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Taxi drivers have it tough

Taxi drivers have it tough

As Sharjah residents come to terms with a hike in taxi fares, longtime UAE blogger Alexander McNabb contemplates how tough taxi drivers in this country have it.

October 24, 2010 4:23 by

When taxi fares went up in Sharjah earlier this month, none of the newspaper stories covering the event made mention of the fact that drivers’ targets went up as well. Drivers now have to earn Dhs 10,000 in a month to gain a 35% commission.

We’re still paying the Dhs20 inter-Emirate surcharge between Sharjah and Dubai (and vice-versa), which was introduced, if we remember, because of the heavy traffic between the two. That traffic’s no longer a problem, but the taxi companies are never going to let an easy Dhs15 go. (Dhs 5 goes to the driver, at least that was the idea). It’s expensive stuff, this taking a taxi. And yet the drivers seem to be worse off than ever – although I don’t see the large numbers of middlemen at the taxi companies and regulators suffering.

The drivers are under enormous pressure, with a series of iniquitous fines that includes a Dhs100 fine if they lodge the day’s takings after 6pm. If a driver doesn’t make his daily target of Dhs 275 for three days running, that’s it. Out. The cap on daily petrol expenditure and a requirement that 50% of all travel should be passenger-carrying, means that drivers won’t pick up in certain areas, taxi ‘black holes’. Sharjah’s University City, for instance, is highly unpopular with drivers. Many drivers have private customer lists (like Mr G, who runs a massive network of customers and is more frequently on the phone than off it) but resist University jobs. Their least favourite is University to airport – a 10 minute ride that entails travelling 30 minutes out of the city and back again.

Drivers who become involved in accidents have to sit around while the car is in the workshop – not earning a penny. As if that isn’t bad enough, they have to pay the insurance excess, which is Dhs1,500. That’s about two week’s earnings. At least the high excess keeps the company’s premiums down, hey.

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