PAUL BRENNAN: It’s time for Government, TfL and authorities to support the taxi trade, not punish it
It’s no secret that we have lost a hell of a lot of cabs from our fleet, in fact we’ve lost around 5,000 in the last 18 months.
We are now seeing a small bounce back but that is a serious number of cabs to lose in such a short period of time and will make it difficult for some drivers returning to the trade later in the year or early next to find a cab to rent or second-hand cab to buy.
Building back greener
This could and should be the perfect opportunity for the Government, Mayor of London and London boroughs to help this trade recover and come back greener and better – better for us and better for London. Already over a third of our fleet is made up of zero emission capable cabs and with a bit of support, we can build on this.
More carrot, less stick
Rather than constantly using the stick to make changes (effectively punishing us), the Government should instead help ease the financial burden on the initial purchase of a cab. This could be done through additional grants, discounted or interest free loans, (which would be a fantastic incentive for drivers, as currently purchasing a new TX cab on finance comes with an average £13,000 in interest to be paid on top) or they could remove or reduce the VAT on the initial purchase. These are three very simple solutions to overcome a very real barrier facing drivers.
Likewise, the Mayor needs to think more carrot and less stick. For example, rather than focusing on robbing some drivers of up to three years off the lifespan of the cab they were counting on when they purchased it, he could find ways to better assist the trade to make the transition to a ZEC taxi.
Beyond greater financial assistance, the biggest thing within the Mayor’s power that would help, is to give drivers the confidence to invest in what is a very expensive new vehicle. He could do this by putting the taxi back into the Mayor’s transport strategy, rather than treating us like general traffic. Whilst I’m at it, stop lumping us in with the private hire industry, we are not the same and when you act like we are, it's bloody disrespectful.
This also means giving us proper access to London’s road network. It’s called a network because it’s all part of one entity. If you remove a small part, which is exactly what is being done day after day, it will no longer be able to fulfil its intended purpose – keeping the capital moving!
The decision to invest in a new TX is a big commitment for drivers and in reality, most who buy one on finance are essentially just renting one for a five-year period. It’s been given a catchy name in PCP, but unless you can stump up a big balloon payment at the end, which most can’t, these finance agreements amout to a rental scheme. A driver spends on average about £1,000 a month for five years and at the end rather than owning the vehicle, must simply jump off that PCP wheel and straight on to the next one.
It seems that the days of being freehold and enjoying a year or two with no monthly payments or having a chance to use the equity in your cab to give yourself a massive head start on the purchase of your next one, are resigned to the history books.
Unless something changes and we get more support to make this transition, the next generation of drivers will have less chance of getting ahead and making that work life balance tip ever so slightly onto the life side, which has always been a perk of being a self-employed taxi driver.