Cabbie defends industry against detractors

A Christchurch taxi driver says critics of the industry do not understand how many standards drivers must meet and the efforts made to protect passengers and drivers.

David Buckingham said he wanted to speak publicly about the requirements taxi drivers needed to meet in response to negative comments following a story published by The Press on Monday.

The story said the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) had issued a warning about unofficial sober-driver services after a person unsuccessfully tried to set up a $20 taxi service through Facebook.

NZTA said such services were illegal unless they were offered for free or the providers held passenger endorsements and underwent police checks, as taxi and other passenger service providers had to.

The story attracted criticism about the taxi industry

''People thought [closing the page] was anti-competition,'' Buckingham said. ''The reality is that actually it's pro-safety.''

Buckingham had been driving taxis ''on and off'' in Christchurch for three years and said drivers were required to have a camera and a panic button in their vehicle and had to have their meters checked by an independent auditor every six months to ensure it accurately measured the time and kilometres travelled.

Taxi drivers also had to maintain a logbook to ensure they were not working longer than legally allowed, had to undergo medical checks every five years and required an annual police check to maintain their passenger endorsement.

The requirements were there to protect both the passengers and the drivers, he said.

''There are so many grey areas that you don't realise until you've been doing this job. You may have somebody's who's drunk or has a distorted view of what's happened. Where you've got the camera footage, you can see what's really happened.''

Taxi driving was convenient, flexible and interesting work, but was not a job for someone looking to get rich, he said.

''It's not what it's cracked up to be. If we break down what we get after all of our expenses, most taxi drivers are making just a little bit more than minimum wage, with no guaranteed income.''

Buckingham supported anyone who ''genuinely'' believed they could run a successful $20 driver service.

The Press