Driver cancellations and a lack of available vehicles have left Uber customers frustrated as the UK’s shortage of private hire drivers intensifies.
Demand for licensed taxis and on-demand services like Uber, is expected to peak this week as workers return to office space and children start the new school term.
Over the last few weeks, a shortage of drivers caused by the pandemic has put a strain on private hire operators seeking to match rides with passengers.
Thousands of drivers are thought to have left the private hire industry due to a lack of demand during the time of COVID restrictions and low-demand.
Jo Caird, a write, editor and Uber customer, said: “Uber is really getting ridiculous now. Not only was it impossible to get a cab last night, with drivers cancelling left, right and centre, I now find I've been charged a cancellation fee for one of the trips a driver cancelled.”
Another customer complained today of ride cancellations whilst trying to take their pet to the vet. The customer on social media said: “Here’s a fun game if you have a pet, but don’t have a car.
“Try finding a taxi driver who will take you and your pet to the veterinary hospital. Had 3 cancel on me this morning already.”
Another user vented their frustrations over a pre-booked journey which was cancelled minutes before the vehicle was required. The customer said: “When you offer the service of booking the night before because it's actually a fair price, maybe don't cancel on me two days in a row just a few minutes before you're due to arrive. And then become available for £46 from N10 to E2 postcode!”
Yesterday Rafi Hambling also took to social media to express concerns over driver coverage. He said: “Uber when ordering a car from you it used to be instantaneous, but now it takes upwards of ten minutes to find a driver, some over 10 miles away it seems.
“Have people stopped driving for you or something? Getting a bit annoying now.”
Steve Wright, Chairman of the Licensed Private hIre Car Association (LPHCA), warned of the potential problems when he contacted the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps in summer 2020.
Since then very little taxi and private hire industry specific funding has been made available, forcing drivers to look for other work during the pandemic. Licensed driver and vehicle numbers have dropped significantly meaning in some cases the pent-up demand cannot be met.
The issue is expected to be grow further as the final restrictions are dropped.
Steve Wright said in the latest issue of Private Hire News: “Sadly, our prediction of the possibility of a catastrophic shortage of drivers is becoming a reality and the LPHCA will continue to make ministers aware of the difficulties.
“Last July we wrote to Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP Secretary of State for Transport to draw his attention to potential serious problems and the risks to the sustainability of the Taxi & Private Hire industry.”
The LPHCA lists a number of concerns causing the shortages. These range from LTN’s and Street Closures to road pricing. The shift to cleaner vehicles or more heavily regulated cabs in some regions have also pushed drivers away to find alternative employment. Wright says: “Drivers have massive pressures with new vehicle requirements and the impossibility of financing them, particularly after a pandemic. “Add in the lack of availability of suitable vehicles, lack of charging infrastructure at home, the price of on-street electricity and it is not then difficult to understand why a driver shortage is happening. “Following previous recessions there has traditionally been a glut of potential drivers, but the pandemic has confined that fact to history.”