Taxi Talk March 2014


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For Victorian Taxi Owners, Drivers and Operators

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TAXI TALK ISSUE NO 551 MARCH 2014 TAXI VOICE OF THE TAXI INDUSTRY MAGAZINE VOICE OF THE TAXI INDUSTRY Official journal of the Victorian Taxi Association Print Post Approved number 100004912 Melbourne’s Moomba Festival 7-10 MARCH This year, the 60th celebration-themed parade, on Monday 10 March at 11am, will commemorate Moomba’s legacy with an energetic, vibrant procession featuring more than 2000 participants and seven floats. The largest parade participation in many years will see the people of Melbourne erupt in a kaleidoscope of colour, movement and noise – a singing and dancing celebration unlike any other.


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INSIDE... 4 12 16 26 22 36 Victorian Taxi Association editorial Don’t lose perspective in all of this TAXI VOICE OF THE TAXI INDUSTRY MAGAZINE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE VICTORIAN TAXI ASSOCIATION MAGAZINE EDITOR ........................ Toni F. Peters VTA EDITOR ....................................David Samuel FOUNDER ....................................Stanley F. White PUBLISHER ..................Trade Promotions Pty Ltd Unregulated taxi booking apps A global concern ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Trade Promotions Pty Ltd 42 Grenfell Road, Mt Waverley VIC 3149 PO Box 2345, Mt Waverley VIC 3149 Phone: ............................................. 03 9807 0237 Licence statistics Taxi and hire car licence statistics for last month Email: ................................... Website: ................................ DISPLAY ADVERTISEMENTS All copy, editorial and artwork must be in by the 15th of the month prior to publication date. Advertisement sizes and rates can be viewed at Taxi Services Commission Updates on issues affecting the Victorian Taxi Industry SUBSCRIPTION DETAILS 1 year = $33 Mailbag The ugly side of competition CLASSIFIED ADVERTISEMENTS $25 for 30 words, $50 for 60 words, etc. Email or Mail your classified advertisement by the 15th of the month prior to publication date, together with your payment. Events calendar Dates and locations of Melbourne’s major events PAYMENT OPTIONS • • • Via PAYPAL to Direct Deposit to BSB 033065 A/c 312786 Mail Cheque to Trade Promotions Pty Ltd PO Box 2345, Mt Waverley VIC 3149 Want to know as soon as Taxi Talk is uploaded to our website? Become a member of, and you will get an email immediately the next edition has been uploaded. Register at Taxi Talk magazine, a monthly publication for the Victorian taxi industry, is published by Trade Promotions Pty Ltd in collaboration with the Victorian Taxi Association Inc (VTA). The VTA is the peak industry body in Victoria, fostering the interests and wellbeing of taxi-cab drivers, taxi-cab operators and taxi-cab Network Service Providers across the state. Taxi Talk magazine is wholly owned by Trade Promotions Pty Ltd. COPYRIGHT © Trade Promotions Pty Ltd 2014. All rights reserved. The “Taxi Talk – Voice of the taxi industry” heading and logos are trademarks of Stanley F. White. Copyright of articles and photographs of Taxi Talk magazine remain with the individual contributors and may not be reproduced without permission. Views expressed in any article in Taxi Talk are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily those of the publisher. The publisher cannot accept any responsibility for any opinions, information, errors or omissions in this publication. To the extent permitted by law, the publisher will not be liable for any damages including special, exemplary, punitive or consequential damages (including but not limited to economic loss or loss of profit or revenue or loss of opportunity) or indirect loss or damage of any kind arising from the contract, tort or otherwise, even if advised of the possibility of such loss of profits or damage. Advertisements must comply with the relevant provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Responsibility for compliance with the Act rests with the person, company or advertising agency submitting the advertisement. Phone: 03 9676 2635................ Fax: 03 9676 2643 PRESIDENT .................................... Kevin Gange VICE PRESIDENT ................. Stephen Armstrong CHIEF EXECUTIVE ....................... David Samuel Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry March 2014 |3


