Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Call a cab

R asked if I knew what these new grey taxis were. I had not seen them, but the very next day I saw a couple of them. Perhaps I had been primed to take notice. They are Silver Service taxis. We used one to take us and the about to become bride and groom from Potts Point in Sydney to the Botanic Gardens when we were the wedding planners for R's English sister and her now husband in about 2005. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the wedding. I am fairly sure these taxis have been seen here in Melbourne before.

R stated that Melbourne needed mini cabs, as they have in England. I disagreed. England has a two tier taxi system, proper taxis and mini cabs and there are heavy restrictions on how both operate. Essentially if you want a mini cab, which are cheaper, you have to call them.

You will of course have heard of The Knowledge that London cabbies have to sit. They need to know almost every little back street of London before they are allowed to drive London cabs. I suspect once they pass the test, taxi driving is quite lucrative for them, but the do have to pass The Knowledge first.  Melbourne supposedly had a knowledge test, but it seems it was very perfunctory and drivers passed quite easily, and helped to get over the line if they were struggling. 

So in an effort to fix Melbourne's taxis, a new knowledge test has been introduced, a much harder one, that has to be sat by new drivers and any driver with less than five years driving experience. I am not surprised to learn that all of the drivers with less than five years experience failed, bar one female driver. Of course they would fail. Most of our taxi drivers are recent immigrants. It is such a poorly paid job with awful conditions that no one other than the desperate and most recent immigrants would do it. It wasn't always the case. There used to some quite professional long time drivers, but they have mostly gone. I am not a huge user of taxis and I've had good and bad experiences, more good.

And now there is Uber and similar companies offering a more personalised and from what I see, a better service.

On top of that, there are hire cars, that cost a bit more than taxis but with a fixed fare. You get a nicer and clean car and a well groomed driver and they are reliable, unlike taxis.

Perth in West Australia has successfully trialled London style cabs and they are coming to Melbourne too. With GM and Ford pulling out their local car manufacturing from Australia and the Holden and Falcon will disappear, it is high time to rethink what the shape of our taxi vehicles is to be.

Melbourne's, and I think generally Australian taxi drivers are in quite an unusual situation. They should be employees, but instead they are private businesses, who have to to pay all sorts of costs that are normally paid by an employer. For this they get just over half of their fare collection. No holiday pay, no sick leave, no long service, no nothing and pay their own tax. While our minimum paid wage is around $20 an hour, taxi drivers average something like $9 an hour. 

Can we really expect a professional and good service from people who are paid so little?

18 comments:

  1. Taxi service here is very variable - and even in a place as small as Canberra a local equivalent of The Knowledge would be a winner.
    And yes, I agree with you that we are expecting a lot from a very poorly paid group.
    At $9 an hour, probably one of our worst paid professions.

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    1. EC, not that we want to have to pay more to use cabs, but it does come down to Australians liking to see workers paid fairly and not rely on tips, as our Federal Government would like to see.

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  2. Andrew. so it means a taxi driver is a bad- paid job. At my place taxis are rather cheap but not popular because now almost everybody has a car. And taxi driver is not well-paid job . Some drivers earn much money but only in the most popular and crowded places and during Christmas or New Year's Eve.

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    1. Gosia, I suppose like in most places, the taxi drivers try to cheat their passengers too, if they can get away with it. I had hoped Poland would have more of western European public transport focus.

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  3. We seem to take more taxis overseas than here at home. It used to be that a cabbie was the one who knew all there was about a place - not anymore from what I've heard from visitor friends. Shame really. Used to be a good job in small places where the driver/company really did know where to go and the easiest way to get there so providing a good service for the fare.
    Cathy

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    1. Cathy, the Mediterranean immigrant drivers used to be really good, although you still had to watch that did not cheat you. But they knew their job well and the could make money.

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  4. In Sydney they need to speak little english have little knowledge of the layout of sydney so you usually get to direct them but most are friendly and like to chat so it not a bad experience but sometimes a bit costly.
    Merle..........

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    1. Merle, we have learnt that it is best to direct the taxi driver too. But you should not have to. Most here are chatty and polite, but just incompetent. They either have no idea of where to go, or they drive very badly.

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  5. I think it's a disgrace that cabbies earn so little. They should be employees of a company and get fair hours and pay. None of this private, make what you can business.

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    1. River, exactly my sentiments. Train, tram and bus drivers are paid wages, why not the drivers of public transport cars?

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  6. I have no idea how taxi drivers work in Brussels, one thing is sure they are very expensive ! And they are certainly not poor. Knowing all streets is easy today as everybody has a GPS or Satnav as they call it in the UK. I don't even remember when we took a taxi the last time !

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    1. Gattina, if they are expensive, then they are probably getting reasonable money and your taxi system is well organised and highly regulated, as it should be.

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  7. A good discussion here. I agree with you in the last statement.

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    1. Diane, it probably comes down to you get what you pay for. My most mediocre posts are always much improved by comments.

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  8. Probably not Andrew, would be hard to be cheerily chatty when you're making a mere pittance! I love our new 'London' cabs, they look so fab tooting around the city and suburbs.. I'm going to catch on someday soon just so I can check out the inside :)

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    1. Grace, I look forward to seeing them here. What fun it was to ride in a proper iconic London cab in London but then as a car it is nothing special.

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  9. You've just jogged my memory. I saw a black cab the other day, not being used as a taxi, but it was in really good nick. I did a double take!

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  10. Probably the same one I recently saw Fen. It had some sort of advertising on the side of it.

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