Friday, October 02, 2009

Taxi regulation

A few months ago, I got a taxi from Dublin City Centre back home to northside.

I was talking to the lovely fella, lets call him Tom, about the whole taxi regulation thing and striking. A strike was coming up that weekend and he said he wouldn't be attending. His reason was he felt it was uncalled for and that taxi drivers brought it upon themselves.

Tom had been a taxi driver when it was fully regulated. Back when you had to queue for 2 hours on a Friday or Saturday night in Dublin for a taxi. Back when you called for a taxi at 7am and at 8.30am you were ringing for the 4th time to be told it would still be 10mins. Something had to change and did.

These strikes and most people marching never care about the customers. They care about themselves. When it was regulated they minted it. The customers suffered but they didn't care. When it became easier to get a plate, the customer rejoiced as it was now a much better service. Prices went up over the last few years to compensate for loss of earnings but its easier than ever before to get a plate, that itself is wrong.

Tom told me he knew people who worked 3 or 4 days a week during full regulation and that kept the family going. If they were going on holidays or needed extra money for Christmas they would work 5 or 6 days. he knew drivers that had massive houses from 3 days work.

When the news of regulation was coming in, taxi unions and drivers were approached to agree on a way forward. They refused all proposals put before them and hence what we have today was put in place. The main idea mooted to them was that each taxi driver would be issued with another plate - each of them would have two plates. They could sell that plate onto anyone and double the amount of taxis in Dublin and elsewhere. Tom told me that lots of drivers liked that idea as it would help control the numbers. Lots didn't like it as it would mean they may have to work 5 days now to earn their keep. Taxi and union heads refused and so the regulation was opened up.

Tom left the taxi business and went on the building sites during the boom. He's now near retiring age and is back in the taxi game just for something to do. He works day time hours just to have some social interaction and to "keep out of the wife's hair". He has no sympathy for the current situation as he was saying it was too controlled with no proper rota system or care for customers. He felt the two-plate idea was great but his voice, and the voice of many colleagues, wasn't heard or listened to by those apparently representing them.

If they hadn't been so pig-headed before, things could be so different now.

1 comment:

Caelen King said...

I deplore the recent series of taxi protests however I am going to put in a quick word of defense for the taxi driver (as unpopular as they are). I believe that there should be a cap on the number of taxi plates issued because despite what people say it is a regulated industry. In a free market suppliers can charge what they like and provide services according to radically different criteria.

In our regulated system this is not the case. The regulator imposes maximum fares and the regulator imposes minimum standards. It is reasonable that if the regulator wants these standards to be met that the number of plates be restricted to a reasonable number.

How do we work out what a reasonable number is. Well, we have a regulator for that.

I am no great fan of taxi drivers, however I agree with the spirit of this article that they have hurt themselves and continue to do so. Their members repeatedly appear in the national media as racists and bigots. However, just because we don't like them isn't a reason that we should continue with an unfair regulatory system