Research released by ride-hailing app FREE NOW shows that 20% of Brits are finding solace and support whilst they travel from A to B, sharing their woes with their taxi driver.
LeedsLive reports that 48% of Brits surveyed say they didn’t have mental health issues before the first lockdown, but now admit to struggling with it for the first time in their life, however 52% would still hold back from disclosing their problems to a close friend or family member.
Yet 65% find that everyday exchanges with strangers lighten their mood; showing the vital role that key workers such as taxi drivers, who often have no professional mental health background, can play in supporting the nation’s wellbeing.
Interestingly, nearly 15% of people have even stayed in touch with their taxi driver after their journey – rising to 35% of those aged 18-24 – suggesting that Gen Z in particular find value in these fleeting conversations.
But while many passengers find it easy to offload, FREE NOW’s data paints a different picture when it comes to the drivers themselves. Although 75% of its taxi drivers have found their mental health has deteriorated in the past year, 32% find themselves bottling up their emotions during their journeys, often resulting in a one-way interaction. Moreover, 48% don’t know where to turn to for support.
To help encourage more meaningful, two-way conversations that benefit both passenger and driver, FREE NOW has partnered with suicide prevention charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and Chartered Psychologist Dr Audrey Tang to create a handy ‘cab conversations’ guide, which can help transform the conversation in classic taxi chats from small talk to real talk - helping to open up deeper communication channels that can benefit both parties.
For example, instead of either driver or passenger asking: "Lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it?", switching to: "Has anything interesting happened to you today?" provides a platform to build a greater affinity. As does switching: "Do you enjoy what you do?" instead of: "What do you do?" - providing a chance to elevate mundane conversations into something more meaningful during a time when face-to-face interactions are extremely limited.
Dr Audrey Tang comments: “This research reveals how taxi drivers are our communities’ unsung therapists but an issue it raises is the importance of mental health of both driver as well as passenger. In these “new normal” times where we’re highly connected digitally but are more disconnected in real life, social isolation and its impact on mental health has become a growing pandemic. Conversation is one of the easiest ways to connect with others, reducing your sense of isolation. That’s why the few face-to-face interactions we get to have are even more precious as when they are positive and meaningful they truly have the capacity to improve our wellbeing and outlook on life. The most effective technique to aid this is by asking open questions that encourage more than a single world or sentence in response as they require more thought.”
The research also reveals the most common topics Brits discuss with their drivers, including family issues (13%), problems at work (10%) and even the uncertainty of the future (10%).
Londoners, challenging the stereotype of the capital, are the most open when it comes to cab conversations, with 44% saying they have opened up to their taxi driver; conversely, those from East Anglia are the tightest-lipped, with just 10% admitting they’d done the same.
The ‘cab conversations’ guide is part of FREE NOW’s new, long-term partnership with CALM, which forms part of its commitment to prioritising the wellbeing of its drivers. A £20,000 donation to CALM will fund 2,500 calls to the helpline - each one of those calls potentially life-saving.
There’s no doubt the past 12 months have been tough for everyone, none more so than our heroic front line workers who have been vital in ensuring our essential services have been running smoothly. Hopefully this advice will go some way in making what may seem like routine chit chat in the cab that bit more meaningful.
A banned drink driver crashed his car then punched and racially abused the taxi driver he'd phoned to take him away from the scene.
ChronicleLive reports that Motor menace Kristian White knew he was over-the-limit and disqualified from driving when he got behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta with a female passenger one evening in June last year.
The 25-year-old then crashed the vehicle on Selby Gardens, in Wallsend, but rather than stay at the scene and face the consequences, he rang for a taxi, a court was told.
Prosecutor, Rebecca Slade, told Newcastle Magistrates' Court: "He got in the rear of the taxi and shouted "F****** drive, f****** drive past that car" while pointing towards his crashed car.
"The defendant then got out to fetch the female and stated they was going to Ashington. They both appeared drunk to the taxi driver."
The court heard that, soon after, White started swearing and told the cabbie "Drive you brown b******, you p*** b******".
