Driver views of challenges & opportunities facing the taxi sector – FREENOW Driver Pulse Survey

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FREENOW, the popular taxi app, has  launched the results of its Driver Pulse Survey. The survey sheds light on the views and experiences of FREENOW driver partners from across Ireland on a range of issues, including the current challenges and opportunities facing the taxi sector.

Public Transport and Sector Viability

The survey explored what measures will be needed to support the future viability of the taxi sector in Ireland. Over two in five (42%) drivers believe enhancements to Ireland’s wider public transport system will be crucial to support the taxi industry and meet transport needs across the country.

52% of drivers also recognise the importance of fuel subsidies from the government in managing costs. 39% of respondents stated the need for continued grant provision for SPSV (Small Public Service Vehicles) holders as well as WAV (wheelchair-accessible vehicle) vehicle grants to help new drivers cover the cost of a WAV vehicle. More than a third (36%) highlighted the importance of subsidies tailored for drivers operating in rural areas, and 29% believe promoting the taxi profession to a new generation of drivers will be important for the future of the industry.

Industry Standards

When it comes to public demand for transport at peak times like late nights and weekends, the majority of drivers (88%) feel that taxis are the most relied upon form of transport during these periods. Over three in four drivers (77%) would like to see more late-night public transport options made available to work alongside taxis in helping to meet peak public demand. This sentiment was also shared by FREENOW passengers in recent research**, with 89% saying more public transport options are needed to meet late-night demand, and 83% of passengers rely on taxis as their main public transport option for late night trips.

The taxi driver respondents also shared their views on the regulated nature of Ireland’s taxi sector. 77% of drivers feel that deregulating the sector would not improve the standards of the taxi industry, and 66% believe that deregulation would compromise their income. Furthermore, 55% expressed concern about soaring competition for trips if the sector regulations changed, and 53% would consider leaving the sector if it was opened up to unlicensed drivers.

When it comes to the SPSV driver entry test for new drivers hoping to join the sector, the vast majority of taxi drivers surveyed (80%) acknowledge the importance of the SPSV entry test in upholding industry standards and professionalism that allow them to deliver a quality service.

Advantages of Technology

The survey also sheds light on the benefits of using app technology for drivers. 50% say they feel safer accepting trips booked via an app rather than those hailed off the street. 43% note that passengers prefer the convenience of booking via the FREENOW app and having a record of trip details, while 35% say that the app allows them to secure more bookings. Additionally, 35% believe that using an app helps increase their volume of work at non-peak times, and 23% highlight the incentives available with FREENOW as a standout advantage.

Electric Fleet

According to the survey, 35% of drivers are considering buying an electric vehicle (EV) and availing of the government’s eSPSV grant. Currently, over 44% of the FREENOW taxi fleet in Dublin is already electric (EV) or hybrid and the number continues to increase.

Charlie Gleeson, General Manager for FREENOW said: “FREENOW driver partners play a vital role in Ireland’s national transport infrastructure, providing crucial, on-demand transport to members of the public right across the country. It’s important for us to listen to drivers’ views on industry issues and challenges so we can consider where and how improvements can be made to future-proof the taxi sector for years to come.

Our Driver Pulse Survey has highlighted strong support for the regulated nature of the sector which 77% of drivers believe safeguards service standards and quality. Any future move to open up the sector to unlicensed drivers would prove damaging to the livelihoods of existing drivers– with 66% saying their income would be compromised and over half would leave the industry altogether. To this end, FREENOW fully supports the NTA’s regulated framework, which ensures high standards and practices among drivers and supports the overall health of the sector.

The research also highlights the reliance on taxi drivers to service peak demand periods including late-nights and weekends. While drivers do their best to meet this demand, additional support levers like the availability of more late-night public transport options would be welcomed by 77% of drivers, and legislative changes like the Sale of Alcohol Bill and its proposed staggered opening hours would help to reduce clustered demand for transport late at night.”