Technology For Taxi Drivers

With new and modern technology now beginning to find its way into our vehicles, devices such as sat navs and dashboard cameras have provided us with a means of recording journeys and as a useful resource as supporting evidence in insurance cases.

But could this also help from a business point of view? Drivers are now using technology to save money on their insurance policies; so can it be applied to taxi drivers and other hire & reward businesses such as coaches as well?

Can Tech Help Taxi Drivers?

Because of the unpredictable nature of their work both inside and outside of the vehicle, taxi drivers may find such technologies useful to record evidence and track driving progress which could help their taxi insurance claims go forward.

So if you’re a taxi fleet owner and you’re interested in using such technologies to reduce your premiums, what should you be looking for?

What Is A Dashcam?

Dashboard cameras (more commonly known as dashcams) are devices which can be attached to the windscreen of a car and record the view directly in front – either from the drivers point-of-view or as a general, centralised view.

Dashcams have increased in popularity in recent years, both as a fraud prevention method or for filming journeys for uploading and sharing to YouTube and other social networks. Dashcams can be attached within a car, or to helmets and handlebars in the case of motorcyclists and cyclists.

Dashboard cameras are now freely available from high street stores and many online stores. There are plenty of models to choose from, and they come with a multitude of features and resolutions to record in, so you’ve plenty to choose from. But there are still aspects to think about when choosing a device:

  • Where can it be mounted? – most dashcams can be mounted to windows – much like a sat nav unit – or be attached by hanging from a rearview mirror to provide a good view and keep out of your eyeline while driving.
  • What power does it need? – many devices can be powered using your in-car cigarette lighter, or a USB-port if your vehicle has it
  • How much memory? – footage is stored to an onboard SD card you’ll get one initially with the camera, but if you’re looking to track over a long day it can be worth investing in a larger memory card to save on costs in future
  • What does it record? – dashcams can range in quality from recording videos to having built-in gyroscopes that measure g-force and can keep vital footage clear even against sudden jolts caused by breaking in the event of an incident.
  • Can I record at night? – some dashcams will allow you to record clearly at night which can be handy for taxi drivers as they work all times of the day, but you may need to invest in a higher-spec model to get good quality footage
  • Can it track using GPS? – some dashcams come with a built-in GPS locator to pinpoint your vehicles’ location

If you’re looking at investing in a dashcam, it’s worth shopping around especially if you’re looking to buy in bulk for your fleet. Look into bulk-buying units, either online or in warehouses, for you might save money in the process.

What Is Telematics?

Telematic units are becoming ever more popular with drivers, both as a way of measuring their driving habits but also as a useful tool in helping to reduce their car insurance policies.

Telematics makes use of a small black box which can be mounted in your vehicle – either through using the cigarette lighter or be attached under the bonnet – and works by GPS essentially. With wireless technology getting better the potential is there, although it’s not completely foolproof as of yet as you may still get areas of bad signal that can affect the results.

For a taxi company, telematics can be a useful tool in tracking the driving habits of your drivers, but also for helping to reduce the cost of your taxi fleet insurance.

What Data Is Collected?

Telematic black boxes track details about the car while it is travelling; including acceleration, deceleration, braking and even cornering. Black boxes can also be used to detect sudden movements, which may occur if an impact has taken place.

Telematics can also be used to track what time of the day you are driving, which can be particularly useful for determining the habits of your drivers at certain times of the day.

Captured data from the black box is then sent wirelessly to a piece of software that will help to interpret the data for better understanding, allowing you to keep track of daily habits and even receive advice as to how to change your driving habits to bring down your premiums.

What Are Parking Sensors?

Parking sensors now come built-in to many modern cars and have become an essential tool for those who may be nervous when it comes to parking a car.

Using what are known as ultrasonic proximity detectors, parking sensors can help detect movement in close proximity to vehicles, often sending out a warning signal if something gets too close, this can be particularly handy for avoiding collisions when reversing out of spaces or for determining a safe parking distance.

While not an essential feature to have on your taxi, parking sensors can still offer peace of mind for those who may still be new to the profession, as well as helping to avoid collisions and incidents in built-up areas. This can be particularly helpful if your fleet operates within a city centre, which usually sees an increase in human traffic during the night, providing potential hazards if you’re not careful.

So whether you own a fleet and are looking to save on your taxi fleet insurance, or are a sole trader or rideshare operator looking to save themselves some money on their insurance premiums, it can be looking into additional technology to try and help you save you some money on your premiums.

Understanding Ride-Sharing Apps

Ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft have provided us with the opportunity to make a little extra money in our spare time. But should we be wary of using our own cars as taxis and how will it affect our existing insurance policies?

Uber allows users to hail a taxi using a click of their thumb, any drivers local to them are alerted to their journey request and the user can see the details of their driver before they arrive.

How do I get paid?

Customers pay their fares using the app at the end of the trip, the app client who then pay the driver on a weekly basis, and how much money you earn depends on how hard you’ve worked.

The flexibility afforded by such apps is tempting to those who want to earn a bit of extra cash in their spare time, but what effect can it have on your existing vehicle insurance?

Can I begin driving immediately for a ride-share app?

Before you even begin as a driver you must have the relevant paperwork in place, including Private Hire licences issued by local councils to taxi drivers and specialist taxi insurance, which you’ll need to get on top of your existing car insurance policy in order to cover yourself.