He then repeatedly racially abused the victim while the journey continued until White decided to get out.
Miss Slade said: "The defendant punched the Perspex screen in the taxi. He opened the passenger door and tried to kick the driver but only managed to kick the centre console.
"However, he then punched him to the side of the head, which caused immediate pain but no last injury."
The police were called and White was arrested but initially denied any wrongdoing. He gave a breathalyser reading of 68 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath, when the legal limit is just 35.
White pleaded not guilty to a string of offences but later changed his plea to guilty to one count each of careless driving, racially aggravated assault, driving while disqualified, driving with excess alcohol and driving with no insurance.
Giving him a 23-week jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, District Judge Sarah Griffiths said: "If you were appearing before me today not having been sentenced to two custodial sentences which post date these offences and if you had not responded so positively while in custody for those offences, you would absolutely be going straight to prison today.
"You have a poor record for driving offences. You drove while disqualified with excess alcohol. You have no regard for the laws of the road and drove carelessly. You have got a dangerous driving on your record in the past as well. You're a danger to the public. There was an accident on this occasion, though fortunately nobody was injured or killed."
Speaking of the racist attack, the judge added: "It's a long time since I heard repeated and continued racist abuse towards a member of public. That person was carrying out his job as a taxi driver. He picked you up, despite your behaviour towards him from the outset.
"The racist abuse you used towards him was foul and you ought to be thoroughly ashamed. There's absolutely no place for it in society."
The court heard that, since the offence, White had stopped alcohol and substance misuse, was on medication for ADHD, had got a job and was back with his partner.
As well as the suspended sentence, White was ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and was banned from the roads for 42 months.
He must also pay £300 compensation to the cabbie.
Mobility company Ola is launching a new EV category on its ride-hailing platform, which will allow riders to specifically book rides in a fully electric vehicle. The category, called Ola EV, is a global first for the SoftBank-backed enterprise and will be available across London from Thursday 13 May.
According to Business Standard, over time, Ola which competes with US rival Uber, said this initiative will be rolled out to other cities around the world where Ola is operational. The Ola EV category will cost riders the same as a comfort category on the Ola app. Ola EV has 700 drivers across London and this is expected to grow quickly over the coming months.
“Since launching in the UK, Ola has consistently looked to innovate and help solve the toughest mobility challenges,” said Marc Rozendal, managing director of Ola UK. “The launch of Ola EV is another great example, offering riders and drivers the opportunity to play their part in the journey to emission-free rides.”
This is the first step in a series of measures Ola will make over the coming months, detailing its commitment to green transport networks, zero-emission travel and further supporting the Mayor of London’s bold plans to improve air quality across the capital.
Ola is incentivising drivers to use the new Ola EV category. It will offer a market-leading zero per cent commission rate for the first three months for all-electric rides. Post the launch, Ola plans on extending offers through key partnerships to provide easy and affordable options for drivers and riders to shift to fully electric vehicles This driver-centric approach will help to significantly increase the number of fully electric PHVs in use and will also empower riders with an additional green option for their travel needs.
“I am especially proud of the initiatives we are putting in place to help drivers make the switch to fully electric vehicles and that we have been able to do this at no extra cost to riders,” said Rozendal. “I am excited to launch this category as a global first for Ola and while Ola EV will start in London, we can’t wait to begin expanding it across the country and cities around the world.”
With the Government planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK from 2030, Lease Fetcher, the UK’s first car leasing comparison site, reveals how green current UK taxi/PHV fleets are and which areas of the country are leading the way when it comes to electrifying their fleets.
By sending out Freedom of Information requests to the 25 biggest cities in the UK, Lease Fetcher was able to gather a clear overview of which cities have the greenest taxi/PHV fleets, and provide some unique insight into what the nation's favourite taxi makes and models are.
How green are UK taxi/PHV fleets?
