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What is the PERFECT number of taxi drivers and why are cabbies not coming back?

There were some within the taxi industry who thought taxi driver numbers would bounce back just as quickly as they had depleted over the pandemic.

However, TaxiPoint’s prediction of a longer struggle to recruit cabbies, despite the high demand for taxis in many areas, has come true. With this reset caused by the numerous covid lockdowns, the industry can now debate what the perfect number of drivers should be.

Since the explosion in ride-hail services there has long been an over saturation of private hire drivers that suited passengers, but less so the drivers. Taxi drivers were affected as coverage for cheap rides were made available in most cities. It drove down the number of fares available to taxi drivers, with cabbies often scrapping for any work available and taking knocked down fixed price fares. Making a living was becoming unsustainable for many unless they worked long hours and quite simply there were far too many private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers.

The market has now been flipped on its head. Many PHV drivers tried a different profession and have stuck with it. The landscape has also changed in the last couple of years. Workers’ rights and the inclusion of VAT have pushed prices up and passengers back to local taxi services. For a would-be PHV driver the job has become less attractive when considering the rising cost of Zero Emission Capable (ZEC) vehicles and emission zone fees. Their coverage has as a result become more unreliable to historic users expecting a pre-pandemic service.

So, with demand high, why is the licensed taxi trade struggling to return to March 2020 driver numbers?

Like with many things, the pandemic sped up trends and the demographics of the taxi industry were not favourable. In 2020 the average age of a taxi and PHV driver was 50-years-old. Only 21% of drivers were aged under 40 and a quarter were aged 60 or over.

Fast forward to present day and the average age of a driver has decreased slightly to 48-years-old. Notably though those aged 60 or over made up just 16% of drivers, suggesting planned or early retirement was taken during the peak of the pandemic. Those drivers are not coming back.

With this in mind, focus must turn to recruitment of drivers who see the industry as a viable long-term career. However, just 17% of drivers are currently aged under 40.

How do you recruit and retain an under 40-year-old taxi driver?

This is the million-dollar question for many local authorities, but quite frankly build a job profile that offers job security and financial reward, and they will come. There has been so much change in recent years that it’s difficult to portray a median that Hackney licensed cabbies can expect in 5 years’ time. Higher vehicle costs, increasing restricted road access and a small nagging unknown around automated vehicles long-term is currently pushing would-be candidates elsewhere. Those that take the chance are likely to be rewarded especially in the short-term.

It's also important to strike the balance between the number of licensed cabbies and the demand available. No one within the industry wishes to see over saturation once again especially at a time of required investment in new vehicles.


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