To some, driving a taxi or private hire vehicle may seem simple; pick up a passenger, complete a journey, take payment and then off to the next trip. But the truth is, the job comes with a lot of tests, including dealing with aggressive and sometimes violent passengers, and even the occasional unwanted advances by female passengers.
In a short documentary run on YouTube channel “The Driver’s Story”, private hire drivers reveal some of the darker sides of working in the trade.
For Mihai Costache, a private hire driver licensed in London, joining the trade was a way of earning a “decent living” and being appreciated for working hard and earning an honest living.
But Mihai has highlighted the surge in attacks on drivers, which he has put down to people losing their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation.
Fellow Minicab driver, Luca D’Orsi added that as a driver you have no way of knowing what the passenger is carrying on them, from drugs to deadly weapons.
Luca said there’s been occasions when he has been booked through one of the taxi booking apps, and upon arrival, someone completely different enters the vehicle. He added that he’s had members of his family and friends stress to him their concerns over the safety of the job.
Footage aired on the documentary shows one private hire driver being touched by a female passenger who is sitting behind him. The woman who appears to be intoxicated, tells him that he doesn’t understand how she feels rights right now, despite the driver telling her to stop.
The taxi driver warns her “if you do that again, you get off”, and reminds her that he has a camera recording. The woman go on to express her “feelings” for the driver. She eventually tells him to drop her off at the side of the road before appearing to slap him on the arm.
Such worrying altercations can quickly turn a lot worse if the driver is unable to remain calm, or even worse, if the passenger decides to turn the incident into one of violence.
Francis Gumban, also a minicab driver, explains how such incidents mean job security within the trade always hangs in the balance. A driver is likely to lose his licence if he or she retaliates to such advances or abuse, or even if they choose to stay calm but face false allegations or complaints against them from a passenger. This being one of the main reasons CCTV in taxi near me and private hire vehicles is advised by many licensing authorities now.
In one recording highlighted in the documentary, a passenger can be heard hurling abuse at a driver, saying “I said straight! What the f**k man, you’re not listening”.
The angered passenger then went on to shout “What you gonna do? Shut the f*** up” before going on to call him a “f***ing pr**k” and telling him to “s**k your mum”.
Sergiu Sopron, a minicab driver who worked on the Uber app, said whenever such altercation arises, he would choose not to react and avoid causing the situation to escalate by keeping things “within” himself.
Sergiu points to Uber’s rating system, saying if he went against everyone who chose to abuse him, he would’ve lost his job a long time ago.
Sergiu said “all these apps, they protect too much the customer, and always the driver is left out.” He went on to say the same is also for Transport for London (TfL).
Earlier this year, Gabriel Bringye, a private hire driver working on the Bolt ride-hailing app, was stabbed to death while sitting behind the wheel of his vehicle in North London.
His death sparked outrage within the ride-hailing community, with calls for improved safety measures by the apps to be put in place.
The documentary concludes with the claims that such murderous actions will happen again unless ride-hailing apps step up and improve safety measures to protect drivers against such acts of violence.