The reality of being a taxi driver in Dublin

We have all got a taxi at least once in our lives. However, have you ever thought about what the job is really like? 

Taxis queued up on O’Connell Street. Photo by Niamh Dobbs.

The process of becoming a taxi driver may seem easy. However, there is a lot to it. The process begins with a requirement of already holding your category B drivers’ licence, and then you must apply for the small public service vehicle (SPSV) exam and, of course, pass it. Following this, it is essential to register with the National Taxi Authority (NTA). These are just the basics. Most people with average driving skills could do that, right?  

What we forget about is every other skill that comes with it, Speaking to a local taxi driver Haider Zaman, who has been a taxi driver now in Dublin for one year, expresses that “being a taxi driver is not ordinary work, it demands a lot of good driving skills but also an excellent knowledge of direction to tackle Dublin traffic, ongoing roadworks on every corner of Dublin which could cause major delays on pickups and drop offs.” There is also the social side of it too – like any other job that deals with the public it requires a skill in customer service. “It requires an unflappable calmness on my face to handle any unexpected traffic or stressful situations,” said Zaman.  

taxi rank interrupted by roadworks, photo taken by Niamh Dobbs.

Dublin is constantly progressing as it is one of Ireland’s biggest cities, and this was the same for the taxi industry as apps were introduced. Rather than hailing down a taxi on the side of the street or searching for your closest taxi rank, these apps transformed the industry massively.

According to the National Taxi Authority , 38% of people in Dublin order their taxis by app.  

So, what does this mean for taxi drivers? Zaman mentioned that “there are benefits involved as not everyone goes to the street or ranks to hail a taxi. With extreme weather conditions, people often want to be brought to the door.”  

However, these apps come with some negatives as they charge commissions to the taxi driver, along with the competition between many of these taxi apps as they are constantly growing to suit our tech obsessed way of living.

“Drawbacks to app-based taxi operations are that they’re charging outrageous amounts of commissions per job. It is also subject to competition, which could decline your earnings due to rivalry apps, for example, Uber., said Zaman. 

Dublin city as we know it is full of nightlife with 13 universities in just one city, along with many businesses, corporations, a hot spot for tourists mixed with a buzzing night life scene the taxi industry is bound to be hopping. According to a survey carried out National Transport Authority (NTA) specifically in Dublin 34% of taxi usage was for recreational/Socializing reasons along with 19% of people’s reasoning was that they’d been drinking and thus couldn’t drive themselves. This naturally may increase the likelihood of dealing with difficult customers as we know we are not always our best when drinking alcohol.  

With this, there can be a lot of risk for taxi drivers out there working in the late hours of the night. However, it can be easier to judge the state of a person when picking up customers by hailing or taxi ranks, but with apps overtaking it causes other issues with app-based taxi operations which is the uncertainty and unknown.

taxi covered in ‘Free Now’ advertisements. Photo taken by Niamh Dobbs.

These apps do not allow taxi drivers to speak to the person face to face before agreeing to take them, not being able to see what condition they are in or what kind of character they are.

“It doesn’t guarantee anything about the person you’re going to pick up. This puts us in a difficult situation when you come to realise that the person may be too drunk. If you cancel through the app (Free Now or Uber), they will block you for the next 24 to 48 hours. And if you take the risk to pick them up. By doing so can put you at risk of being attacked, especially when customers are too drunk and refuse to pay, “said Zaman.

The skill to judge someone quickly and make the snap decision to accept or reject a customer is a hidden necessity in the industry – “one quick decision made to take someone on board could lead to a threat of physical assault,” added Zaman. 

The taxi industry is clear to see as a challenging job that is not only mentally challenging but also physically straining. Can you imagine being behind the wheel all day long? 

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