Racism, aggressive drunks and drug users, passed out customers and vomit are regular issues Leeds taxi and private hire drivers have to deal with.
Cabbies have spoken out about the horror they’ve faced and why they’re now feeling more vulnerable than ever before.
A 24-hour strike took place on Monday 17 January, with drivers refusing to work in opposition to a Leeds City Council safeguarding policy, organised by the Leeds Private Hire Drivers Organisation (LPHDO).
They claim the Suitability and Convictions Policy, which “protects the public”, means a driver could lose their licence over “minor issues”.
Leeds Live met drivers during the 24-hour strike in Burley Road Car Park and asked them about the harrowing situations they’ve been in which made them feel vulnerable.
“You don’t belong here, you’re not a Yorkshireman!” shouted one passenger to Zahid Mahmood last week, born and bred in Bradford, who’s been a cabbie for about 24 years.
At the time, there were eight passengers in the car, and Zahid just wanted to concentrate on getting them “from A to B” without any further issues.
“The abuse we take every night is unbelievable,” said Zahid, LPHDO Vice Chairman, who adds they also receive racist slurs on a regular basis.
Zahid says the abusive behaviour is regular but “the worst thing is when they throw up in the car,” which means a driver can’t work for the rest of the night as they need to get it professionally cleaned.
The father-of-four said this happened at least once a week, with many of the other drivers in attendance agreeing.
Zahid went on to say: “Many times, we pick up customers that are drunk, you take them to their destination and by the time they get there, they’ve fallen asleep.
“If it’s a young vulnerable female, you can’t do anything – you can’t even try to wake her up. All you can do is try to shout out loud and if they don’t wake up, what are you supposed to do then?
“According to the suitability policy, if she makes a claim that we’ve touched her in any kind of way, that’s it, our badge is gone.”
The cabbie added that he regularly finds small plastic bags, those used for drugs, and metal canisters, used for laughing gas, rattling around in his taxi.
LPHDO Chairman, Ahmad Hussain, has paid over £600 to get CCTV in his taxi, to protect himself in dicey situations.
Ahmad said he’s “only been assaulted with a few punches on top of the head,” these incidents paling in comparison to other stories he's heard.
Ahmad said: “The worst is when they’re drunk and they get in the taxi and you don’t want to take them. All of a sudden, you’re a P*** - straightaway.
“The customers bully you to do what they want to do. Like park on a double yellow line, go through a no-entry sign. They bully these sorts of things and force you. If you don’t obey them, you could get assaulted.”
Another striking driver said he recently felt vulnerable picking up football fans up from Elland Road and driving them to all the way to Pontefract.
He claimed the boozed-up fans disagreed with his route and called him racist slurs, badgering him about where he was from.
“Put yourself in my position, you’ve got four big lads in the car. Leeds have lost the match. You’re taking them to an area which you don’t have a clue about,” he said.
With the situation growing increasingly intense, he stopped the car and told them to leave.
He claimed they called him a “P***” and a “black b******” and punched his car.
Leeds City Council has previously said the Suitability and Convictions Policy is essential as the local authority is “entitled and bound to treat the safety of the public as the paramount".
But what about the safety of the taxi and private hire drivers?