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PERSPECTIVE Rather than focus on what reforms are occurring, which I am sure will be well covered in other areas, I wanted to share something a bit different with you. I was recently asked by an interstate colleague to assist him by providing some information for a submission he was developing. In short, he asked if I could provide a recent history of occupancy rates for Victorian taxis. This work helped clarify for me the relationship between price and demand in the taxi industry and provided pretty stark evidence to suggest that in our industry, the relationship is more complex than simple theory would suggest. Given we have now been informed, somewhat informally, that the review of taxis fares being conducted by the Essential Services Commission (ESC) has been brought forward to sometime between March and May it seems an opportune time to investigate this idea. So let’s quickly look at the numbers. The VTA was quoted in the Essential Services Commission’s draft report during their 2005 fare review as saying that on average, occupancy rates were a third of a shift, or 33%. In the final report of the ESC in their 2008 fare review, the ESC quote from a submission which puts the occupancy rate at 30%. Despite a decrease in the real cost of taxis in Victoria, there has been a downward trend in occupancy rates which is currently widely acknowledged now to be around 28%. The 28% figure was quoted in the final report of the Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry (VTII). The VTII also notes on page 7 that Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry Don’t lose in all of this David Samuel VTA CEO Occupancy obviously has a direct relationship to demand in our business, it is a strong indicator of it. One would expect that if price decreases in real and/or normal terms you would hope to see a corresponding increase in demand. This certainly seems to be a view shared by any number of interested commentators who pertain to know how to increase service standards and demand for taxis while decreasing the cost to the consumer. 4 | March 2014


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“with the overall number of taxi trips remaining static, occupancy rates of taxi vehicles remaining low and taxi businesses facing increasing cost pressures, the effects of this poor performance will continue to be felt by many in the industry, especially taxi operators and drivers.” Of course of most significance is that across 2008 to 2014 there has been no fare adjustment. What this information seems to demonstrate is that while price will always be a factor in the decision making of individuals when it comes to whether or not they use a taxi, quality and safety are just as important if not more so. Taxis are not public transport. Taxis provide door-to-door private transport. Taxis will never be the most affordable transport option, but in many cases will be the most available, accessible or convenient. It is for these reasons that people choose to use taxi services. On another note, in country and regional areas the VTA remains concerned about the proposed price notification system. We recognise that the TSC’s role is now limited to the ‘notification’ aspect of this process and are not responsible for determining how a taxi fare is set, or by whom. However, the VTA believe the State Government, and the Department of Transport, have a very important role in this area. It is a policy of the State Government to implement price notification for taxis in specific geographic areas and therefore we are of the view that the Minister has, at the very least, a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that government policy does not place small business in a precarious legal position. The proposed price notification system, without the proper legislative safeguards does, in our view, do just this. In wrapping up I would like to ask one final thing of industry participants - and that is, in our current context, to focus on things that you can control, not on the things you can’t. The vast majority of industry participants still do a great job. The country and regional areas are a good example, we know what your communities think of your service because we surveyed them. What this means is that there is tremendous good -will toward your service. There is no point worrying about what might happen if a new business decides to set up shop in your town. Firstly, there is nothing you can really do about an irrational market entrant should the TSC decide to grant them a licence(s). There is also nothing new in this, the potential for competition has always existed. Secondly, don’t undersell the great product and the associated good -will you, as a business, have accumulated. Don’t simply concede defeat. If your customers are happy why would they suddenly start using another service? Don’t be afraid of competition, or to compete. Our belief at the VTA is that it is our members who will come out on top because you do a great job. I am not trying to play down the concerns of many within the industry, there are still any number of issues to work through. The VTA are simply saying don’t lose perspective in all of this regarding the strength you gain from the goodwill you have built up in your business. We will continue to push for reforms that ultimately result in sensible outcomes that will allow the industry to become profitable via a reasonable fare structure/level, provide better and more accountable customer service and encourage legitimate entrepreneurial activity that sees new business streams open up. We understand that at this point in time, however, it seems we have a long way to go.D 30 MARCH - 3 APRIL 2014 CROWN PERTH Online at |5 Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry March 2014 REGISTER EARLY


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2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Victorian Taxi Association. In 1964 a group of industry participants formed the association and it became an incorporated entity. The aim of the association was to represent the industry and to this day, it continues to do so. The VTA represents the interests of the Victorian taxi industry as a whole with membership encompassing 95% of the state’s taxis. The 50th year was officially launched on 25 February. Acknowledging the diversity of the industry, the association’s Vice President, Stephen Armstrong hosted the event at Ballarat Taxis in Doveton Street. The celebration, the first of many events planned for the year, came in the midst of a changing environment for the Victorian taxi industry. 50 FACES, 50 YEARS is a project that the VTA has undertaken to profile a range of individuals who have been involved in the industry in various means throughout the years. From owners and operators, passengers and drivers, to regulators and suppliers to the industry, the VTA will put together a story that spans the years and looks to the future. The characters who make up this industry are what keeps it unique and exciting. Other events that will take place this year include a gala anniversary dinner, driver specific events and the launch of a publication documenting the history of the association since its inception. If anyone has particular stories or memories they would like to contribute, please contact the VTA on 9676 2635. D 50 FACES, 50 YEARS CALL FOR EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST This project will profile 50 people who have played a role in the Victorian taxi industry over the past 50 years. Each profile will feature on the VTA website and may be used in other ways throughout the year. The VTA is calling for expressions of interest from industry participants who are keen to be involved in the project. Those interested will be sent some questions regarding their experience within the industry over the years and the responses will be used to put together a profile. Please contact Alana Condon, VTA Membership Services Co-ordinator on 03 9676 2635 or email for further information and to express your interest in becoming involved.D 6 | March 2014 Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry


