There are always lots of mumblings and grumblings going round the cab trade. But things have come to a head and your favourite London cabbies have had enough and are revolting. And I’m not talking about the vest, shorts & sandal brigade that seem to live in their cabs. The major cab trade organisations, the London Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), the London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) and Unite have organised a “drive-in” at Trafalgar Square on Thursday 5th February at 2pm. This is designed to highlight a variety of grievances, mainly to do with the private hire (or mini cab) trade. I’m not going to attempt to go into the details of these issues as they are much better explained here, by someone who seems to be trying to do something positive. Why there is nothing on either the LTDA or LCDC website is beyond me and here is where I may start frothing at the mouth.
Let me get one thing straight before I start spouting forth; I completely support the issues that are being highlighted by next weeks demo, I may even join in. But what I want to talk about is how this demo, and the cab trade overall, will be viewed by the general public (who in turn are all potential punters). Already viewed as a bunch of lazy, moaning crooks by a significant minority of people, cab drivers need to be very careful about how they are perceived by the wider world. You only have to look at these sorts of comments to see where I’m coming from. I won’t even try and dignify some of those comments with a comeback as they are mainly garbage, but it does indicate the level of distrust that exists out there. Cab drivers can be their own worst enemies at times and while the invasion of mini cabs onto taxi cab territory is not directly their fault, it doesn’t take a genius to see the link between the way that some drivers would like to operate (turning down fares etc..) and the growth of mini cabs. Touting needs to be clamped down on properly but cab drivers need to help themselves by doing the job that they were trained to do. “Plying for hire” is the privilege you earn when doing the knowledge, so why abuse that privilege by getting picky about where you will or won’t go? Don’t want to go north/south/east or west when you’re heading home? Leave your light off then, much better to lose that “dream” fare home than annoy punters that might decide that getting a mini cab is easier next time. So, as Tony Blair might have said, if you want the privilege of driving a cab there are responsibilities that go with it. It’s up to all cab drivers to live up to those responsibilities or risk losing the privilege.
But back to the planned demo. If enough drivers turn up, it looks like Trafalgar Square and it’s surrounding area will be gridlocked for a while. Something that should get a decent amount of publicity I’m sure. But will the right message get across to the right people? As a brief look on the relative trade websites and a quick Google search proves, there is nothing out there telling people what the demo is about. Presumably on the day we will get some comments from the LTDA & LCDC, I just hope they use their moment in the media spotlight well. I am extremely worried that Joe Punter will see or hear about the demo and just dismiss it as another example of moaning cab drivers. Add to that a potential headline in a few weeks time about “greedy” cabbies getting an above inflation fare increase (there is another debate to had about that issue), and the trade will suffer further damage to it’s reputation.
So in parrallell with the call from, and todays launch of, London Taxi Cab PR I am urging all cab drivers to start helping turn around the public images of your trade. It doesn’t take much effort to make people think better of us. When you stop for people, take them where they want to go (within the rules of course); if someones struggling with luggage/shopping etc give them a hand, that sort of thing. And hopefully with the use of some good PR we can start spreading the word that cab drivers are not the miserable bunch that they are made out to be and also start work on some of those cabbie myths. You know the sort of thing, always more expensive than mini cabs, always go the long way round etc..
We do belong to a great trade, we are the best in the world, so let’s get out there and prove it. Long gone, I believe, are the days when the work would just continue to always be there, if we want the trade to keep thriving we might just have to work a bit harder to stay in the game.
End of rant, wipes froth from mouth.