis both on the streets and through apps. Experienced drivers develop a sense of these patterns and strategically position themselves to maximise their chances of picking up fares. This involves knowing the best times to be at popular ranks, as well as keeping an eye on app notifications for nearby bookings.

Modern taxi drivers also have to stay informed about local events and changes in traffic patterns, as these can significantly impact fare opportunities. For instance, a sudden road closure or a large public event can shift passenger demand to different areas of the city. Being adaptable and responsive to these changes is part of the job, requiring a mix of foresight and quick decision-making.

Additionally, some drivers adopt a hybrid approach, leveraging both methods depending on the time of day and their location. During peak times, they might focus on street plying to capitalise on the higher demand. During quieter periods, they might rely more on app bookings to ensure a steady stream of income.

Achieving this balance is essential for maintaining that steady income and staying competitive in the ever-evolving landscape of the taxi industry. In the end, the ability to adapt, understand market dynamics, and effectively juggle street and app work can make the difference between a profitable day and one filled with unproductive waiting.


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