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Port of Melbourne On 5 January this year, the VTA conducted detailed research into cruise ship passengers and their taxi requirements. The Dawn Princess was on a turnaround visit (where a full load of passengers disembarks in the morning and a full load of passengers embark in the afternoon). The data collected looked into the destinations passengers were travelling to and how many passengers travelled together. The figures were collected from 7.30am to 10.30am. The total number of passengers was 308 and they were serviced by 117 taxis. The Port of Melbourne traffic management staff direct the taxis and ensure other traffic on the port do not interfere with the taxi rank. The cruise ship supplies a taxi rank marshal, who assists the often-elderly passengers in getting into the most appropriate taxis for their needs. Taxi networks are requested by the port authority to PASSENGER DESTINATION RESEARCH send out dispatch messages into cabs when taxis are required. The response on this morning was favourable and there was no more than 20 minutes wait. The range of suburbs was from Taylors Lakes to Cranbourne and everywhere in between. There were six trips to Melbourne Airport and four to Southern Cross Station. The number of trips that utilised High Occupancy Vehicles, due to five or more passengers or a large volume of luggage was 12. The average fare (according to figures taken from the TSC’s fare estimator) was $52.95, with the highest being $293 to Morwell and the lowest was South Melbourne at $13.00. Twelve trips were less than $15.00 while eight journeys were over $100.00. The VTA acknowledges Clare O’Keefe for facilitating this project and allowing VTA staff onto the port to research this cruise ship turnaround. D Port of Melbourne Corporation Station Pier Cruise Season Peak Taxi Demand Turnaround Visits - 3 hour peak demand from 7:30am, requiring between 150 - 200 taxis. A full load of passengers will disembark with luggage in the morning and aStation full load will embark with luggage in the Visit Date Port of Melbourne Pier Cruise Season – Peak Taxi Demand Ship afternoon. Amadea Sunday 2 March Turnaround Visits – 3 hour peak demand after passenger departure time Pier Access A full load of passengers will disembark with luggage in the morning Taxis will be granted access drive on to Station Dawn Princess Monday 3 March and a full load will to embark with luggage in the afternoon.Pier once an identification check has been conducted Passenger at the front Approx. gate. Dawn Princess Sunday 16 March Ship Visit Date Departure No. of Taxis There will be a high demand for maxi taxis and station wagons Time Required Princess Tuesday 19-Nov-13 Dawn Princess Sunday 29 March 7:30am 100 - 150 duringDawn disembarkation. Calling All Cabs! 8 | March Dawn Princess Dawn Princess Dawn Princess Dawn Princess 2014 Dawn Princess Silver Shadow Monday 02-Dec-13 Sunday 15-Dec-13 Saturday 21-Dec-13 Saturday 04-Jan-14 Friday 10-Jan-14 Sunday 19-Jan-14 7:30am 7:30am 7:30am 7:30am 7:30am 8:30am 150 - 200 150 - 200 100 - 150 100 - 150 150 - 200 150 - 200 Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry


