Lincoln taxi firms are still facing a problem of demand outweighing the supply as they continue to battle against a shortage of available drivers in the city.
Chris Moyles spoke out about struggling to book a taxi in Lincoln when he visited the city this summer, which led to a friendly back and forth between The Lincolnite and the Radio star to bring the issue to the fore even further.
Nearly five months on and local taxi firms still have to contend with the driver shortage, as well as rising costs, and what they’ve described as unavoidable delays — which are causing frustration for customers.
The Lincolnite spoke to Direct Cars, A2B Cars, and Handsome Cabs, who are all urging new drivers to contact them and will help them with the application process.
Direct Cars recently said that due to ever rising costs they have no alternative but to increase their fares as of November 8.
Ragan Crow, Manager at Direct Cars, told The Lincolnite: “The price increase is purely due to the rising costs, fuel is obviously ever increasing, the cost of maintaining the vehicles is considerably higher than they were six months ago.
“Tyres alone have increased on average by around £10 per tyre, without the cost of everything else that has to be paid for, in order to keep the vehicles on the road.
“As for the driver situation, we are still short of drivers, this isn’t just us as a company, it is an industry issue. According to the records, in Lincoln approximately 100 drivers haven’t renewed their badges, across all Lincoln companies.
“This is obviously having a detrimental effect on the availability of vehicles. Which is not good for the public, the drivers or the company.
“We are offering to cover the cost of badge applications, to encourage more drivers getting into the industry and company.”
Vladimir Kubjatko, co-owner at A2B Cars, said: “We understand the customer’s point of view and we want to get you to your destination as soon as possible, but the driver situation is an issue.
“No new applicants for taxi licenses had their applications processed, which certainly didn’t help, and they then left in uncertain times for safer alternatives as there was not enough for with the clubs being closed and big companies struggling.
“The renewal of licences has not been much of a problem for us, it was more with new applicants trying to apply to be taxi drivers with the city council.
“The council was having a difficult problem on their hands due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since the restrictions have been lifted it isn’t an issue any more, but the gap had already been created by then with the driver shortages.
“There is more demand than before and we can’t satisfy it all, nobody can, but we want every call answered and all customers to be satisfied. It is impossible as there are just not enough drivers and there is a massive wave of work.
“We are trying to take on as much as we possibly can safely. People at peak times, such as for schools and at weekends, are experiencing long delays, but this is the same across the whole trade.”
Regarding rising costs, he added: “Everything revolves around the energy prices and it means our bills have gone up by around 10%, and nearly 30% price hike in fuel costs, which has a big effect on the industry. We are hold back putting prices up at the moment, but it will be unavoidable.
“We have a much newer fleet than other companies so don’t have as much maintenance costs, but we have to work together, all the companies, and get some help to refer people onto us to get through this.”
Mr Kubjatko also advised that when people are making appointments they will need a taxi for it is best, where possible, to arrange it between 9.30am-2pm as these times are easier to accommodate with the current circumstances.
A spokesperson from the management team at Handsome Cabs said: “A lot of drivers that currently have badges and licences are already working.
“We are recruiting for new drivers, but the problem is the process of getting a badge or a licence can be quite long and drawn out, so even people we started the process with in the summer are not able to start yet.
“We’ve taken on three new drivers who were previously licensed, but awaiting on 10-12 for their applications to be finalised.
“We are still open to taking on new drivers and will help with them with licensing application.
“The council backlog is starting to clear, which we are happy with, but the problem is the DBS as they require an enhanced DBS check and this is causing more delays and is a major problem.
“The driver shortage is still causing us issues with long wait times for ‘ASAP’ journeys due to the high demand.
“Sometimes we are struggling to fill all the bookings due to the shortage, but the situation is improving. We would like to apologise for any delays and appreciate everyone’s understanding and support.”
Regarding rising costs, he added: “Our fuel bill is thousands of pounds more a week than it was before, which has had a knock on effect. Vehicle parts and lead times on part deliveries is also delayed.
“We had a price increase earlier this year, but have not initiated a new price increase as of yet, but it is something we will be looking at due to other factors. The more vehicles we have on the fleet working, the more customers we can take, but at the moment demand is still outweighing supply, especially at peak times.”