As the pandemic restrictions are easing in the country, Ireland taxi firms face a new challenge. Firms say that they are falling short of new drivers, leaving the industry, leaving them unable to meet the demand.
According to reports, there has been a shortage of registered taxi drivers in Northern Ireland by 1/3rd in five years. Further, this pandemic has made the situation worst.
Northern Ireland’s largest taxi mentioned that there are only 400 fewer drivers compared to the number before the pandemic. Stephen Anton, the communication manager at Fonacab, said there should be more incentives for drivers to join the sector. “Now that we have come out of lockdown, the amount of bookings has grown more rapidly than the number of drivers returning. “Some drivers have yet to return, and we’ve had some say they’ll wait for their second jab or for social-distancing rules to be relaxed.”
Need of a Restart Package
Stephen says that “Others have left the industry and have just retired, while some have gone to different driving jobs or where they could find the work. The major issue is at the weekends because demand is higher and because we don’t see a leap in drivers working. It’s a stretch to cover the work that is there.”We would like to see some sort of restart package to either help drivers back into the industry or to make it easier for drivers to join the industry.”
Drivers speak out about industry struggle
Many drivers in Ireland say they won’t go back but keep working. Jim Bradley, who worked as a taxi driver in London for 40 years, had a stroke due to the extreme stress of no business.
“The pandemic was a very bad experience for taxi men everywhere in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“I took a stroke due to the stress and the doctors confirmed that it was due to the work. Everywhere was closed, people were working from home and you were sitting for hours doing nothing. You just couldn’t earn money. I am 66 now and am not going back. I wouldn’t be fit health-wise.”
Similarly, Jordan Poucher, 21 from Newry, County Down had this practical taxi driving test delayed due to the pandemic and had to struggle a lot to pass the theory test.
However, weeks back he passed his practical test and got his theory marks. But still has many other requirements to fulfill before he officially starts driving passengers.
Decline in Driver Numbers
There has been a major decline in the number of drivers in Northern Ireland. The major reason behind this decline is the pandemic.
“There has been limited opportunity for first-time applicants to apply for their taxi driver test due to Covid restrictions on driver testing,” said the department spokesperson.
“In addition, some existing taxi drivers, whose taxi license expired during this period, may have decided not to incur the cost of renewing their taxi driver’s license until the Covid restrictions were lifted.”