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Fare game: The cabbie reality
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      You can’t make a living driving a taxi in Savannah anymore. That’s right, loyal Fare Game readers. The recession has taken a big bite out of the taxi business and that combined with greedy taxi company owners and a worthless transportation department in Savannah have “driven” cab drivers to have to look elsewhere to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads.

Everybody has been hit by the collapse of the economy. Thank you Republican Party! People have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut back which has lead to a tightening of the financial belt. This has led to less and less people needing a taxi to get to work or just not being able to afford a taxi to go to work, or anywhere else for that matter.
Combine that with more people who are out of work becoming taxi drivers, because taxi company owners can make more money putting more cars on the road, and that causes a bad equation to be created.

It goes like this... 30 percent less customers + 10 percent more taxi drivers – 5 percent on all charge calls + $20 weekly cab rental increase + gas = no living wage.

Since I started driving a taxi in December of ’05, business has gone down 35–40 percent. I used to have five or six regular customers every day, which came to about $250 a week, and now I have none. There used to be about 20–25 drivers per 12 hour shift –– now there are 30–35 drivers per 12 hour shift.

Then to top it off, this past March the owner of our company raised taxi rental rates from $340 per week to $360 per week. The City of Savannah did give the drivers a rate increase in ’08 of about 8 percent. That’s one increase in a four year period.

Taxi drivers also have to pay Savannah for the privilege of driving here. It’s only about $20 per year, but it all counts and it takes a few hours of time to do. We also pay for 100 percent of our gasoline. That comes to about $20–25 a day.

Savannah allows taxi owners to buy used police cars at auction. They are Crown Victorias that are called “Police Interceptors.” Which means they have HUGE engines that can reach over 160 mph. Just what a taxi driver needs for a day of stop and go driving.

We are lucky if we get 15 miles per gallon. So much for the City of Savannah giving a crap about the environment and being green!

Now, you might say, what can be done to improve the cabbies lot in Savannah? Well let’s see:

1) If used police cars are going to be the standard, have the company pay for 40 percent of the driver’s gas or make gas efficient cars be used by taxi companies. Perhaps a cash incentive given by the city to taxi companies for the purchase of such vehicles. The city can probably get federal Go Green subsidies if they do this.

2) Limit the cars per shift to a maximum of 25. If that means less shift drivers, sorry! Seniority has to have some privileges.

3) Have the taxi company provide the driver his city taxi driver’s permit.

4) A rate increase equal to any taxi rental increases set by owners. I think these are fair (fare) remedies to this situation.

Do I think these will be implemented? No! Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen to taxi owners, the City of Savannah and most importantly to the citizens of Savannah. If one cab driver quits there are five more to take his/her place. Always has and always will. It’s as sure as death and taxes.

Right now I am working about 50–60 hours a week and I am not making what would be broken down to minimum wage. What is that all about? I know that many have it worse and I do not complain. I am simply stating a fact that the system that governs taxi companies in Savannah does not work as far as the drivers are concerned, and that no matter what way you look at it, it is wrong.

Perhaps in good economic times it does work, but we are in a deep recession. And don’t let anyone fool you, we are over a year away from any real upturn in the economy and it will probably only get worse before it gets better for all of us.

I do not begrudge anyone (i.e. taxi company owners) the ability to make a buck, but it is wrong to make it on the backs of their drivers. especially when the owners know that business is down significantly and still they fill their own pockets by reaching into the drivers’ pockets!

So, there you have it my faithful readers, the grim realities of driving a taxi in the beautiful city of Savannah. Just remember the next time you take a taxi, give your driver a nice tip (if deserved) and a kind word to brighten their day. Who knows, it might just be me!

Until next time, my friends, may all your cab rides be good ones!