Cabbies Mate has now been around for a number of years and has been produced in various guises over the years from a 7” touchscreen standalone unit to the one available today which is a 5” unit. Cabbies Mate combines a basic Satellite Navigation system along with Geographers A-Z but the unique thing about the product is that it also contains a database of points which come in usual to the working Taxi driver on a daily basis, also when you search for a location a line is drawn on the A-Z from your current location to the destination you have entered. Now this unit does not come cheap with the current online price being £335.00 which when compared to the average Sat Nav at around £100 is actually quite expensive but Taxi drivers obviously feel that the unit and what it has to offer is worth the price as they have been a great success.
Now the good news, today I found out that Cabbies Mate is now available as a download from the App store for the iPhone and iPad, priced at £19.99 it is not cheap and is more at the upper end of the App price band but when compared to the standalone unit it offers fantastic value for money. The iPhone App offers most of the same functionality as the original unit including the points database and the ability to search for a location to which a line is drawn from your current location to your chosen destination the only part not included in the App is the Satellite Navigation part which to be honest is not really a problem given the host of top end Sat Nav Apps now available for the iPhone.
In conclusion the Cabbies Mate App is well worth a look and in my opinion well worth the £19.99.
No one can deny the impact that the current Taxi Apps in the market place are having an impact on the Taxi Drivers working day, Hailo and Get Taxi they have managed to sign up over 5000 drivers between them and with the promise of more Apps soon to launch that number will obviously grow as more Apps enter the market place.
There is no doubt that these Apps will win some work back from the Private Hire trade as using a Taxi via these Apps can often work out cheaper than most of the largest Private Hire companies, but a lot of the customers who now prefer to hail a Taxi via these Apps are people who would traditionally walk out onto the street and hold their arm out to hail a Taxi off the street which will in time have a a detrimental effect on the amount of street work available to those drivers who do not use Apps and are not on radio. So are we to some extent cutting our own throats?
One driver I who I was speaking to recently had very strong views on this matter, his view was that it is madness for a driver to convince a customer who he has picked up off the street to use one of these commercial Apps as the driver will end up buying that customer back at 10% and that will happen over and over again, he said that we as drivers are basically giving our customers away to these commercial organisations who are running these Apps which to some extent is quite true.
It is a real shame that the drivers in this trade didn’t have the foresight to invest together to have our own App created a couple of years ago, a cooperative could have been formed where all interested drivers could have become members and invested to have an App created which would have worked for the mutual benefit for all of the members of the cooperative. Some will say that we could never have invested the £millions that these companies behind the Apps are investing which is quite true, but look at it another way, yes the likes of Get Taxi, Hailo and the others who are soon to appears have invested fortunes in getting these Apps developed and gaining a market presence but there comes a point in time when these investors will want their money back, and where do you think that money will come from? Yes, you the drivers will end up paying back the money that they have invested, whether these companies sell their Apps off or continue to run their business as a Taxi business you will end up paying back every penny that they have invested through charges! But it will not stop when these investors have recouped the initial investment, no the charges will carry on making these companies huge sums of money, so it must follow that is we, the drivers, are going to pay back these investors their money that we might as well have invested in our own cooperative for our own benefit.
Now no one can blame these companies, they are in this to make money, it is what they do and how they operate and some will say that Taxi drivers have no one but themselves to blame for not seeing this coming and failing to invest in their own future which is an argument to which there is no defence. But it could all be so different if Taxi drivers were to believe in themselves and take control of their own destiny and invest in their future. A driver led, funded and operated App could make huge inroads into the current App market place if enough drivers were to get behind such a venture, drivers could promote the App to other drivers but ultimately we could promote it to our passengers, the passengers who we at present pick up off the street, passengers who we do not want to lose to one of these commercial Apps where we could end up buying them back at 10% or more.
This trade needs to act and take control before it is too late, the younger generation who are our future customers are more technology savvy than the current generation who make a vast amount of our current customer base, we need to stop living in the past and get with the times, never before has technology been so affordable, never before has this trade had the opportunity to capture customers business using technology at such a small price per head.
Many years ago when Radio Taxis and Dial A Cab were formed as Friendly & Provident Societies the investment in both monetary terms and time that those original drivers had was enormous but those drivers has the foresight to do something to make a difference to our trade and whether you like or hate the radio circuits this trade would be a far poorer place had those drivers not invested in the future of this trade as Private Hire would have had much more of an impact on our trade than it has. I do realise that a lot of drivers within our trade think the radio circuits have, in recent years failed us on a number of points but it can’t be denied that they have since their inception managed to keep the private hire trade from taking the corporate work from under our feet.
History needs to repeat itself, we need to look at what those drivers managed to achieve all those years ago and the ethos behind what they did, we need a cooperative to take control and develop an App that can be kept for the prosperity of our trade on the “not for profit” ethos of those drivers who formed the original radio circuits and of those who are behind TLC. We need to take control of our destiny rather than leaving it to people from outside of our trade to come in and take control of our customer base and then charge us to serve them.
We all drive taxis for a living, but at the same time we are all small business men and we need to start thinking like small business men, no other business would take their customers and give them to another business and then pay to service them, it ludicrous! We need to keep our customer base for our own prosperity rather than giving it away to someone else for them to profit from it, we need to start to look after our customers as without them we have no work!
