Melbourne riddled with dodgy taxi drivers

ScreenHunter_24 Jun. 25 08.09

By Leith van Onselen

Here’s a story to make you laugh. Only one taxi driver out of 234 have passed Victoria’s new knowledge test designed to “weed out” bad taxi drivers. From The ABC:

The test, which was a key recommendation in last year’s taxi industry inquiry, was introduced in June by the Napthine Government in a bid to lift industry standards.

It covers driver behaviour, customer service and geography.

Would-be drivers have two chances to pass the test before being forced to wait 12 months before taking it again.

Of the 234 people to sit the exam, driver trainer Karen Downie was the only person to pass.

“There’s 55 questions in each unit and you get an hour to do it … a lot of knowing your bus lanes and tram rules and how to deal with people with disabilities,” she said…

13Cabs’ chief operating officer, Stuart Overell, has supported the test, but said it could lead to a shortage of drivers in coming months.

“If things don’t change we’re probably looking at a 25 per cent reduction in the taxi fleet by Christmas,” he said.

“Taxi passengers will have to find alternative methods to get home as taxis will increasingly be booked out of Friday and Saturday nights.”

I am not surprised by this result.

A key underlying problem is that the high cost of taxi licences has driven a wedge between the driver, who typically earns a pittance, and the customer, who ends up paying too much for the service.

As with land, the rental value component of taxi fares goes to the owners of the plates, just like rents on land. So taxi drivers are typically left paying the licence holder an exorbitant share of their fares, leaving them with little left over. Accordingly, those that tend to become taxi drivers are often newly arrived migrants or poorly skilled people, who have little choice but to accept a low paying job.

Concerns about taxi shortages can also be overcome by allowing ridesharing services, like Uber-X, to operate on Australian roads subject to meeting basic performance standards. This would provide greater choice to consumers and lower transport costs, while also improving productivity by facilitating a more efficient use of the existing transport fleet. It would also offer drivers greater options to derive an income, without paying exorbitant licence fees or rents to taxi plate owners.

At least with Uber, one gets to see the drivers’ rankings and their reputation via the website, which allows customers some control over who their driver is. It is also in their best interest to impress you, as after your journey is complete, you are required to give them a rating out of 5 stars. A low star rating results in less fares for the driver.

By contrast, with a taxi it is pot-luck as to who your driver is, with the driver sometimes not even matching the photo ID on the dashboard. Taxis are also some of the worst drivers on the road and often break numerous road rules (including speaking on their mobile phones).

Ridesharing should be embraced by the public and policy makers alike for facilitating a more efficient use of the nation’s transport fleet and infrastructure. Not opposed for the sake of protecting the taxi cartel, at everyone else’s expense..

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    • “…prompting a warning from industry that Melbourne’s streets could be swamped with empty cabs prowling for fares”

      The horror.

      • “…prompting a warning from industry that Melbourne’s streets could be swamped with empty cabs prowling for fares”

        I hope everyone heard David Attenborough saying that in their heads.

  1. Recalling last week’s article on the economics of sex work, there is a similar wedging in that industry where it is legalised. Those laws tend to favour either lone workers (subject to the risks that implies) or larger operations owned by an approved person. What they don’t allow is larger, more free-form operations owned and managed by the workers themselves.

  2. I don’t think that anyone who has been catching cabs in Melbourne over the past few years is surprised by the results.

  3. “with the driver sometimes not even matching the photo ID on the dashboard”

    Are you sure it’s not just a case of all Indians look alike to you?

  4. To be fair to the drivers, the test was administered in English. As far as I know, there are no English language requirements in entering this country. This smacks of racism.

      • Uranium GeoMEMBER

        Wouldn’t a requirement to speak English be a necessary skill in all of this?
        Then wouldn’t it be a skill set to communicate with clientele?

      • Not racist to discriminate on basis of language ability as long as motivation is to achieve a reasonable operational objective and proficiency hurdle is sensible, e.g. taxi drivers being able to understand where their customer wants to go seems like a reasonable example.

        English proficiency is a requirement for many professions including airline pilot and seafarer regardless of base of operations.

        ‘tho I’d assumed that there was a ‘/sarc’ implicit in spleenblatt’s comment

      • A cab driver should have basic knowledge of English, yes. They (obviously) don’t need to be native speakers though. I grew up with native English speakers who slaughter the language pretty badly, so it doesn’t bother me if I get grunted at here and there.

