Taxi drivers

What is the PERFECT number of taxi drivers and why don’t taxi drivers come back?

Some in the taxi industry believed the number of taxi drivers would rebound as quickly as it had depleted during the pandemic.

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

Since the explosion of ride-sharing services, there has long been an over-saturation of private drivers who were suitable for passengers, but less so for drivers. Taxi drivers have been affected as cover for cheap rides has been made available in most cities. This has reduced the number of fares available to taxi drivers, with taxi drivers often giving up any available work and accepting knocked down fixed price fares. Earning a living was becoming unsustainable for many unless working long hours and simply there were far too many private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers.

The market is now reversed. Many PHV drivers have tried a different job and stayed there. The landscape has also changed in recent years. Workers’ rights and the inclusion of VAT have driven prices up and diverted passengers to local taxi services. For a potential PHV driver, the job has become less attractive given the rising cost of zero-emissions capable vehicles (ZECs) and emission zone fees. Their coverage has therefore become less reliable for incumbent users who expect pre-pandemic service.

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

As with many things, the pandemic accelerated trends and the demographics of the taxi industry were not favorable. In 2020, the average age of a taxi and VTC driver was 50 years old. Only 21% of drivers are under 40 and a quarter are 60 or older.

Fast forward to the present day and the average age of a driver has dropped slightly to 48. Notably, though people aged 60 or over made up just 16% of drivers, suggesting planned or early retirement was taken at the height of the pandemic. These drivers are not coming back.

With this in mind, the focus should be on recruiting drivers who see the industry as a viable long-term career. However, only 17% of drivers are currently under 40 years old.

How to recruit and retain a taxi driver under 40?

That’s the million dollar question for many local authorities, but frankly, create a job profile that offers job security and financial reward, and they will come. There have been so many changes in recent years that it is difficult to represent a median that licensed taxi drivers in Hackney can expect in 5 years. Rising vehicle costs, increasing restricted road access, and a nagging little unknown around long-term automated vehicles are currently pushing potential candidates elsewhere. Those who take a chance are likely to be rewarded, especially in the short term.

It is also important to strike a balance between the number of licensed taxi drivers and the available demand. No one in the industry wants to see oversaturation again, especially at a time of required investment in new vehicles.