Starting A Taxi Firm
So you want to start a taxi firm.
If you want to start a taxi business with an office you need to think about a few points.
In nearly all areas of the UK you need a ‘operators license’ which is supplied by the local licensing authority, in most cases the local council, it would be best to contact them for the latest updates and an application form.
Site of the Office:
There are two types of office. One that is in a position for ‘walk in customers’ ie, in a public place, in the town, next to a ‘out of town super market’. The other is an office where you will not have any walk in customers so you are going to just answer the phone, give out the jobs and operate the office as a base so the drivers can come back for refreshments etc.
One thing that nobody ever thinks about is that if you are using press2talk, two way radios, in most cases, the office location where the base station is will determine the range you will get from the system. An office in a dip, surrounded by high buildings (very poor location) may only give you 3 –4 miles range whereas the same office high up on a hill top could give you 25 miles range!. If you are after ‘walk in customers’ you can not really think about the office being high up as customers will determine the position, but if you are going just for a base and you had a choice of one office up high and another in a poor location and they were going to cost the same, you must go for the good location one for superb radio performance.
If you are going to operate from home to get things ‘off the ground ’ there will be no option. Many people do this as a cheap start up but it can be very hard for the rest of the family if things go well as you are going to have to ‘live and breathe’ taxis for many months, to get things going. After that, many get an office somewhere, but this is a big step as while operating from home, the operator, perhaps your partner, can do other things around the house or keep an eye on the kids, but to suddenly have an office some distance away where they have got to go to and be there from 8 in the morning to late at night is very hard.
To help things you could still run from home in the slack periods, using an additional base station or you could have a ‘telephone interconnect unit’ that transfers the telephone calls to your two way radios in ‘out of hours’ slack times.
Planning is nothing to do with the operators license. It is very important that you realise that planning is important,( but we can tell you how to operate a taxi firm from anywhere, without planning, keeping within the law, for up to about a year or so.) This gives you time to get going and then move to a new office where you have had plenty of time to apply for planning permission. Over the years many have benefited from our advice.
Planning for a taxi office needs special permission. Just because you have found a room that was used as an office before will not give you the right to operate a taxi business from there. Because under normal conditions there is a lot of vehicle movement from the office, you may only get planning if there is parking out side.
If you are going to operate from home with just your car coming back home, permission is normally given if you do not change a complete room over to an office. It can be classed as ‘message handling ‘ when in the corner of a room you have got a telephone and a Press2talk Radio base station and drivers don’t keep coming back to your home, in between jobs.
Planning for antennas for your base radio. Everything needs planning but because the planning departments would be swamped with applications for TV aerials, satellite dishes etc, things have been relaxed over the years. If you are going to operate in a commercial area such as a town or an industrial estate, permission should not be a problem ( unless they are in a conservation area) but to ask to put up a 20 foot pole with a 5 foot aerial on top of your house will not go down well. Ok, all around there could be larger CB aerials but the problem is that as soon as you ask for permission for something or ask if you need permission, we have found over the years that the planning department takes the easy option and tells you to apply.
In nearly all areas vehicles have to be licensed ( plated) by the local licensing authority. In some areas there are rules as to what type of vehicle you can license, its age or even what colour a vehicle has to be.
You have the choice of operating with ‘Private Hire’ vehicles that can only operate by using pre booked jobs through your office, or you could run with ‘ Hackney’ that can also pick up off the street. Hackneys would only be interested if there was a lack of ‘off street’ work and you had plenty of telephone work for them.
The other choice you have is to use ‘your’ vehicles or ‘owner drivers’ which come to the firm with a plated vehicle, ready to go or a combination of the two.
There are pros and cons for both types. If you want to expand fast it is easier to do with ‘owner drivers’ and hiring radios as to take on a new driver will only cost you the price of a radio ( from £2.95pw) whereas if you are using your own vehicles, an extra one on the road will cost you the price of the vehicle, insurance, licensing plate and then you need a good ( licensed) driver that won’t smash up your car on the first day out.
It is not always a good thing to have ‘owner drivers’ and also some of your own cars on circuit. ‘Feeding’ is the term given to operators that give certain people the best jobs and in a lot of firms, ‘feeding’ the company cars goes on which upsets the ‘owner drivers’
In many areas there is a restriction of the number of plates the licensing authority can issue. Normally, ‘private hire’ plates are not restricted in numbers. Some areas have no restrictions on hackney plates so everybody goes for those and in some areas they have ‘deregulated’ and they only operate hackney plates with no restrictions.
There is always the threat of ‘deregulation, only unlimited hackney plates’ as the EEC want this, so in areas where plates have change hands for large amounts of money ( £20,000 – £40,000 ) because the numbers of plates have been restricted for many years, many plate holders are off loading them onto unsuspecting prospective taxi drivers (and getting a private hire plate) knowing that one day if they are deregulated, they will be worth nothing. They can then get one for nothing. You have been warned.
Anybody can answer the phone and give out jobs to a small number of cars but to efficiently control a large number, takes a skilled operator. When things get busy on a Friday or Saturday night, the first thing to do is to get one person answering the phone and another giving jobs out. Two can then control some 50 cars. One problem is ‘air time’. A number of drivers will want to call in with return bookings after dropping somebody off and this holds up everything. One way is to have an extra channel which is used just for bookings or to split the area into two so cars in the East, speak on one channel and those in the west, speak on another.
Another way is to have a simple, low cost data system that allows the driver with a booking to just press a button on his radio, in the office his call sign comes up on a PC and when the radio operator has a spare few minutes, they would then go and call everybody up on the bookings list and take the details down. The system would also tell the office when the car is POB ( passenger on board) or Cleared. ( clear to take another job.)
In nearly all areas, drivers have to be licensed by the local licensing authority. Most try and run their own vehicles but some don’t want the hassle or have not got the money to do so . They look for companies or ‘owner drivers ‘ that are looking for extra drivers. When you run a vehicle, you pay for insurance for 24 hour use so many employ a ‘journeyman’ ( journeyman journeymen ) or ‘a hockey’ to drive the vehicle when the owner is not. Some even go on to purchase another vehicle and get drivers to run them, thus building up a fleet of vehicles.
A good, careful driver is worth a lot to a vehicle owner.