        I think people would be happy to pay the exorbitant fees if the service was excellent, but everyone is tired of paying good money for shite service, and this comment is not at all limited to the taxi industry.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        I’m pretty sure that was extra dry — like a martini where you merely show a photograph of a bottle Vermouth to the 2.5 shots of gin — wit from Spleen.

        I mean, sure, if test was in Farsi and the location West Tehran all would have passed with flying colours, but I don’t think racism has anything to do with it.

      • I’ll go on the record and say that one ought to be able to speak a modicum of the native language of a country upon becoming a citizen.

        It’s just good sense and everyone wins.

        I couldn’t imagine moving to Canada (eh) and not being able to properly check things ouwt, eh.

    • We should get Indians who can barely speak English to be our federal government.

      Probably wouldn’t make much difference and it would be good for a laugh.

      Storp the borts!

      If you disagree you’re a racist.

      • migtronixMEMBER

        Well his head is distracting, plus he thinks stopping the borts will lead to stopping the cancers.

        Because Tasmania?

      • Oh that’s right breast cancer is god’s way of punishing heathen women.

        Well it obviously helps to be some sort of extremist nut to do politics. You need something to warm you up without resorting to alchohol.

      • Most Indians speak English bloody well to be honest. And Indian cabbies are generally the best, if the cricket is on you know you can get a score update and strike up some conversation pretty easily!

    • IELTS test is mandatory for all migrant visas except for the Significant Investor visa (You can’t possibly expect the corrupt naked officials from China to shell out millions and also learn the English language!! /sarc)

      Of course, many get their “friends” to write the test 😉

  5. codeazureMEMBER

    spleenblatt, skilled migration visas have very tough English language IELTS tests that many native English speakers would struggle to pass. Of course, not all taxi drivers come in through this visa, but it does apply for many migrants.

    Also, note that race has not much to do with language, so I don’t think racism is the right term here.

    But the article is hilarious – 1 out of 234…

  6. “Taxis are also some of the worst drivers on the road and often break numerous road rules (including speaking on their mobile phones)”

    I’ve ridden with a few who’ve broken numerous hygiene rules too

      • In my experience you catch cabs when…

        – You’re spending someone else’s money
        – You’re desperate (late at night, raining etc)
        – You’re travelling in a group and its cheaper

        I’ll walk 5kms before I get in one of those things.

      • – you’re spending your own money and you accept that over your lifetime the marginal cost versus catching public transport is not actually going to add up to a hill of beans next to what you’ve blown on beer and hookers and a macrobusiness subscription
        – it’s generally more convenient
        – you’re tired and couldn’t be f**ked
        – your partner’s last drink is kicking in and you need to get home pronto
        – you’re lazy

        There are just a few of the multitudinous good reasons why you would catch a cab.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Picture this if you can Lorax:

      Its 3am, pissing down raining, you’ve just came out the back of some skanky alleyway in Chinatown.

      Now you can’t catch a cab or anything at that time of night on Swanston so, forget the 5ks, by the time you’ve reached Elizabeth you’re pretty much drenched and will happily pay $100 just to get to Port Melbourne…

    • The northern beaches of Sydney are the worst offenders for drink driving. No one catches them up here. Getting home from the city must be around $150 by now.

  7. Always worth offering to partake in a cash fare too 🙂

    As someone who works in education, it’s about as clandestine as I get!

  8. Just remember, for all those dreaming of rent seeker changes in other areas… Melbourne taxi’s have been totally f..d for over 20 yrs and absolutely nothing has changed!

    There is only one reason for catching a taxi and that is you were too busy (or lazy) to organise a private driver, and even then walking 10km is still a better option.

  9. Contrarian view here, but why the focus on English?
    With all the tourism from China etc, from the perspective of these Chinese tourists who get a cab and find the cabbie fluent in Mandarin they are probably super impressed by the service.

    Furthermore it just shows how lazy the taxi industry is. If Uber gets on the scene this would be a great feature to have users select their driver based on things like) languages spoken etc.

    Some of these drivers would be quite valuable I suspect, – certainly more valuable than people make them out to be.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Absolutely! Although I still want my fleet of robot cars, I’ll hook them to google translate they’ll speak any language 😀