Every year the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers run the Magical Taxi Tour to Disneyland Paris for children with serious Illnesses. The trip this year will leave Canary Wharf on Friday 12th October 2012 and travel via Dover and P&O Ferries to Disneyland backed up by the Metropolitan & City of London Police, The London Ambulance Service and the AA. The trip costs over £100,000 each year to run and without the generous sponsorship from companies and the enthusiastic fund raising of members of the Taxi trade this trip would not be possible.
The drivers give up their time and the use of their vehicle free of charge to take part in this spectacular event and often put their hand in their own pocket to spend money on the children. Without the drivers and the hard work of a dedicated organising committee this trip would also not be possible.
The trip gives children a break from their World of treatment and therapy and sadly for some it is the only trip they get to enjoy during their short life.
The WCHCD has a chance of some funding from Lloyds Bank in the form of a donation but there are 3 other charities in the running for this money and we really need people to vote for us so that we can win this money which will enable us to give more children a once in a lifetime experience. To vote please click on the link below.
The Magical Taxi Tour also has a new Twitter account and Facebook page, we would be grateful that if you use Twitter you could follow us at @MagicalTaxiTour we will be tweeting our progress throughout the trip this year along with pictures along the way.
Is there a need within our trade for a Taxi App that is owned, administered and led by the drivers that use and promote it or are we better off leaving it to the venture capitalists who are currently leading the market, a market that will probably see a lot more Taxi Apps launched?
There is of course a lot to be said for having a Taxi App that is funded by venture capitalists where there is no cost to the driver in set up costs whatsoever, obviously the driver does not have to put his hand in his pocket to fund the development or set up costs, there is also the operating costs of any App and also continual develop costs as Apps need to be developed to suit the market place. So why should we as drivers even bother with looking at running our own App, why don’t we just leave it to those who have the money to develop such an App and to market the App with the vast amounts of money available to them that they can throw at promotion and advertising?
The main reason for a driver led Taxi App is so that we can in some way take control of our own trades destiny rather than relying on others who are basically only in the market to make a profit once they build the business to a certain level and then sell it off. A driver initiative should in my opinion be run as some sort of cooperative with each member having some sort of stake in the business and also a say in how the business is run much along the lines of the ideas of the original Radio Circuits, although some safe guards would need to be put in place so that history does not repeat itself, if such an initiative was to come to fruition then it could do so much good for the trade as a whole as every driver could get behind the App which could be developed into a full blown Taxi App and Taxi Booking service. Drivers could once again promote and serve something of which they could rightly feel a part of, something that is run by the trade, for the trade, an App that would obviously be cheaper in charges to the driver than any other as it could still be run on the original TLC ethos of “Not for Profit”
The recent announcement that TLC are to no longer manage the TLC Taxi App has come as a real blow to those who are passionate about our trade but before anyone else can step into the breach and make another attempt at launching a driver led Taxi App the question needs to be asked as to whether there is enough passion, enthusiasm and dedication within our trade to make a driver led Taxi App work or should we all just surrender to the money men and allow them to take a huge chunk of our trade?
So is there enough interest, enthusiasm, passion and dedication amongst our ranks? You tell me!
TLC last week announced that unfortunately they were no longer going to be managing the rebranded TLC Taxi App, personally I feel that this is a great shame as I feel that they were moving in the right direction. The new tlctaxis.co.uk website was well designed and very simple which made it very easy to understand for both passengers and drivers.
I understand from speaking to some of those involved that the App took an enormous amount of time to manage and was taking up far too much of their working time and encroaching into their family life and time causing a negative impact for both them and their families. Apparently every driver or passenger that registered to use the App needs to be manually activated and I was told that a lot of the registrations had some information missing which meant communicating with the user on at least one occasion which obviously takes up a lot of time. It is all very well trying to run something like this for free but once it starts having a negative impact on your life then something has to give and unfortunately this has resulted in TLC coming to this drastic decision.
All of those that were involved in TLC should be applauded for taking on what was the LDNTaxiApp and trying to take it forward as before they stepped in the App was just sitting there doing nothing with very few jobs coming through, since their intervention the number of jobs has increased as has the number of drivers.
Now obviously a driver run App is never going to be able to splash the amount of cash about that the likes of Hailo have at their disposal but does the App need that sort of investment for advertising or can it be done a lot cheaper? Some time ago I had an advertising executive in the taxi and I was explaining the difference between Hailo and the TLC App and that TLC do not have any money to spend with regards to advertising or giving away money for free or subsidised rides, we had quite a lengthy discussion on this subject and we came to the conclusion that, we, the drivers are our own best ambassadors and that if the drivers using the App could explain things to the passenger with regards to the App then we should, between us, be able to make a success of the App.
It really is a shame that unless someone steps in to take this App forward that it looks as though it could well die a death here in London which means that we will be left without a driver led App that we can use to benefit our own trade but instead be left to the money men to cream of the back of working taxi drivers again. I do hope that someone is able to breath new life into this App again and take it forward to benefit us all, maybe as a cooperative of some sort, onlyt time will tell.