Taxi man pleads: Why are fuel firms rip­ping off driv­ers?

Southport Visiter - - Front Page - BY CHRISTY BYRNE christy.byrne@reach­plc.com @ByrneChristy

TAXI driv­ers in South­port are be­ing hit in the wal­let by ex­tor­tion­ate fuel prices, ac­cord­ing to one fu­ri­ous driver.

Martin Rowe, of All White taxis, said that prices are con­tin­u­ously go­ing up and tak­ing up to 15% of his wages, de­spite re­ports that prices should be drop­ping.

Martin said: “It’s a con­tin­u­a­tion, they were go­ing up a cou­ple of months ago at a penny a day, then it stemmed at 130.9p and then on the news – ob­vi­ously we lis­ten to the ra­dio all day – it said that fuel prices were down.

“I made a point of think­ing right, it’s 130.9p for diesel, 127.9p for petrol, and the prices stayed the same. They al­ways give this ex­cuse that ‘we’ve al­ready paid for the fuel at X amount, so it takes a while for it to come through’, so I thought a few days and prices will come down again.

“They didn’t, af­ter a week prices car­ried on go­ing up, they’ve gone up 2p since that and never went down.

“Some­body else was telling me the other day that as far as they were aware, at the mo­ment fuel prices in terms of the oil for a bar­rel is ac­tu­ally the low­est it’s been for a while.”

Fur­ther frus­tra­tion for cab­bies is caused by in­con­sis­tency in prices, even from the same com­pany in dif­fer­ent towns.

Martin said: “If I get fuel at Tesco at Kew now, for I think 132.9p, you can go to the one on the Formby By­pass which is a penny cheaper, or you can go to Boo­tle where it’s 4 or 5p per litre cheaper.

“Even Ain­tree, you can go to Asda and pay 5p per litre cheaper.

“I don’t see why there can be a dif­fer­ence be­tween Tesco in Boo­tle and Tesco in South­port, it’s the same com­pany, so it can only be them pric­ing what they think they can make out of the cus­tomers.

“South­port’s a bit more of an af­flu­ent area, we’ll charge them 5p more a litre. The strange thing is the taxi driv­ers in Boo­tle are charg­ing at a higher rate than we are.

“They’re charg­ing more, earn­ing more, and pay­ing less for fuel.”

Martin believes that, as this is an is­sue that af­fects him and his col­leagues al­most daily, the av­er­age driver doesn’t re­alise the price rise that they are be­ing sub­jected to.

“It’s not the nor­mal car driver who goes and fills up once a month, once a fort­night, peo­ple think ‘oh, 1.32p, well, I don’t have to fill up for how­ever long’, we’re fill­ing up two or three times a week, we no­tice if the price is go­ing up be­cause it’s hit­ting our pocket ev­ery week.”

He said it was im­pos­si­ble for the taxi com­pa­nies to keep up with fuel prices by al­ter­ing prices as it would not be fair on cus­tomers: “I know for a fact that we had a rise in our rates early last year and it was the first time in 14 years that the rates had risen, some­thing like 10p on your smaller jour­neys and 20p on your av­er­age jour­neys, but no­body ever no­tices that as fuel’s go­ing up it’s cost­ing more for us to fill the car.

“If it goes up a penny ev­ery day, we can’t just change our rates like that.

“Our rates are set un­til the of­fice does some­thing about it, but we can’t just change them ev­ery time fuel goes up be­cause peo­ple wouldn’t know what it was go­ing to cost from one day to the next.”

He added: “I put £60 in on Fri­day, which was 40-some­thing litres, and I’ve put an­other £40 in to­day (Tues­day), so it’s ev­ery few days.

“On the hours I run, it’s min­i­mum 10-15% of my tak­ings will go on fuel.

“Es­sen­tially, we’re self­em­ployed, it’s all your own costs. It’s my ve­hi­cle, it’s my in­sur­ance, it’s me that has to wash it and keep it clean.”

He said com­pa­nies qui­etly raised prices af­ter a pub­li­cised drop in cost.

“It’s one of these sce­nar­ios that when the news is fo­cused away from fuel, you’ll see now around Christ­mas the price will drop, but it will drop by 5p and then as soon as some­thing new comes up, Brexit or any­thing like that, the prices creep up in the back­ground, like no­body’s pay­ing at­ten­tion.”

De­spite the emer­gence of elec­tric and hy­brid cars, Martin feels these may not yet be the so­lu­tion for taxi driv­ers: “Elec­tric cars have just been in­tro­duced into Lon­don, new black cabs into Lon­don – £60,000 per car. How long does an elec­tric car go for, and how long can I charge it for?

“I might come out at 7am, I might not come in ’til mid­night, 1am, 2am.

“I know a lot of driv­ers are sort of shift­ing to­wards the hy­brids, and that does help, be­cause they’re on petrol then, which is cheaper than diesel.

“Ul­ti­mately, though, 127p a litre is a lot of money, we’re the ones hav­ing to pay out of our pock­ets for a ve­hi­cle now that’s run­ning on elec­tric, hy­brid, throw­ing our money at it, and our rates aren’t chang­ing. It takes us a while to re­coup that.” Visiter

Martin Rowe, of All White Taxis says he can­not put fares up ev­ery time petrol prices rise

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