UP TO 800 Limerick taxi drivers are expected to sign a petition to oppose the new branding of taxis by the National Transport Authority.
The Minister for public transport Alan Kelly has welcomed the new signage, which will be phased in to Ireland’s taxi fleet from January of next year. Failure to implement the new branding will result in the taxi license not being renewed.
But taxi drivers in Limerick said the new signage will “act as a beacon for thieves and vandals”, fear it could damage the paint-work on the vehicle, and add to their growing operational costs.
The cost of the branding is estimated to be around €250, but taxi driver Alfie Earls said “this is a big cost to a taxi driver who is barely surviving.”
Mr Earls and taxi driver Jude Williams, the proprietor of Treaty Cabs in the city, believe the existing taxi sign on the roof - which can be removed when they’re off duty - is sufficient to highlight that they’re working as a taxi.
“We’re not objecting to branding in some form, but we don’t want permanent branding on our cars. We can take the normal taxi sign off at night, or when we go home, so that we’re not a target for vandalism. With this new branding, you’re marked out as a taxi driver 24 hours a day. Your house could now become a target. We have enough identification as it is, and fine, if this branding was temporary, but it’s a permanent I.D,” said Mr Earls.
Mr Williams said his issue was not with the initial cost, but with the future costs of removing the signage and potential security risks.
“They’re coming with up some terrible decisions at the moment, and I don’t know who’s behind it, but no one is being consulted,” added Mr Earls.
He said his vehicle has been broken into three times already, including one occasion when it was parked on his driveway.
From next year, some 19,000 taxis around the country will have to display large stickers with a green and blue stripe saying ‘Taxi’. The signs are to be affixed to the driver and passenger doors of each car.
It is aimed at making taxi drivers more professional and accountable, and is among a package of reforms contained in the Taxi Regulation Act which is due to be published before the end of the year.
“New York has yellow taxis, London has the famous black cabs,” said Minister Alan Kelly.
“These approaches would be far too expensive for Irish taxi drivers but to ensure the people who operate in the sector are accountable for their vehicles, we have opted for semi-permanent branding for taxis.”
The reform package includes a ban on the transfer or sale of taxi licences, a limit of nine years on the age of vehicles and a reduction of the period taxi licences can be inactive.
The number of taxi drivers operating in the city is estimated to have quadrupled, from just over 200 to 800 in the last six years.
“A lot of taxi drivers aren’t evening making a week’s wage at the moment,” said Mr Earls.