24 Mar 20

Taxi drivers show true grit amid pandemic

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Taxi companies and drivers, particularly those relying on airport runs, are feeling the pinch as the effects of COVID-19 travel bans take hold.

Alongside trying to find new and immediate ways to stay afloat, however, many have become community heroes, helping key workers and those in need.

There’s been a huge decline in business for taxi companies and ride-hailing drivers across the globe, as much as 70-90% in some areas, so the industry is trying to repurpose services.

Determined to stay in business - and do their bit for the community - they are implementing alternative ways to keep the wheels turning. This includes offering auxiliary home deliveries for supermarkets struggling to cope with demand, discounted rides for key workers and prescription medication pickup and drop offs.

Easing the burden on emergency services

Last week, the Irish Times reported that taxi drivers are calling on the Government to issue a directive on how they can help “ease the burden” on ambulances and emergency services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taxis can be used for non-emergency but essential medical appointments, such as chemotherapy, dialysis, blood transfusions and so on.

Companies in Derry, Northern Ireland, have vowed to provide vital taxi services to the local community by delivering prescriptions and food to the most vulnerable, plus transporting medical staff to and from hospitals.

Dispatchers are working from home and running services over the internet.

Some taxi drivers are offering free rides to the elderly, vulnerable and key health service workers to grocery stores.

The need to earn a living

Alongside helping their communities, taxi drivers need to earn a living to pay mortgages and household bills.


Local UK newspaper, the Northampton Chronicle & Echo reported a story about family-run, Amber Cars offering key workers a 20% discount on fares and making drivers available to firms or those in isolation for deliveries. Manager David Sherwood is quoted saying: “I’ve got more than 100 drivers so anything we can do to generate money to help them and the public is our main aim.

This won’t make us a profit, it’s about breaking even to make sure our drivers can pay their bills.”

For individuals, taxi drivers are also offering to pick up ‘Click and Collect’ orders from supermarkets or do a food shop for free as long as customers pay for the groceries.

Sheffield-based City Taxis is using its network to deliver food and goods to members of the public.


In Finland, Cabonline, which operates taxi firms Kovanen and FixuTaxi, is now offering grocery home delivery services to residents in the Helsinki area. Taxi Helsinki and Lähitaksi are negotiating with local stores to do the same as a way to try and recoup losses.


On Friday, Reuters reported that Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green sent an email inviting drivers to sign up to a new “LyftUp Driver Task Force” that will help out with direct on-the-ground needs in their communities. The two founders also revealed they are contributing their salaries until the end of June to support drivers.

Drivers and taxi companies are using social media apps to get the message out about these services while trying to stay in business and help their local communities.

New delivery and passenger carrying guidelines for Taxi drivers
  • Face masks – the latest advice is to wear a face mask when carrying passengers. A mask will protect others from catching the infection from the driver and will protect the driver to a certain degree from catching it from passengers, but it’s not failsafe.
  • Instead, drivers are advised to keep a safe distance between themselves and passengers.
  • Keep the front seat free – insist passengers occupy only the back seats.
  • Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser in between rides.
  • Clean and disinfect after each ride.
  • Use antibacterial surface wipes on touchpoints (door handles inside and out, door buttons, seat belts).
  • Use disposable gloves when cleaning and sanitising vehicles.
  • Put luggage in the boot of the car rather than on seats.
  • Accept card payments only to avoid handling cash.
  • Get out to open the door for passengers to alight (thus minimising how often the vehicle is touched).
  • Don’t use air-conditioning when carrying passengers. COVID-19 particles are .06 and .04 microns, which makes them too small to be trapped by aircon filters that typically trap germs down to .3 microns. The use of aircon may also recirculate any airborne COVID-19 germs around the car.
  • Ban ride-sharing - customers are advised to only share taxis with people they live with.
  • Implement ‘no contact’ drop off for food or parcel deliveries.

Image copyright: Shutterstock

Authored by: Alison Pittaway