Monday, February 26, 2024

Blogspot: Ubergate: What a Thurrock private hire cabbie thinks

TaxiBlogspot: By Ian Colley

THURROCK taxi drivers (hackney carriage) are off the ranks of Grays, Chafford and Lakeside. These drivers on “on the meter” which means you pay for the distance/time you are in the vehicle. The drivers can only charge what is on the meter – which is set, regulated and checked by Thurrock Council.

As a private hire cab driver I work for a private hire taxi company which take pre-bookings over the phone. Our prices are fixed-fare which means it costs a set amount to go from one location to another no matter who you are. The only fluctuation in price is on a Sunday where the fare is £1 more or after 11pm where the fare goes time and a half. (Because seriously, who wants to be ferrying drunk people around at 1am on a Saturday night for £4!).

Uber – The Uber drivers in Thurrock can be spotted with their “diamond disc” in the rear/front windows. They are licensed by Transport for London (TFL) and the drivers are licensed by the London authority, not Thurrock. What this means it they literally apply online to get their “badge” which means they are then allowed to operate in the London districts as a private hire driver – in this case they choose Uber.

The thing about transport for London is that the checks compared to Thurrock are very easy. There is no real background check except a very basic CBR. Also there is no knowledge test whatsoever. Once they have an Uber badge they are “licensed”, to what skill level is unknown.

Then they come out to Thurrock because there are too many drivers in London to wait for jobs in the Thurrock area. Because they are “licensed” it means they CAN pick up anyone, anywhere in the country – technically. However the “gentleman” rules of a badge is that you ply for hire in your licensed borough. Bit like ice cream men not stepping on other people’s patches…

However with Uber they are using this as a loophole. Instead of getting people to go through Thurrock Council to get licensed in Thurrock, they just send the drivers to the easiest place to get a badge and stick them where the drivers want to work.

Of course – as a Thurrock cab driver I could pick up in London to do a London to London job, but who will want to pay a cab to come all the way from Thurrock?

Here is where it gets interesting. If a cab driver is in another area (outside of their licensed area), the licensing team in that area can not even check them. Leaving Thurrock Council’s hands tied. Because these guys are “app” based they can end up getting local jobs within Thurrock, which of course people want cheap fares for.

What Uber’s goal is: To flood areas across the UK with Uber drivers – sell em cheap and stack them high. Eventually putting local cab firms and hackney carriage drivers out of business. But what then – Then they make their profit. This is where the price will ROCKET higher than imaginable. But when you don’t want to pay £10 to go from Morrisons to Hathaway Road, what choice do you have – all the local firms would be out of business, along with all the local licensed drivers who have also been put out of business. Even for your £10 you will be left with a bloke who doesn’t speak English taking to you to your destination via a sat nav… great stuff!?

So why don’t the Uber drivers get registered with Thurrock Council and get a badge with Thurrock Council?

Well firstly they like the part about not being able to be checked – just notice the amount of them smoking in their cars, bald tyres and having accidents that cannot be reported to TFL. Then there is the insurance. How can anyone check they have proper cab insurance if they are not allowed to check them? Finally – why would they pay £120 a year for a Thurrock badge and have to pass a local knowledge test, get a full CBR check, go on disability awareness courses, full medicals and much more totalling around £300-£600 when they can just pick up a badge by applying online to TFL?

I know some people at the moment feel Uber have come along and “woo” we have cheap cabs. But once they put everyone local out of business you can wave goodbye to discount codes, vouchers and these “cheap” prices. They will be out to get their lost money back – that is for sure!

As for people who say a local cab firm is expensive. Let me just give you an idea of some costs as a local cabby:

1. The car – Thurrock Council require all vehicles to be less than 5 years old.

2. Insurance – Full comprehensive insurance covering all scenarios. Not only the cab driver to be insured but the company too.

3. Fuel – Yeah, that keeps going up. Gone up 20% in 3 months – notice nobody has raised prices though – the local’s are swallowing this at the moment.

4. MOT and Servicing – All cars are kept in the very best condition with regular servicing and tyre changes along with a 6 monthly MOT as required by the council – this is not cheap to do.

5. Thurrock Council – Licensed badge – To just apply for a private hire license is £120 a year. Then you have the PATS course (disability), child safety course, Full medical – not to mention you have to pass a local knowledge test and basic maths test. All in all costs the average driver around £600 per 3 years, as the courses have to be re-completed every 3 years.

6. Operators badge – on side of the car – Thurrock Council charge the companies themselves for every car, every sticker and everything else. Costs a fortune to run a cab firm, that is without having drivers as well.

These are just some off the top of my head costs.

Then you get the prices which some people call a rip-off:

£4 – a typical local fare in Grays – for example Morrisons to Hathaway Road.

£7 – a typical fare from Grays to Tilbury.

£6.50 – a typical fare from Grays to Lakeside Karting

£12 – a typical fare from Grays to SLH/Rotary Club of Stanford & Corringham

£16 – a typical fare from Grays to basildon hospital.

£9 – a typical fare from Grays to South Ockendon.

Now just to throw in another few issues on this – people often come out late (5-10 minutes), traffic can be bad meaning it can take 30 minutes to get from Grays to S/O.

In the end the average driver usually takes about £1 per mile – which by the time you end up taking away all of the costs above from them leaves them with JUST minimum wage! Then they have to do their own tax and employ an accountant… even more cost.

So before you make a comment telling me and other cab driver just how “great” Uber is, PLEASE read the above carefully and understand the risks involved.

Who would you rather pick you up? Some foreign guy who doesn’t know the area, uses a sat-nav, is not properly insured, has a cab smelling of fags but charges you £3.50?

Or a licensed, registered English speaking, local cab driver who can take shortcuts to get you home quicker for an extra 50p? Not to mention who is also FULLY insured, is guaranteed safe with your kids in the car as well as has a car that has been checked maticulously for dirt and faults too.

I hope people read this comment – this is why Uber are the biggest risk to local cab drivers in the area since ever. If you want more information please look up the group on Facebook “Thurrock Licensed Taxi and Cab Drivers”.

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