No one can deny the impact that the current Taxi Apps in the market place are having an impact on the Taxi Drivers working day, Hailo and Get Taxi they have managed to sign up over 5000 drivers between them and with the promise of more Apps soon to launch that number will obviously grow as more Apps enter the market place.
There is no doubt that these Apps will win some work back from the Private Hire trade as using a Taxi via these Apps can often work out cheaper than most of the largest Private Hire companies, but a lot of the customers who now prefer to hail a Taxi via these Apps are people who would traditionally walk out onto the street and hold their arm out to hail a Taxi off the street which will in time have a a detrimental effect on the amount of street work available to those drivers who do not use Apps and are not on radio. So are we to some extent cutting our own throats?
One driver I who I was speaking to recently had very strong views on this matter, his view was that it is madness for a driver to convince a customer who he has picked up off the street to use one of these commercial Apps as the driver will end up buying that customer back at 10% and that will happen over and over again, he said that we as drivers are basically giving our customers away to these commercial organisations who are running these Apps which to some extent is quite true.
It is a real shame that the drivers in this trade didn’t have the foresight to invest together to have our own App created a couple of years ago, a cooperative could have been formed where all interested drivers could have become members and invested to have an App created which would have worked for the mutual benefit for all of the members of the cooperative. Some will say that we could never have invested the £millions that these companies behind the Apps are investing which is quite true, but look at it another way, yes the likes of Get Taxi, Hailo and the others who are soon to appears have invested fortunes in getting these Apps developed and gaining a market presence but there comes a point in time when these investors will want their money back, and where do you think that money will come from? Yes, you the drivers will end up paying back the money that they have invested, whether these companies sell their Apps off or continue to run their business as a Taxi business you will end up paying back every penny that they have invested through charges! But it will not stop when these investors have recouped the initial investment, no the charges will carry on making these companies huge sums of money, so it must follow that is we, the drivers, are going to pay back these investors their money that we might as well have invested in our own cooperative for our own benefit.
Now no one can blame these companies, they are in this to make money, it is what they do and how they operate and some will say that Taxi drivers have no one but themselves to blame for not seeing this coming and failing to invest in their own future which is an argument to which there is no defence. But it could all be so different if Taxi drivers were to believe in themselves and take control of their own destiny and invest in their future. A driver led, funded and operated App could make huge inroads into the current App market place if enough drivers were to get behind such a venture, drivers could promote the App to other drivers but ultimately we could promote it to our passengers, the passengers who we at present pick up off the street, passengers who we do not want to lose to one of these commercial Apps where we could end up buying them back at 10% or more.
This trade needs to act and take control before it is too late, the younger generation who are our future customers are more technology savvy than the current generation who make a vast amount of our current customer base, we need to stop living in the past and get with the times, never before has technology been so affordable, never before has this trade had the opportunity to capture customers business using technology at such a small price per head.
Many years ago when Radio Taxis and Dial A Cab were formed as Friendly & Provident Societies the investment in both monetary terms and time that those original drivers had was enormous but those drivers has the foresight to do something to make a difference to our trade and whether you like or hate the radio circuits this trade would be a far poorer place had those drivers not invested in the future of this trade as Private Hire would have had much more of an impact on our trade than it has. I do realise that a lot of drivers within our trade think the radio circuits have, in recent years failed us on a number of points but it can’t be denied that they have since their inception managed to keep the private hire trade from taking the corporate work from under our feet.
History needs to repeat itself, we need to look at what those drivers managed to achieve all those years ago and the ethos behind what they did, we need a cooperative to take control and develop an App that can be kept for the prosperity of our trade on the “not for profit” ethos of those drivers who formed the original radio circuits and of those who are behind TLC. We need to take control of our destiny rather than leaving it to people from outside of our trade to come in and take control of our customer base and then charge us to serve them.
We all drive taxis for a living, but at the same time we are all small business men and we need to start thinking like small business men, no other business would take their customers and give them to another business and then pay to service them, it ludicrous! We need to keep our customer base for our own prosperity rather than giving it away to someone else for them to profit from it, we need to start to look after our customers as without them we have no work!
We need to get organised!