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My return to full time Taxi Driving

I never became a mechanic or run a garage through choice, it was more of a necessity as I decided to buy some taxis to rent out and the cheapest way to maintain them was to do the work myself, so I opened a garage.

Initially i only used the garage to work on the taxis that i rented out and the ones we used for wedding hire but then friends started to ask if I would do work on their cabs and from there it grew, i bought a few more taxis to rent out and took on more customers work and although on some days the garage was quite busy it never really made any money as I was not really running it as a business as it was merely to maintain my own vehicles and the customers work paid the bills.

A few years ago I decided to get out of the taxi rental business as I’d had enough of being at the end of the phone 24/7/365 so I sold all of my cabs off, my timing wasn’t great as it had just been announced that there would be an age limit imposed on taxis although the exact limit had not been decided, it was rumoured that the limit would be either 10 years or 15 years but the delay in the exact age a taxi would have to come off the road had severely affected the sale price of second hand taxis and I ended up selling off all of my taxis for less than I could have done today!

It appeared that my timing in buying or selling the taxis wasn’t great as just after buying a few Fairways and TX1s the emission regulations came in and I had to have all of mine converted to comply with Euro 3 emission regulations, this coupled with the price flop when I decided to sell and the fact that during my time of renting taxis the rental market was not as buoyant as it is today due to a surplus of rental taxis being available meant that my foray into taxi rental didn’t turn out to be as profitable as I had at first hoped it would be.

After selling the taxis off I decided to keep the garage open, but in late 2012 with the announcement in changes to the testing regime for taxis I realised that there would not be very much money to be earn’t out of maintaining taxis as the “overhaul” would basically be a thing of the past and early 2013 proved my initial thoughts to be true. I basically made the decision to close the garage down and go back to driving a Taxi full time.

Around this time a friend of mine who had his own fleet of taxis had approached me to come into the garage with me as a partner, I decided to go down this route rather than closing the garage and hence I stayed on in the garage, we took on a mechanic and went about promoting it and restocking the shelves with parts, we made various alterations to the premises, repainted, added another set of opening doors at the front and started to attract a lot of new customers. From April 2013 till the end of December 2013 we basically took no money out of the garage, not even any wages as we were trying to build up the business and by December 2013 things were really starting to look up, we were gaining more and more new customers and we were gaining a very good reputation and all was going very well.

Over Christmas I took some time away from the garage and then on 1st January it was my Birthday where I reached the age of 47, now I am not sure if I had some sort of mid life crisis or if mentally I was telling myself that I am not getting any younger but I took a look around at friends of mine who were in their early 50s and who worked on cars for a living and sat down and asked myself if I really wanted to be rolling around on the floor and getting covered in grease and oil freezing my nuts of in the winter and sweating like a pig in the summer and the honest answer to these questions was a resounding no. I also have other interests that I want to follow which if I stayed involved with running the garage would have been put on the back burner again but by the same token I didnt want to let Spence down!

I think Spence had realised during the beginning of January that my enthusiasm for the garage had dwindled as he was talking about expanding and I was agreeing with his ideas albeit with a little apprehension. We had a chat about the way I felt and if I still wanted to stay involved and I decided it was time to move onto pastures new and to leave Spence to run the garage, something that I am sure he will make a great success of with his energy and enthusiasm and desire to succeed. We agreed that Spence would by my share of the garage, not for a lot of money but at least I have come away with something.

I enjoyed my time running the garage and working on Taxis, I learnt a lot during my time then considering that when I started I knew very little and needed to get people in to help me do most things. I used to gain a lot of satisfaction when I cab came into the garage not running and drove back out again after I repaired it, it makes you feel as though you have achieved something which is something that you do not get from driving a taxi. Running a garage can also be a thankless task, you end up being a money lender as about 50% of taxi drivers never have the money to pay for the work completed on their taxi when they collect it and then there are those who try to knock you for the money or beat you down on the price, funny thing is those same drivers would be the first to moan about bilkers or passengers who tried bartering with them on price.

So now I am back driving a Taxi full time, I will still be doing wedding work in the taxi and I have a few other projects in the pipeline, I will also still be helping Spence out in the garage when they are either very busy or when Kevin the mechanic has a day off. There are a lot of things to be said for the freedom that driving a Taxi gives you Vs running a business like a garage where you are tied to the place between 8am and 6pm every day and on occasions from 5:30am when I had a cab up for an early test appointment, to some extent I am going to miss it but by the same token I am looking forward to the freedom that driving a Taxi full time gives me.

Any garage related enquiries should now be directed towards Mushers Taxi Garage on 020 8316 6008 and not my mobile although I am still willing to offer help or advice when and where I can.

Westminster take Pedicab drivers to court, over West End music nuisance.

Six pedicab drivers have been ordered to pay fines and costs totalling more than £3,000 after breaking noise laws in London’s West End.
They were prosecuted for playing loud music from their pedicabs at night in Oxford Street and Regent Street.
Westminster City Council said it received more than 50 complaints about pedicab noise between April and September last year.
It said “blaring out music” was “unacceptable and against the law”.
Nabel Ashawish, 27, of Haydon Walk, Aldgate; Alamgir Hussain, 29, of London Road, Romford; Yahya Kemal of Pemberton Road, Finsbury Park and Evlogi Savov, 24, of Wallcote Avenue, Cricklewood, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 January.
They admitted playing loud music contrary to the Control of Pollution Act and were fined a total of £1315.
Hassan Adan, 27, of Pendragon Road, Bromley and Abdul Azad, 30, of Stepney Way, Whitechapel, were fined £1730 in their absence on Wednesday.
Westminster Council said one night last September, a family counted 33 pedicabs with speakers going past their home near Marble Arch in less than three hours.
Source:BBC news
Electric rickshaws are again a common sight in the west end.
The Met Police had a couple of high profile opperations last year, where electric powered rickshaws were carted away on low-loaders with a host of media photographers in attendance.
The operations took place after a number of accidents involving these vehicles traveling at unacceptable speeds.
But it seems the electric rickshaws have now crept back and the authorities don’t seem to bothered.
Most of the electric rickshaws are driven by female riders.
Source: RMT
Editorial Comment
If a Rickshaw is electrically powered then it follows that the wheels are propelled via an electric motor which in turn would mean that the Rickshaw then becomes a Motor Vehicle and a Motor Vehicle that Ply’s its trade for public hire on the streets of London needs to be licensed which means that these Motor Rickshaws then come under the control of LTPH.
Maybe its time for LTPH to put one of these Motor Rickshaws through the testing procedure and test it to the letter of the manual.

