Taxi cab

Successful taxi cab firms know how important it is to manage their fleet effectively. Taxi drivers need to be able to pick up their passengers on time, as well as ferry them quickly and safely to their destinations.

Many features of a GPS fleet tracking system can make things much easier for taxi fleet managers, in a number of different ways:

Driver management

Being able to track a drivers’ speed and location gives a better gauge of their performance. Knowing that you can track them will also motivate your drivers to perform as efficiently as possible.

Cost savings

The closest available driver to a job can be easily found and dispatched, even taking traffic disruptions into account. Automatic reporting tools keep track of fares and timesheets.

Customer service

The ability to inform your customers beforehand of any possible delays, and give them accurate ETAs will solidify your image as a reliable taxi company.

To see how the implementation of a vehicle tracking system can affect a taxi company, we spoke to two of the biggest taxi companies in the UK today.

Case Study 1: Central Taxis

Central taxisCentral Taxis is the largest taxi company in Edinburgh. Established in 1968 by a group of taxi drivers, the company now manages 1,300 drivers and has a fleet of 465 black cabs, all of which are wheelchair-accessible. It has around 70 staff employees in its new headquarters in the Sighthill Industrial Estate in Edinburgh.

Central Taxi offers additional services such as airport transfers, black cabs for weddings and guided taxi tours. It also has a minibus fleet for inter-office and transport hub transfers for corporate clients.

With a rigorous set of standards for new drivers, including customer service and first aid training, the company has established itself as among the best in the country. Central Taxis is also the first carbon-neutral taxi company in Scotland, implementing a wide range of environment-friendly practices among its employees, including ‘Fuel Good’ training to help drivers save up to 15% of fuel annually. It also supports environmental projects in Uganda and Guatemala.

Being a cooperative company with more than 400 owners, Central Taxis is dedicated to maintaining good relations with the local community. It supports several local charities and constantly works to improve Edinburgh’s transport network.

We spoke to Tony Kenmuir, Vice Chairman of Central Taxis, about the company’s taxi tracking system.

Do you use a GPS vehicle tracking system? Which brand and model do you use?

We use a job dispatch system called Cordic. GPS tracking is embedded in the application and is based on Tom Tom. Our drivers have PVG certification to transport unaccompanied children, vulnerable people and sensitive materials for corporate and public sector clients.

The ability to track our vehicles and replay their journeys has settled disputes and complaints and provided our customers with a level of confidence and security that would otherwise be impossible.

How did you choose this particular system? Did you base your decision mainly on price, features, brand, services offered or recommendations?

The GPS element of the job dispatch system came to us by default along with the package.

Was the system easy to set up, in terms of installing the devices and setting up the software?

Our job dispatch system and the GPS element by default are provided using PDAs. This has the benefit of easy installation and being removable from the charging cradle. It means that drivers are no longer prisoners behind the wheel to accept jobs. We can dispatch work to them while they are in the vicinity of the vehicle, having a comfort break, stretching their legs or getting a coffee. This has been a revelation.

How long have you been using this system? Is it a crucial part of your day-to-day business now?

We implemented the system in 2011 and it has been fundamental to the operation of the business ever since.

What are the most useful features of your tracking system?

Investigating customer queries/complaints about arrival times (measuring KPIs for major contract customers), speeds and routes taken. It has enabled us to secure major new business because we can add a level of accountability and security to public sector clients in particular when we transport unaccompanied children or other vulnerable groups.

Has it improved your efficiency or saved you money? 

Without any shadow of a doubt, this has enabled us to secure new business, retain existing customers and improve our services.

How long did it take for your drivers to get used to the system? What was their initial reaction?

The transition was well received and very straightforward.

Have you had any complaints from your drivers about the system? How did you deal with these?

None at all, except when it is not working due to network connectivity—issues which never seem to go away entirely.

Has it improved your employees’ performance?

Yes.

Have you had any problems with this system?

Only occasional network connectivity, which is an ongoing grumble.

Are there any features that you would like to be improved or added to the system? 

None that immediately spring to mind.

Would you recommend your tracking system to other taxi companies?

Certainly.

