Driver shortage pushes up taxi waiting times, new Autocab survey reveals

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People are waiting 61% longer for taxis as the ongoing driver shortage impacts the UK.

And 72% either missed or arrived late for an important event – because they were unable to book a cab. This includes more than a quarter (26%) who were trying to attend a medical appointment.

In total, 70% of regular taxi users have struggled or completely failed in their attempt to book a taxi since December 2021, as a result of the driver shortage, according to the research, commissioned by dispatch software supplier Autocab.

The UK is currently experiencing a chronic shortage of taxi drivers after thousands left the profession when job numbers plummeted during the Covid pandemic. Private Hire and taxi operators who are signed up to Autocab’s iGo Network, which provides trips to drivers across the UK, have seen driver numbers drop by as much as 25% – despite passenger job numbers having returned to pre-Covid levels.

As a result, passengers are now waiting 61% longer for a taxi to arrive, and 89% of those surveyed said they have needed to try several firms to secure rides.

The issue is raising safety concerns after 72% of respondents revealed they had to walk home alone from an evening out because they couldn’t book or find a taxi. Close to 60% said they have felt unsafe due to not being able to book a cab, and 43% admitted they were now worried about being stuck out late at night due to fears they would not be able to get a taxi home.

In addition to missing medical appointments, 37% of respondents said their ability to meet family and friends had been affected, 29% said they had failed to make or were late to a work meeting and 13% said they had missed or were late to a ceremony – such as funerals, weddings and christenings. Only 28% said they had not had any problems making or arriving on time to important events due to difficulties with booking taxis. The survey of 1,000 regular taxi users was conducted by Censuswide.

Safa Alkateb, CEO of Autocab, said: “The driver shortage is a big problem for everyone in the UK right now. And, as the country opens up again, this lack of taxi availability will only become more noticeable. It will make people’s lives harder and, ultimately, hurt the economy further.”

“The reality is that the national fleet we serve is more than 20,000 drivers down right now, and there is no quick fix. We know the operators we work with are doing everything they can to recruit new drivers, but it will take time.”

Alkateb continued: “And while operators are recruiting, they face new barriers to recruitment, as well as retention of their existing fleet – including HMRC tax checks and Clean Air Zone charges for many drivers. These are barriers created by central government and local authorities, and while they serve an important purpose, they remain barriers at a time of crisis.”

He continued: “Our industry needs support now more than ever from local authorities to resolve this recruitment crisis.”

Amir Khan, Manager at 001 Taxis Oxford, said: “It’s not a great situation that we find ourselves in, but the good news is that the work has returned. And, for anyone considering becoming a taxi driver, there has never been a better time to enter the industry.”

He added: “There is no shortage of work and the potential to maximise your earnings from taxi driving has never been greater. We’ve got to get that message out far and wide, if we are going to attract new people into the profession.”