UPDATE: As per Gov.uk’s announcement, you no longer need to apply through your local council and pass a DVSA taxi assessment to be eligible to drive a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV). You may visit this website to see how you can apply for a driver’s licence for taxis and PHVs.

Do I need any additional insurance?

Your personal car insurance policy will not cover you against commercial use, so having additional taxi insurance is essential if you want to make use of such schemes.

Uber and others do not offer insurance as part of the service but do conduct background checks on potential drivers, and will look at aspects such as driving convictions when selecting if you’re suitable.

Having a public liability insurance policy helps to cover you against claims made by passengers who may get injured or lose possessions whilst in your car. Because of the unpredictability of your passengers and situations, having said insurance in place can help protect you as you’re doing your rounds.

Can I use my current car for such a scheme?

Uber and others will usually have criteria as to what vehicles can be used as taxis, with minimum requirements for each level of service, including vehicle age and size

For example, some can be used but must be at least a saloon model, while some may be classified as higher-type vehicles and therefore qualify for a different class of pay.

Say you have an 8-seater MPV and are able to transport more passengers as a result, if you wanted to use it for a service like Uber it would fall under a different category due to the size of the vehicle, which may lead to a higher rate of pay but could also incur extra costs.

You can usually find a list of suitable cars on the company’s website, so it can be worth double-checking if yours if eligible before starting out.

How much is it going to cost me?

Tariffs are worked out according to the length of a journey, with factors such as traffic and any subsequent delays adding to the estimate as you go as these are determined using speed, time and distance.

When the customer pays the app you’re then paid a percentage using a weekly payment, so the more pickups the more you’ll take home.

Bearing in mind you’ll have other costs, such as petrol to keep it running, maintenance costs as a result of an increased use and the additional insurance you’ll require on top of what you already pay.

Is it for me in the long-term?

For some, it’s a useful little extra earner, but it doesn’t suit everyone so research is key when deciding if it’ll work for you, be sure to weigh up all the costs before committing.

Also, keep in mind that all those extra miles you’re putting onto the vehicle, as a result, could add to the cost of your car insurance in future, particularly as it would have increased the distance of travel per year.

If you’re thinking of embarking on ride-sharing as an additional job it can be worth researching into taxi insurance to see how much it’s going to potentially cost you.

How Can I Become A Taxi Driver?

We’ve all had to make use of a taxi at some point, whether to take us home from the pub, from the supermarket, or even to the hospital in times of need.

And of course, we’re familiar with the black Hackney cabs driven by cabbies in London, who hone their skills over many years to be able to get you from one side of the city to the other as quickly as possible (and maybe even throw in some local knowledge while they’re at it).

But how does one become a taxi driver? Maybe you’re thinking of a career change and like the idea of using your car as a private hire vehicle, or quite fancy driving one of those iconic Hackney cabs?

Starting Off

UPDATE: As per Gov.uk’s announcement, you no longer need to apply through your local council and pass a DVSA taxi assessment to be eligible to drive a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV). You may visit this website to see how you can apply for a driver’s licence for taxis and PHVs.

Councils will differ in their criteria, but the universal requirements for obtaining a taxi licence are that you’ll need the following:

  • Be a UK citizen
  • You must be over 18 years of age
  • A full and valid driving licence that you’ve held for at least 12 months
  • A medical certificate confirming that you are in good health (Group II Medical form)
  • You must have passed a criminal records background check (DBS check)
  • Pass a driving skills assessment test (see below)
  • In some cases; you’ll have to pass a geographical driving test, especially in the area you wish to operate

Once your application has been accepted, you’ll need to pass a Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) test to qualify for a taxi licence.

What Does The Assessment Involve?

Much like a normal driving test for your car, a taxi assessment will first test your eyesight, and you’ll be required to read a licence plate from a distance of 20 metres, and if you require glasses, you must wear them during the test.

You will then move onto a practical assessment, which will involve certain manoeuvres, including:

  • Identifying traffic and road signs and answering questions from the Highway Code
  • 10 minutes of solo driving without being given instructions by the examiner
  • Performing a manoeuvre to turn your vehicle to face in the opposite direction
  • Stop at the side of the road as if picking up a passenger
  • What to do if a passenger leaves property in your vehicle after being dropped off
  • Perform an emergency stop

Upon passing the assessment, you’ll then receive a pass certificate (TPH10 form) as well as a copy of your assessment and some notes from your examiner, both of which you’ll need for the next step in your application.

What’s The Next Step?

Depending on which council you wish to drive for, each will have its own set of criteria for taxi drivers, and many will require you to pass a ‘knowledge test’, which essentially tests your knowledge of the local area.

Once you’ve passed all the relevant tests required, your council will then issue (for a fee) a taxi licence; these are issued on a year-long basis, you can then begin the process of deciding what sort of environment you want to work in.

Sole Trader Or Fleet Driver?

When you first start out as a driver, it can be worth finding a local taxi company to start work with to gain some experience. Being part of a fleet means you get orders distributed to you as they are rung into the main office.

Ridesharing allows you to operate as a solo driver, through use of an app such as Uber, so you can take fares on the go and dictate your own workload. However, you’ll need to arrange for a special type of taxi insurance on your own vehicle on top of your car insurance policy.

Whether you choose to be your own boss or work as part of a taxi company, ensuring you’re qualified for the job is essential to keep you, your passengers and your employer safe.