With the festive period now in full swing, London is full of Christmas cheer, with everyone flocking to packed shops, pubs and restaurants to celebrate the season. Life is set to be more hectic until the New Year rolls around, and no one knows that better than taxi drivers.
With a constant stream of dinners, parties and one-off yuletide events, there will be scores of people in need of a lift. And whether you’ve been a taxi driver for years, or have only recently got behind the wheel, there are a few things you can do to make your life easier during this boom period, and possibly even benefit from the Christmas crowds:
1. Hire a car
When you’re not working, it’s likely you’ll need a car for your own festive errands. For example, you might need to go and collect your Christmas tree or visit the supermarket to stock up on snacks and booze for any events you’re hosting. Perhaps you’ll even need to drive on Christmas Day itself. Whatever your plans are, you’d really struggle if anything happened to your car over Christmas, so remove the risk by temporarily hiring one instead.
As you’ll already know, taxi drivers can’t use just any car. It must have a Public Carriage Office (PCO) licence for you to legally drive in London, so make sure the vehicle you’re interested in has been approved by TfL. To put your mind at rest, approach a company that can take care of any problems on your behalf. Hirebrid’s PCO car hire, for example, includes valid insurance as well as servicing, maintenance and repairs assistance. This means there’s no risk of flat tyres or dead batteries dampening your Christmas spirit.
2. Work longer hours
You’re probably reluctant to work more than you have to over Christmas—who wants to trade a festive film for a night out on the road? But just think of the extra cash that could come in handy this time of year. Partygoers aren’t always keen to volunteer as the designated driver during the season of goodwill, which means your services will be needed more than ever.
Furthermore, if you’re a black cab driver, fares automatically increase if you pick up any passengers between 8pm on Christmas Eve and 6am on 27 December, and 8pm on New Year’s Eve and 6am on 2 January. This aside, the fact that taxi drivers are so in demand means you’ll have far more customers than usual. What’s more, people having a holly jolly Christmas are also likely to be increasingly generous with their tips too.
3. Plan your shifts properly
You’ll only reap the benefits of your extra shifts by thinking cleverly about when you’re going to work. Office Christmas parties are likely to be your golden ticket, as there’ll be many weary revellers who want to get home ASAP. So try and hit the road on some key Christmas dates, particularly the 13th-14th December, and the last Friday before Christmas Day.
It’s also smart to plan your shifts for when public transport is less frequent, or out of action altogether. Taxis are the only option on Christmas Day itself, while there will be closures, reduced services and timetable changes on the tube, TfL rail and DLR between 23 December and 2 January. Some buses also stop running earlier than usual on Christmas Eve. Take note of these occasions, and try to make sure your taxi is ready to go when people need to travel.
4. Look out for those in need
Christmas is one of the most enjoyable times of the year, but with lots of late nights and heavy drinking, some people could inadvertently be putting themselves at risk. Violent offences over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are nine times higher than the rest of the year, and excessive alcohol consumption could leave plenty of vulnerable people on the streets.
Of course, you should never accept a passenger you don’t feel comfortable picking up, nor get involved in any heated altercations that could leave you in danger. Simply be aware of who’s flagging your car, and keep an eye out for anyone that might struggle to get home safely without your help. Understanding your surroundings could leave you with a very grateful customer.
5. Enjoy the festive atmosphere
People-watching is always fun for taxi drivers, and even more so at Christmastime. Your mood will lift instantly as you driving past festively-lit houses, and make your way through extravagantly decorated main streets. What’s more, conversations will be brighter as you share Christmas plans with the oh-so-merry Londoner in the backseat. Even though you’d rather be celebrating the festivities with your loved ones, immersing yourself in the atmosphere is sure to make your working day a little more special.