Taxi users could be left stranded as COVID-19 leaves drivers out of pocket

By Morgan Dyer

Shepparton taxi drivers are calling on the Victorian Government to ensure the viability of their service as business has dropped by almost 70 per cent.

Shepparton Taxis’ chief executive officer Stephen Armstrong said it was vital for Shepparton to have a taxi service available after the pandemic was over.

“It is imperative that when things start to recover towns like Shepparton have a taxi service in place,” Mr Armstrong said.

“We have significant transport resources willing and able to support the community and government to deliver what is needed during this difficult time.

“For the time being it would be wonderful to see government commit to support the local taxi industry by mandating that local taxi services fulfill government’s own transport needs as opposed to international companies,” he said.

Mr Armstrong also encouraged the government to permit the $1 government levy on taxi trips to be retained by the taxi driver during these difficult times.

“Not only will this initiative directly support the smallest and most vulnerable of businesses (individual taxi drivers), it will provide a genuine psychological lift for the taxi driving community,” he said.

Local taxi driver Dane Hall said he normally had 30 jobs a day but had just six on Monday.

“It’s a bit of a catch 22,” he said.

“We are still making a few dollars, but not like normal.

“We want to continue servicing the community so it would be good if the government just topped up the difference of what drivers don’t make,” he said.

While a number of taxi drivers will be eligible for JobKeeper payments next month, Mr Hall said the payment didn’t cover costs for owners of vehicles.

“My drivers take home 55 per cent of what they make per day,” he said.

“But if drivers aren’t making money they won’t continue driving, so if owners have multiple vehicles, they can’t drive them all.

“Owners also the have to continue to pay the running costs of their vehicles.”

Mr Hall said there needed to be an incentive for drivers to keep driving.

“I really hope we can push through this,” he said.

In light of COVID-19 local taxi drivers have been offering a contactless delivery service on essential items, takeaway food and household needs to help keep the industry afloat while continuing to serve the community.

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