Faced with what is being called a 'virtual monopoly', taxi drivers in Hull have banded together to form a new Hull Drivers Association (HDA).
The not-for-profit association has been set up by members of the city's licensed taxi trade to protect the interests and the welfare of every licensed taxi driver in Hull, which is now dominated by just two main private hire taxi firms, Drive and 82.
David T. Wade, who has been appointed as the association's legal adviser, said: "It has reached crisis point in the city; having just two main taxi firms in Hull has created a virtual monopoly which has badly affected drivers' earnings, careers, health and welfare.
"Immediately pressing is the fact that all private hire drivers are now being asked to pay a percentage of each fare to the operators (19% at Drive, 20% at 82) instead of the usual running-in fee, which was staggered but typically capped at £135-£150 a week per driver.
"At the same time, there has been a big drop off in fares in the city for black cab drivers many of who are now working as private hire drivers, or, if they're not, they're thinking of doing it.
“Drivers are also concerned that one of the established Hull offices has based its business model on that of Uber, which may make matters worse for the drivers and passengers. As well as taking a percentage of the drivers' earnings, alarmingly, this office is surcharging similar to Uber after 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays, where the fares dramatically increase to the passenger. The drivers may benefit from this in the short term as it appears they’re earning more money but inevitably the office also makes further financial gains.
"In the long run it will cause discontent between the passenger and the driver, which may later lead to a lack of repeat business. It’s not only the driver who is affected by this new practice but also the public.
"Drivers don't want to be blacklisted by speaking out publically - but their Hull Drivers Association can do that for them."
Even though the association has only been set up in the last week and grown by word of mouth, dozens of new members have signed up.
One experienced private hire driver from Hull to have joined the HDA, and who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "The association has given us a voice, given us good representation and support, without the danger of being persecuted or victimised by the owners. We can now speak up without retribution; it's really necessary because at the moment it is 'my way or the highway' as far as the operators are concerned.
"The new flat rate percentage fee is a massive issue for drivers and there'll be many out there who are on now on slave wages well below minimum wage - especially those who have to hire their cars."
Another private hire driver form the city, who also retained his anonymity, said: "This is about us working together with the operators, the council and all parties involved in the taxi trade in Hull to help create a sustainable, long-term taxi industry offering safe and secure services to the public, where drivers and operators can be profitable in an industry which has high training standards and is free of out-dated or racist and restrictive attitudes."
There is a flat £20 per annum fee to any driver in Hull who wishes to join the Hull Drivers Association. All of the membership fee will be used for the benefit of HDA members for running costs, including legal costs and helping the association to put forward drivers' views and concerns with the local council and MPs directly relating to taxi issues in Hull. The fee will also go towards supporting the association give Hull taxi drivers a voice in parliament on the taxi industry via the Task Finish Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Group.
The Hull Drivers Association Promises
- As set out in the contents of the Institute of Licensing Guidance (2.1) our aim, like our Local Licensing Authority is to protect the public.
- Like our Local Licensing Authority we will strive to maintain the high level of standards which have been set by our Local Authority.
- None of our members will be left behind in issues surrounding local legislation and disciplinary issues.
- We aim to form a working relationship with our local elected members of parliament in the interests of all of our Associations Members and in the interests of drivers welfares.
- All our Members will have access to free local advice relating to disciplinary issues.
- In the past Hull Taxi Drivers haven’t had available access to affordable expert taxi legislation legal advice. All our Members in the event of having to have expert legal representation are entitled to a generously reduced fixed fee, unlike in the past.
- The appointed Associations Correspondence Officer will communicate on behalf of the Association’s Members with all relevant third parties as mentioned above.
- Under the Data Protection Act of 2018 (GDPR) all our Associations Members details will be strictly confidential.