Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Top taxi fleet owners have warned the shortage of black cabs could intensify unless issues around finance and recruiting new taxi drivers are tackled.
During a podcast discussion based on the topic of taxi fleet numbers and payment solutions, three well-known trade figures from the LTDA (Licensed Taxi Drivers' Assocation), Colts Cabs and Cab Vision, spoke about the challenges that lie ahead.
The fleet owners, Michael Glassman (Colts Cabs) and Lee DaCosta (Cab Vision), voiced their concerns at the number of drivers choosing to leaving the taxi profession. New recruits entering the trade must first complete the ‘Knowledge of London' which takes on average 3-4 years to complete. This means new recruits can't fill the gap in the market quickly.
There were also concerns around financing new vehicles as "the cab trade is not the flavour of the month" with lenders following the coronavirus pandemic. Without finance available, long established taxi rental firms are currently struggling to invest in new electric vehicles for taxi drivers in the capital to drive.
Glassman said many taxi rental firms depend on finance companies to shift their existing diesel fleets to electric vehicles as quickly as possible.
The shortage of taxis is also being pushed by new age limit regulations brought in by Transport for London (TfL). Older black cabs in the capital can now only be licensed for a total of twelve years instead of fifteen. It is expected that the fleet will lose another 1,500 vehicles based on the age of vehicles over the next 12 months.
Dacosta said: "A lot of those fleets are just abandoning those vehicles, they won't bring them back."
Glassman said: "In my view I think it's going get worse. Huge. Huge. We are going be losing, I'm told, somewhere between 1,500 and 1,800 cabs possibly this year."
He added: "If you can't get finance, then you can't build up the fleet."
In London there are currently 13,969 taxis licensed, of which 4,340 are electric taxis. That number has dropped massively since the start of the pandemic which stood at 18,504 vehicles in April 2020.