Plymouth’s taxi driver shortage is likely to worsen as it appears the town has only two black taxi drivers under the age of 30 and many are over 60 and heading into retirement. The Plymouth Licensed Taxi Association (PLTA) said it was struggling to find young people who wanted to work in an industry plagued by unpopular regulation and spending – and the annoyance of drunken passengers.
Martin Leaves, PLTA secretary of hackney cabbies, said the city should have 349 hackney drivers, but there are only 309 at the moment – and 81 of them are over 60. He said: “We need younger drivers, there are only two who are under 30. I’m 48 and most of the drivers are over 50.
Plymothians are reporting long waits for taxis since the city was unlocked following Covid pandemic restrictions. In 2021, Plymouth Live reported that dozens of taxi drivers had left the profession during the pandemic, attracted to jobs as delivery drivers or returning to Europe after Brexit.
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It was estimated that up to 400 private hackney and hire drivers had left the industry. Figures show the number of private drivers has risen from 803 to 690, but the figures include several who are not working full time.
Mr Leaves blamed many factors, including rising costs and bureaucracy, and said there was a particular shortage of drivers willing to work nights, particularly at weekends due to “customers in poor condition. drunk”. Mr Leaves said: ‘There is a lack of drivers who want to work at night. Some drivers say there is too much aggression to work on Saturday evening.
He added that other factors also made life difficult for black taxi drivers. He said: “There are overhead costs. Vehicles are becoming more and more expensive. And the bureaucracy imposed on taxi drivers does not help.
This includes Plymouth City Council’s recent approval of the Hackney Transport and Private Hire Licensing Policy 2022. The policy removes the limit on the number of hackney cabs and insists famous black cabs will be green and white in color by 2027 – which Mr Leaves said will cost money.
Mr Leaves, a taxi driver for 18 years, said the council told him it would cost £250 to change the livery of a taxi. But when he contacted a garage he was offered £2,700 to wrap up a black cab. He said 85% of taxis made by the London Electric Vehicle Company are black and Mercedes’s are “predominantly black”. He said: ‘We think it’s £250 if you have a white cab, but wrapping a black cab is more. How many white people are there?
Earlier in 2021, Cllr Chaz Singh, chairman of the council’s taxi licensing committee, told Plymouth Live’s sister site Business Live that there was a shortage of taxi drivers, with Brexit being one of the factors. He said: “A lot of Polish drivers had left, but many Romanians stayed.”
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He said more drivers were needed and explained, “We need a lot of drivers, especially as the economy recovers and events begin again. We have to make sure that we can meet the demand of the public.
Cllr Singh said he was confident drivers would be recruited and said steps had been taken to encourage former members of the armed forces, for example. And he said that as chairman of the Taxi Licensing Committee he had been instrumental in raising fees for hackneys and private hire vehicles in a bid to encourage people to enter the ‘industry.
But other incentives may be needed and Cllr Singh said: ‘We want people from all walks of life to become taxi drivers as we have a lot of older drivers. So how do you get people to get into trading? Can we give them some sort of incentive from a financial standpoint? Licenses are not cheap.
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