Picking up techy trends and tips for trade at private hire and taxi show
- Credit: Andy Russell
A visit to an exhibition for private hire and taxi operators opened motoring editor Andy Russell's eyes to a new side of the business and the direction it is going in.
Book a private hire car or take a taxi and you see the car, driver and, with the latter, a meter ticking away but there's a huge network of back-up in the background to transform the trade and improve the customer experience.
It's something I had never really thought about but I'd never been to, or even knew, of an annual show dedicated to keeping operators up to date and at the forefront of technology and innovation within the industry.
So I took a trip to the Private Hire and Taxi Exhibition, held at Arena MK at Milton Keynes for the second year, with my local operator Neville Sutton to find out some of the things that are on offer.
The theme of the show was very much about change and the aim was to give visitors and operators the knowledge that can be converted into new business opportunities with trade stands, seminars, speakers and Q&A forums with guest panellists from trade associations, licensing organisations and government departments.
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And with exhibitors covering every aspect of the industry – including prestige vehicles, taxis, private hire and Hackney carriage spec minibuses, saloons, electric vehicles, insurance, booking and dispatch systems, apps, taximeters, roof signs, payment solutions, in-vehicle CCTV, telephone systems, vehicle tracking, accident management, accountants and solicitors – you suddenly realise just how much is on offer.
I even found some van manufacturer-approved purpose-built private hire and taxi conversions I would have liked to take for a spin and was amazed by the space and clever attention to detail to make life easier for the operator and the experience better for the customer.
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Donna Short, a director of the National Private Hire Association and editor of its official newspaper Private Hire & Taxi Monthly (PHTM) which organises the show, explained that it allowed members of the trade – such as licence-holders, licensing officers and proprietors – to see all the latest products and technology for the industry in one place.
She said that people attending the private hire and taxi exhibition for the first time often wondered what they were coming to but were pleasantly surprised by what they found.
'People can't get over the level of professionalism,' she said.
The biggest changes to the industry in recent years had been on the technology front with the launch of booking and dispatch systems and apps for private hire cars and taxis.
The business is seeing networks of drivers receiving bookings via online platforms, putting customers in touch with the closest, reasonably-priced and reputable licensed operators via their mobile phone or tablet.
'That is the way it is going – that is the trend,' she said.
Technology is a big part of the exhibition and another example are in-vehicle CCTV and dash-cameras automatically recording what is going on both inside the vehicle and other traffic on the road in the event of a collision or incident.
She explained that CCTV cameras acted as a deterrent but, if there was an incident, also provided evidence of exactly what had happened.
The association, formed in 1992, has 350 member companies comprising private hire vehicles and taxis as well as 70 local associations affiliated to it.
The show gave me a new insight into the private hire and taxi trade so next time I'm in one I'll have something more interesting to talk about than the weather!