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PRICE The Victorian Taxi Industry Inquiry (VTII) recommended that prescribed fares in the country and regional zones be replaced with a process whereby taxi businesses can set their own fares which must be notified to the Taxi Services Commission (TSC) and their local communities. The TSC has now been tasked with designing a process to implement this reform, referred to as price notification. A discussion paper was released in December 2013. The proposed process outlined in this paper has raised some very serious concerns about the potential impact on taxi services in country areas. Should the process go ahead as proposed in the paper, with operators exclusively permitted to set and notify the TSC of taxi fares, the VTA believes this will create a significant burden for the taxi industry in country and regional Victoria and compromise the high quality service customers in these zones currently experience. The Final VTII report noted the excellent level of service taxi customers receive in country Victoria. Giv- notification en that over 90% of all taxi work in country areas is managed through booking companies, the proposed model would create an inordinate number of issues should affiliated operators notify differing fare models. book a taxi, and the customer will face uncertainty in relation to price. It must be understood that the fundamental reason networks were established in country areas was because customers demanded a centralised, reliable and consistent service and the co-operative structure that was formed as a result is simply a reflection of this. While it may be feasible for country operators to use price to compete at a rank and hail level, it simply will not work if applied to booked work. In the VTA’s view, decentralised price setting in the booked market will lead to poorer outcomes for all and importantly not guarantee lower prices or a higher quality service. In fact, it is our contention that it will do the opposite. Most importantly, the proposed model for price notification will not serve customers well. The administrative impacts on networks will make it harder for customers to If the legislation to enact this reform is drafted consistent with the TSC’s position, this would see the State Government placing country taxi businesses in a position that in order to offer the best possible level of service and a consistent price, they would potentially be in contravention of relevant federal laws, namely the Cartel Provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. It is recognised that the TSC’s role is limited to the ‘notification’ aspect of this process and as a regulator they are not responsible for determining how a taxi fare is to be set, or by whom. However, the VTA believes the State Government have an obligation to ensure that government policy and associated legislation does not place small businesses in a precarious legal position. Advice received makes it clear that it is possible for the State Government to legislate to protect taxi businesses from the unwarranted scrutiny of relevant federal agencies as a result of the price notification process and urges them to do so. D Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry 10 | March 2014


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Unregulated taxi booking apps A GOBAL CONCERN Issues associated with unregulated taxi booking apps are emerging worldwide. Third party booking apps, those not managed by an accredited taxi booking network, are posing major problems for government regulators and the law as they struggle to define their place in an established industry. So far, Ingogo, GoCatch and Uber are all offering taxi-booking services in Australia, while Uber also offers hire car services. Earlier this year, The New York Times highlighted businesses pushing to operate in the invisible free marketplace whilst inserting themselves into the physical world, providing on-demand transportation. 12 | March 2014 Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry


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Anyone with a smartphone can use these apps to instantly book a ride. But the question remains; what exactly are they – a transport company, technology platform, or both? And more importantly, how should they be managed? The Chief Executive Officer of the Taxi Council for Queensland, Benjamin Wash, last year penned an article for BRW, highlighting the dangers associated with unregulated taxi booking apps and how they compromise industry and consumer protection. Wash points out that in Australia’s tightly regulated taxi industry, prices are set by government regulators so that “customers know the fare they will be charged.” But he argues this is not the case with some of these new companies, such as Uber. ‘Price Surging’, a system whereby fares soar up to three or four times during peak times such as holidays, rush hour and bad weather, has made Uber highly unpopular with some of its unsuspecting customers. According to media reports last year, Uber left many New Yorkers reeling after charging up to seven times its normal fares during a heavy snow storm, with some passengers hit with a $100 fare for an average $20 trip. The most notable concern transpiring from this trend is the question surrounding responsibility. As Kate Henderson of Liberty Voice explains in the case of Uber, “Uber say they are a self-regulating entity because they ask their customers for feedback, but they can’t be completely outside of statutory regulations. They say their drivers are “freelance” but if they use their References own cars what insurance cover is suitable?” Drivers who use their own vehicles are in a questionable insurance position as personal insurance policies do not cover commercial activity. Uber argues that innovation would be stifled if they were subject to the same regulation as other transport companies. While the California Public Utilities Commission has publicly disagreed with this sentiment, Uber is appealing their decision. The issue of who is responsible when something goes wrong has erupted in San Francisco following a contentious vehicular manslaughter lawsuit in which an Uber driver killed a child and injured two others. The victim’s family is holding Uber accountable while Uber claims it had nothing to do with the accident as they deactivated the driver’s Uber account and the car wasn’t carrying any passengers. This also raises the concern of whether these booking apps can ensure that their drivers have been appropriately trained and undergone the relevant background checks, which is required of regulated booking companies. As Wash explains, the greatest concern is the “lack of any safety net” when booking through these controversial apps. He notes that in some cases, “Anyone can register as a driver and accept a fare... Because they do not have access to booking company records they have no way to verify whether the driver they are sending is an authorised driver.” The subject of regulation is creat- ing major headlines in Atlanta. A draft bill has been introduced proposing to regulate “transportation referral service providers” such as Uber and Lyft. Under the bill, these companies must obtain a licence and register with the state by demonstrating that their drivers are licenced, vetted, drive inspected vehicles and have commercial liability insurance. The drivers and the fares charged must also comply with local regulations, which would mean the abolishment of Uber’s price surging. Lyft and Uber have hired high-powered lobbyists to review the legislation and vowed to fight it. The bill was proposed after a group of Atlanta’s taxi companies and drivers sued the city arguing rival services have undercut their businesses while not complying with city laws. Watch this space. Shanghai is one city making inroads in this sphere. The city’s traffic authority, Shanghai Transport and Port Administration, is in talks with app developers to partner in a taxi booking service by integrating the app technology with the dispatching platform. This move to regulate booking apps in the city, was brought on for public safety purposes to help passengers avoid unlicensed taxis. As Wash concludes in his article, “When these apps become taxi booking companies and play by the same rules – the rules that guarantee public safety, service and prices - the industry will support them without reservation.” Prepared by the VTA D Biddle, Sam 2013, ‘The Weekend Uber Tried to Rip Everyone Off’, Valley Wag, Cox, Ted 2014, ‘Taxi Lawsuit Targets Uber, Lyft for Unfair Practices,’ DNAinfo Chicago, Henderson, Kate 2014, ‘Uber and the Taxi Revolution’, Liberty Voice, Streitfeld, David 2014, ‘Rough patch for Uber’s Service’s Challenge to Taxis’, The New York Times, Wash, Benjamin 2013, ‘Industry hits back in taxi app war: If you don’t want to pay $280 for a $45 far, we need rules, BRW, Wheatley, Thomas 2014, ‘The Gold Dome bill to regulate Uber and Lyft has been introduced and it’s a doozy,’ Fresh Loaf, the-gold-dome-bill-to-regulate-uber-and-lyft-has-been-introduced-and-its-a-doozy Zhenghua, Wang 2014, ‘Shanghai to regulate taxi booking apps’, China Daily, Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry March 2014 | 13


