To all of our valued Passengers

An Apology and a Request for your Help

As taxi operators we would like to thank you for your business and your continuing support throughout the pandemic. As an industry, we are conscious that our service to you recently hasn’t been as good as what you might have been used to with us and is certainly not of the standard that we want to deliver to you – for this, we would like to apologise. The reason for this is that there are not enough drivers still working to meet demand.

The pandemic has had a “once in a lifetime” effect on the taxi industry, not just here in NI, but in the rest of Ireland, the United Kingdom and beyond. Many drivers have left the industry never to return and as the economy reopens and we slowly return to normality, this has meant that the demand for taxis often exceeds supply, especially at evening and weekend times.

We estimate that the taxi industry has lost around 10,000 drivers since 2013, with as many as 3,000 in the last year alone. In that same period less than 1500 new drivers have entered the industry. This is for many reasons which include the costs of becoming a driver, taxi insurance and car costs but the main reasons are because of the complexity of the theory tests that an applicant must pass to become a driver. Taxi drivers are self-employed, and we also need to make sure that it is worthwhile for drivers to work anti-social hours.

We have lobbied government for a temporary relaxation in the requirements to become a driver. This is not deregulation – we have asked that new drivers meet the standards that were required in 2014 immediately before the introduction of theory testing. This would mean that drivers would need to have a full driving licence, appropriate experience, to pass a medical and an enhanced Access NI test (vetting) – In other words, what 85% of drivers working today qualified with.

Not having a well-resourced taxi industry has implications for the regrowth of our economy, hospitality and tourism, and industry leaders from across these sectors fully support our aims in trying to get more new drivers. Our attempts, and the efforts of those that support us have however fallen on deaf ears with the Minister responsible for taxi legislation, Nichola Mallon offering nothing meaningful to address these serious issues. Unfortunately, as the weather worsens and the nights get darker the demand for taxis increases – this means that unless the Minister changes her position, the driver shortage will continue through the winter months and availability of taxis and their promptness will still be a problem. We have warned the Minister and her department of the implications for Christmas party goers and shoppers and the knock on effect on hospitality – you may choose to not go out at all if it’s too difficult to get home. We don’t want to see an increase in drink driving, problems because streets can’t be cleared of revellers, or an increase in problems when young men and woman accept “lifts” from unvetted, uninsured members of the public, but we have warned that these may be a consequence of the Minister and the department not addressing the driver shortage correctly.

If you think that the current availability of taxis is an issue and would like to help lobby the Minister for the changes to allow more drivers into the industry and improve services as a result, we would be grateful if you would email the Minister.

Thank you