A taxi driver from Belfast has opened up on the weekly costs he pays to keep going, and has outlined how maximum fare increases will really help.
According to Belfast Live, the driver, who wished to remain anonymous, first began driving with a taxi firm in the city four years ago at the beginning of the pandemic. Currently, if he works 50 hours per week, he takes home around £300 after deductions, bringing his salary well below minimum wage.
It comes as the Department for Infrastructure has announced an increase in maximum taxi fares in Northern Ireland to "assist the taxi industry and support the wider economy."
The increase, which comes into effect on December 5, will see maximum fares increase by 9.5% during the day and 19.5% at all other times, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.
Speaking to Belfast Live, the taxi driver explained his weekly deductions, which total up to around £500, and emphasised that the fare increases will be a "big help."
He said: "I pay £190 a week for my car, £152 depot rent but that's going up to £159 the same week the fare increase is coming in. Insurance has gone up this year, a lot of the drivers have told me their's has gone up by around £400 a year.
"Mine is £1,500 a year and when I go to renew in June I'm expecting around £1,900-2,000 per year. My insurance is £40 a week at the minute but I'm expecting it to go up to £50.
"For servicing, I put £10 away for that. You're changing your tyres at least once a year and if you're a decent taxi driver, you'll be putting good tyres on so you get the year out of them. It's around £105 a tyre so you're putting away around £8 a week for that.
"For petrol, I'm spending anywhere from £80-100 a week. My accounts are professionally done each year, my accountant is £300 a year which is very good, and that's around £8 a week.
"When you submit your books, you pay your PAYE and National Insurance, for NI you pay category two and four, which works out £500-600 a year, so that's around £10 a week."
The driver said people need to look beyond the headline figures and see how drivers are impacted, including how staff shortages in the industry have had a knock-on effect.
He said: "People see a headline figure of £20 an hour and think taxi drivers are making a fortune. A normal working week is 37 hours, in that amount of time, a taxi driver can't make money.
"For today so far, I'm at £150 and I've been out since six this morning [nine hours]. That's all I've got today. Yesterday was a bit better, I did 12 hours and got £220.
"£20 an hour would be a great result - I'm averaging around £15-17 per day. That's for working days, if I wanted to work through the night and weekend nights I could earn a bit more than that, but those are unsociable hours and not everybody whose married and has a family wants to do that.
"As taxis have been slow or short staffed, a lot of people are double booking us - they're phoning maybe two or three places and taking who comes first.
"I could be driving to a job that doesn't exist. I could spend 20 minutes getting to a job in town when traffic is busy, then get there and it's gone.
"I've wasted fuel, I've wasted time, and there's no job there, I have no way of getting paid. From my perspective, I don't blame the customer as they want a taxi and they don't really care who picks them up, they just want it as quick as possible.
"If I do 50 hours a week, I'm averaging around £850 but when you take those deductions, there's around £300 a week in it for me.
"With that fare increase of 10% during the week and 20% at the weekend, if you average that out over the week into 15% say, there's probably another £100 a week in it for me which is brilliant, it'll be a great help."