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REGION We all know that at the moment it feels like we are up against a wall with no-where to go, but we have to continue to write letters, continue to remember that this is our business, it is our blood, sweat and tears that has made it what it is, continue writing to politicians and make them see that we are people, we are not statistics on paper, we are not numbers. We have families, friends and lives and at the end of the day we will fight for them and ourselves to the end. Jan Uebergang news have not covered, but let’s be honest we could make this into a book! So people, I suggest we all start writing to our local members, flood them with our views, our worries, our life stories, make them realize who we are and that we are not going anywhere. At the end of the day we will fight for ourselves and our loyal passengers as the country always has done. While we are not economists, we know we run excellent businesses in the country. We also know what happens when you mess with the get the horns too! D VTA Western Regional Councillor & Secretary of Taxis of Hamilton The last two years have been a huge struggle for all taxi operators, including country, with no fare increase and harder economic times, huge fuel costs and maintenance prices escalating over recent years it sometimes becomes hard to look for the positives. The way I see the situation as it stands is that we have to live in hope that the government will produce a fare increase shortly to help with these struggles and while the 55/45 split will hit us all hard we have to continue our service to the high standards we have always upheld. We have to become smarter in where we find our work and start looking at alternatives, with the high levels we set for ourselves we need to publicise these facts and make people more aware of how we work in with them to get the greatest benefit for both the public and ourselves. Now some food for thought regarding the MPTP Program - while Minister Mulder is telling us that country MPTP card holders will only receive 50 percent of the metro fair box because it is going to blow this budget out, has he realised that the figures have been static since 2008? The fact that the vast majority of MPTP card holders do not ask for an increase on their capping and furthermore do not hit their cap per year, should show Treasury there is room to implement 50 percent to country MPTP holders under their ruling. Does the State Government realise that they are not only hurting owner/operators but they are putting a huge financial burden on a group of people who are already financially challenged? And coupled with the Federal Government’s Inquiry into aged pension and disability services, this is ultimately going to hurt a huge number of people who are already financially burdened. There are so many issues here I FOR SALE TAXI REPLACEMENT VEHICLE FORD FALCON FG XT MK2 11/2012 SEDAN DEDICATED FACTORY LPG, VIC TAXI YELLOW, TAXI RWC SUPPLIED, sn472 $25,950 GLV MOTORS 0418 362 521 Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry 14 | March 2014


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Driver of the Month Santo Puglisi - Silver Top operator. A native of Italy, he came to Australia in 1974 via South Africa and landed in Melbourne. Santo started driving Silver Top cabs in 1976 and has stayed with them. Santo would prefer to drive a yellow car and would like to see the whole fleet on the road in top condition. He thinks that all taxi drivers should be expected to have a good knowledge of the locations of Melbourne’s suburbs, places of interest and roads network. D Taxi Talk - Voice of the Taxi Industry



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