Taxi Wars – French Style

A case study of vested interests trying to fight off new competitors

“PARIS is the only city in the world where it is hard to find a taxi.” So in 2008 said an embarrassed Nicolas Sarkozy, then France’s president, exasperated by the near-impossibility of hailing a cab on the capital’s streets. He vowed to fix the problem, but backed down after cabbies blocked the streets during days of protest. Six years on, his Socialist successor, François Hollande, is again facing up to taxi drivers, this time as incumbents try to keep out smartphone-enabled private cabs.

In rolling strikes this week, scores of licensed taxi drivers jammed the traffic by blocking intermittently the ring-road orpériphérique, access to airports and the Place de la Concorde. Their gripe? The emergence of new private cab services, known as voitures de tourisme avec chauffeur, which can be ordered via a mobile app. With 17,600 licensed taxis, the Paris region is not far off London’s total of 22,000 black cabs. But the French capital has a dearth of minicabs: just a few thousand, against 50,000 in London. Until recently, it has been all but impossible in Paris to pre-book reasonably priced, fixed-fare trips.

The arrival of start-ups such as SnapCar, AlloCab or Uber, a San Francisco-based operator, which supply a clean car and a friendly ride at a click, has been a revelation. Their growth was unleashed by a 2009 law, originally meant to deregulate the chauffeured-car tourist market. This was far from the wholesale liberalisation of the taxi industry Mr Sarkozy had once sought: his adviser, Jacques Attali, wanted up to 60,000 taxis and cabs on the Paris streets. And taxis still have a monopoly on kerbside hailing. Yet the new operators have shaken up the market and enraged taxi drivers. Incumbents’ licences, the numbers of which are limited, now trade for around €200,000 ($270,000). The taxi lobby argues that drivers’ livelihoods are under threat from the competition. Last month the protests turned nasty when some of Uber’s cars were smashed up.

Despite his new pro-reform image, Mr Hollande’s approach has scarcely been start-up-friendly. Beginning in January the government imposed on private cabs a 15-minute wait before picking up passengers, but this decree has been suspended by the State Council, the highest administrative court. In response to the protests, the government has appointed a Socialist deputy as a mediator. He accused the Sarkozy government of “lighting a powder keg” by starting deregulation in the first place.

For their part, the start-ups want the decree outlawed. The competition authority was against it on the grounds that it would make consumers worse off. This is a novel argument in a country where producer lobbies are powerful and the state is uncomfortable about technology disrupting markets. Now that Parisians have begun to see how nice and convenient cabs can be, attitudes may change. “People in France are fed up with monopolies,” argues Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, head of Uber in France. “The French now realise that in real life more competition brings innovation and improves the level of service.”

Taxi wars: PM bows to French cabbies’ demands

In an effort to end ongoing taxi cab wildcat strikes, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday a suspension of new permits for private hire cabs, which are the root of cabbies’ outrage.

Ayrault said there will be no new operating permits for private hire cabs, known as VTCs while a mediator, appointed on Wednesday tries to work out a solution to the conflict.

Cabbies claim the VTCs are competing unfairly because they are subject to limited government regulation, while taxi drivers must contend with steep license fees, a government-fixed fare structure and other constraints.

For the third day in a row strike action began early on Wednesday, with some 70 taxis blocking pick-up spots at Orly airport south of Paris and a convoy slowing traffic from Charles de Gaulle airport north of the capital.

Salt was rubbed into taxi drivers’ wounds last week when a government plan to impose a 15-minute delay before VTCs could pick up their passengers, was thrown out by the Council of State.

The taxi unions are calling for VTCs to be limited by a 30-minute delay and a minimum fare of €60 ($82) – which would effectively close them out of the market for trips within central Paris.

Cabbies say they will continue to protest until the government puts a block on handing out new licenses to VTCs.

After holding a strike on Monday that brought the peripherique to a standstill as well as the main roads from Paris’ two airports, taxi drivers continued to protest on Tuesday.

One hundred drivers blockaded Place de La Concorde before moving on to Gare du Lyon. According to RMC radio 64 drivers were arrested by police overnight when officers moved in to break up the blockade. They were later released without charge.

A new national day of mobilization has already been set for March 13th.

For its part the government has appointed a mediator Thomas Thévenoud, who has the unenviable job of trying to bring the two sides together.

On Wednesday he called for calm, saying the message from taxi drivers “has been heard loud and clear”.

“I call on everyone to gather around the table with me, to talk, to listen, to compromise and to find a new system,” he told BFMTV.

Thévenoud has been mandated to come up with a system of “balanced competition” between taxi drivers and VTCs within two months.

Taxi drivers have for years jealously guarded their right to operate on the streets of Paris, leading to accusations of artificial shortages in the French capital.

Licenses are granted by the government for free, but in limited numbers, and are sold among drivers for around €230,000 ($315,000).

The license to operate a VTC costs only €100 ($136).

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