Central Taxis in Edinburgh use Cordic cPAQ. Twitter: @tony_kenmuir or @CentralTaxisEd


 Case Study 2: Radio Taxis

Radio TaxisEstablished in 1953, Radio Taxis was originally a taxi drivers cooperative named Radio Taxicabs (Southern), serving customers in Greater London. In less than a decade, its fleet grew to 300 taxis and the company counted the BBC and the British Rail among its customers. In 1993, Geoffrey Riesel became chairman of the company and proceeded to modernise the business. He introduced the use of a GPS dispatch system by the end of the 1990s, and Radio Taxis was one of the first companies to use this technology, helping the 3,000 taxis in its network serve their private and business customers better.

In 2004, the cooperative demutualised and diversified, becoming Mountview House Group. Of the 1,650 self-employed taxi drivers who are franchisees of the network, 700 remain as shareholders of the company.

The Group has incorporated Radio Taxis and its smaller sister company, Zeta taxis. It also owns One Transport Limited, an online multi-fleet consolidation transport management company, with around 50,000 cars and taxis at its disposal throughout the UK.

Radio Taxis is a sponsor of various UK and international charities and was also the world’s first carbon neutral taxi company. As part of its commitment to serving the community, Radio Taxis is in the process of organising, together with the London Met Police Commissioner, a London version of Taxis on Patrol.

We spoke to Geoffrey Riesel, Chairman and CEO of the Mountview House Group, about his company’s pioneering use of taxi tracking systems.

Radio Taxis

Which type of vehicle tracking system do you use for Radio Taxis?

Radio Taxis has been using a GPS closest-vehicle automated dispatch system since 1998. This was originally purchased from a company called SMS of Cambridge.  The company was subsequently purchased by DDS of Vancouver, Canada. However, Radio Taxis has full rights to the software and the system is maintained and enhanced by us.

How did you choose this particular system? Did you base your decision mainly on price, features, brand, services offered or recommendations?

In order of priority, the system was chosen for 1) Features, 2) Price and 3) Location of vendor (Cambridge).

The reason location was so important was that previous systems were maintained by companies who were many thousands of miles away and this presented a lot of issues. Unfortunately when SMS were acquired by a Canadian company, this was the beginning of why we ended up maintaining and enhancing the system ourselves.

Was the system easy to set up, in terms of installing the devices and setting up the software?

No, the system took almost 18 months to install and initially there were a lot of user issues and software glitches.

How long have you been using this system? Is it a crucial part of your day-to-day business now?

We have been using this system for 17 years and it is absolutely the real time centre of our taxi business.

What are the most useful features of your tracking system?

Closest-cab dispatch means that the customer gets a great service and most recently clients can book online using an app and can track the vehicle they have ordered online with regular SMS updates regarding ETAs, etc.

Has it improved your efficiency or saved you money?

It has improved efficiency and reduced fuel costs because of the closest-cab element.

How long did it take for your drivers to get used to the system? What was their initial reaction?

Drivers generally were resistant to change; however, within weeks, [they] got used to the system and grew to like it.

Have you had any complaints from your drivers about the system? How did you deal with these?

In the last two years we switched from using our own PMR network (Private Mobile Radio) to run the system, however we have moved over to GPRS which is the public network. There are times and places when the public network struggles; and drivers complain about the lost connectivity from time to time. We have had to design software with new logic to deal with the occasions when connectivity with individual drivers is lost.

Has it improved your employees’ performance?

Much of the system is currently built and updated to facilitate automation to create greater productivity.

Have you had any problems with this system?

In the first 6 months in 1998 after going live, there were a lot of bugs and system issues which we had to work our way through.

What level of support do you get from your tracking system provider? Do they provide free training, do free upgrades, etc.?

As mentioned before, we upgrade and maintain the system entirely ourselves.

Are there any features that you would like to be improved or added to the system? 

We are constantly upgrading the system and adding new features.

Would you recommend your tracking system to other taxi companies? Why?

No, mainly because the system is now 17 years old and this older technology requires more constant maintenance than a modern system which in all likelihood will be our next step.

Radio Taxis use a bespoke computer dispatch system. Twitter: @radiotaxis_boss


Despite the differences in their experiences with their respective vehicle tracking systems, both companies in our case studies profess that installing and implementing the systems in their cabs have increased their efficiency, saved money and attracted new business. If you have employees with the right technical know-how, you can add to your system and adapt to your company’s changing needs, as was done by Radio Taxis, which developed its own app.

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Author - Nigel Vaughan

Nigel has over 10 years experience in digital marketing, and loves tech and all kinds of electronics. A keen cyclist and cycle-tourist, he has cycled through 25 countries worldwide.

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