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TRADE QUESTION: Why is the taxi industry struggling to recruit NEW and YOUNG taxi drivers?

There’s an ongoing debate over whether there are too few or too many taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers in the industry at the moment. Operators will argue that there are not enough, whilst the remaining cabbies will say demand is sustainable as it currently is.

Regardless of where you stand on this argument, there’s little debate that the industry is struggling to recruit new, and in particular younger, drivers to sustain current numbers.

But why is the industry stalling in its recruitment at a time of mostly high demand? TaxiPoint asked the industry for their thoughts on why interest was low and received nearly 400 messages back from those in the UK industry.

Many people supported Alan Ward’s theory. Ward said: “That's easy to answer, too many overheads and having to jump through hoops for your local licencing authority. Plus the competition from out of area drivers since deregulation.”

Cabbie Alan Wright suggested the current high vehicle and running costs are the main reason for poor recruitment. Wright said: “Could it be the price of a new Cab? Or maybe the extortionate price of diesel, or could it be all the road closures?”

There were several other reasons mentioned which were more prevalent in certain regions. Low pay caused by rock-bottom tariffs set by local authorities were failing to attract drivers in some areas. Others said working from home and a lack of people going out in some towns and cities were impacting demand.

The length of training was mentioned by some in the industry. Shamim Miah was one saying: “There are many reasons, but I believe it’s the cost and time it takes to get a licence of entry to the industry.”

The London Knowledge can take an average three years to complete. In a changing world that demands everything instantly, less people are willing to work for the ‘Badge’, despite the rewards that await them.

There’s also a concern about the sheer volume of private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers operating in areas looking for Hackney Carriage applicants. In London there are nearly 100,000 PHV drivers licensed by Transport for London (TfL). Those looking in at the black cab trade perceive the market to be saturated by ride-hail options. This is a similar story for many of the UK’s biggest cities.

Nigel Webb made an interesting comment around the dwindling status of being a taxi driver. He said: “Younger drivers don't want taxi driving jobs these days, they think it's beneath them.”

Another cabbie, Kevin Read, supported that thought: “Youngsters don't want to work the hours they want a cosy office job in front of a computer. Jobs like taxi driving are more a way of life than an occupation.”

Unsociable and long hours are also said to be putting off youngsters. Working busier Friday nights and weekends puts an instant stop to thinking any further about a career in the industry.

Others say red tape and a multitude of new courses that heap more pressure and costs on cabbies is making the job less appealing. A cabbie said: “Bizarre rules regarding WAV vehicles and a growing list of "courses" to protect the public are being heaped upon drivers as councils now see us as social workers, therapists, guidance councillors and carers.

“It isn't our job and an hour-long course does not qualify us.”

Finally, there’s the threat of autonomous taxis to the UK taxi industry. David Dore said: “Younger folks know that driverless cars are coming.

“Why join an industry that won't be around in their lifetime? Better spending the years between now and then in an industry with a future.

“Me, I’m ambivalent about driverless cars. Likely I will be dead by then and if not the challenge is have your own driverless cars!”

Many authorities will be hoping supply and demand will eventually balance itself out. However, it’s not going to be as simple as that given the hoops to jump through and the financial risks drivers are now exposed to when it comes to overheads.

A rethink is needed from top to bottom.


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