Investigating the fuel spread across the 25 taxi/PHV fleets, diesel still reigns supreme on a national scale. Across the 25 cities, 53.74% of all taxis/PHVs are still diesel-fuelled, and 72.07% if you exclude London. That’s 80,451 diesel taxis/PHVs still on British roads - and that’s only including the 25 largest cities.
However, hybrid electric taxis/PHVs have overtaken petrol-fuelled ones and hold a strong second place with 33.09% of all taxis/PHVs. If London is excluded then the second place is less impressive with 12% hybrid taxis/PHVs.
Industry experts commented on how far away they consider the UK to be from fully electric fleets
“At Cab Direct we continue to see the demand for our electric cars increase, however, drivers all over the country still experience difficulty with charging availability when out on long shifts. We need to see more investment into charging networks before this becomes a feasible way of working for taxi drivers,” says Susan Smith, Cab Direct.
If a fully electric UK taxi fleet is to become a reality, authorities and car manufacturers need to show initiative and invest in developing both affordable vehicles and an EV friendly infrastructure.
The need for manufacturers and authorities to step up has only increased over the last year with Coronarivus causing havoc across the world.
“Many taxi drivers have been hit hard financially by the Coronavirus pandemic. In return, their ability to invest in EV models that are currently more expensive (though cheaper to run) than their combustion engine counterparts is constrained until life returns closer to pre-Covid times,” says Amer Hasan, minicabit.
Greenest taxi/PHV fleets revealed
Looking at electric taxis/PHVs by a percentage of the city’s total taxi/PHV fleet, these are the ten greenest UK fleets
Lease Fetcher provide further information obtained from its FoI request including:
(For the full details refer to their feature via the link at the bottom.)
The future of the UK taxi industry
Susan Smith, Cab Direct says the speed of EV adoption depends on Government support. “Government support is needed to facilitate this move, firstly to increase the availability and compatibility of charge points and also by providing more grants for those who wish to buy electric. The Government should also be investing directly with taxi manufacturers, allowing them to develop more electric solutions at an affordable price point.”
There’s a lot of talk about flying taxis with the news of the UK’s first taxi/drone airport being built in Coventry. Our expert panel all agree that this is not something that will happen in the near future - not as an affordable transport for the masses anyway.
“For flying taxis, a whole new regulatory framework is required that needs to align airspace with ground transport operations, which may need to operate on a national or city level. We might see ad hoc trials over the next five years in the UK's larger cities but it will probably be 2030 by the time a flying taxi service is ready and reasonably affordable for consumers to use,” says Amer Hasan, minicabit.
A quick-thinking PHV driver has captured on video the moment two teenagers appeared to attempt to steal a bus.
According to the Telegraph and Argus, the youngsters - whose ages looked to be between 13 and 18 according to the driver - were seen in a 662 Keighley Shuttle bus with its engine running as it was being moved backwards and forwards.
Zahir Ghafoor, of Speedline Private Hire, based in Russell Street, Keighley, said he was working nights and heard the engine of the bus at 5am.
He said the bus had been parked in the street overnight.
"I heard the engine running and the reversing beep and an automated voice because the doors were open. I thought someone must have been trying to steal it so I went out and videoed the bus as I walked up to it.
"I could see two teenagers inside. One sitting in the driver's seat. He reversed the bus a bit and then drove forward.
"I banged on the side of the bus and shouted for them to stop. I shouted: "Police; what are you doing? Get out, police," to frighten them. Then the older one who was in the driving seat got up and opened the door and then they both ran off up the street.
"I informed the bus company as soon as I could before I went to bed because I am working nights at the moment.
"It was really shocking to see two kids trying to steal a bus. I don't know what would have happened if they had managed to get it away. They may have had a terrible accident and killed someone. There are people around even at that time of day - cars on the road and people walking to work."
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said they had received a report of the incident and appealed for information.
They said: "Police are investigating an attempted theft which was reported at 9.52am but is believed to have happened earlier this morning, Thursday, 13 May.
"Anyone with information that may assist this investigation is asked to contact police in Bradford on 101, or by using the options on the West Yorkshire Police website. The crime reference is 13210236182.