Bad hygiene, overcharging, aggressive behaviour and refusing to take guide dogs. These are just a few of the nearly 1,000 complaints made to the National Transport Authority about taxi drivers last year, representing a 7.5% increase on the figures for 2016.
On Today with Sean O’Rourke, Vinnie Kearns, CEO of Xpert Taxis and Former Vice President of the National Taxi Drivers Union, was on hand to talk about some of those complaints and what can be done to make things better.
“There are certain types of people that should not be driving a taxi. Somebody who has a very short fuse definitely should not be driving a taxi. You need somebody who is calm, who can allow things go over their head. They only have a customer in the car on average 15 or 20 minutes. So if they can’t bide their time and let a roar after the event, there is an issue.”
On the specific issue of refusing to take guide dogs, Vinnie was unequivocal, agreeing with the presenter that this refusal is extremely serious, totally unacceptable and, in fact, illegal. He did outline one case where he contacted the owner of a guide dog, requesting that it be a little better groomed, as there was a report that it was moulting in the back of a taxi. That said, this particular incident was 20 years ago.
But as a rule, taxi drivers are prohibited in law from refusing to take guide dogs. That much is beyond doubt.
Despite the 7.5% increase from 2016, according to Vinnie Kearns, the figure of 1,000 complaints should be put in the context of over 75 million taxi journeys in total across the country. “That equates to 0.00001%, or thereabouts. So number wise, not alarming by any means.”
Focus should remain, he says, on the more serious matters of illegal drivers, drivers who have no insurance, and assaults on drivers themselves. He also felt more rigorous testing of candidates could be useful.
“They should bring in psychometric testing of candidates before they qualify as taxi drivers.”
During the interview, presenter, Sean O’Rourke took the opportunity to read a couple of complaints, including this one.
“The taxi driver was in desperate need of a shower. And something to clean the car. The taxi was battered, and the smell inside the car was frankly disgusting.”
There is no excuse for that, according to Vinnie. The large taxi companies, he says, tend to police the cars that they manage, including checking on internal and external cleanliness. But with 50% of all taxis operated by individual, self-employed drivers, standards can vary enormously. In that respect, there is an additional problem in the form of enforcement. Or, more accurately, lack of enforcement.
“There is a handful of enforcement officers. And many, many taxi drivers go from one end of the year to the next and never see an enforcement officer.”
To listen to the full interview, click here.
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