Saturday, June 2, 2012

Taxi Drivers and "Runners": A Sad Case of Continuing Workplace Abuse.

It's amazing that in 2012 taxi drivers in New South Wales still have to put up with "runners" (fare evasion). The official rule is that we are not allowed to ask for money up-front. We can ask customers to show the money, but we aren't supposed to actually take it in our hand. It's apparent that even some NSW police aren't aware of this. Several years ago I had three girls "do a runner" (yes, they are increasingly becoming females) on me. The fare was $50.00.  I saw the unit they walked into, so I called and asked for police assistance. An hour and twenty minutes later, it still hadn't come. I rang three times, and on the third call the officer taking the call asked me: "Why didn't you get the money before you left?" Well, because technically it's illegal, officer, but it makes total sense, doesn't it? Who in their right mind would drive up a fare of $50 not knowing if the customer will pay? But that's how the law currently works in NSW.  

When you get on a bus or train, when do you pay? At the destination? Flying interstate? When do you pay? On arrival at the destination airport? When you go to Mc Donalds and order a meal, when do you pay? At the exit? What if you're ten cents short, do you get your meal? The worst fare evasion I've had so far was two in one night, totaling $96.00.  Who in their right mind would work for an employer who told them "you might be fully paid this week, or you might be $96.00 short, we're not sure yet"?

Seeing money in someone's wallet isn't good enough either. Do you think that's going to stop them "running"? You'd have to be very naive to believe that. People with hundreds of dollars can still "do the bolt". People don't always do "runners" because they're short of cash, it's just an easy way to save some more money.

What do I call this? I call it consenting to open and blatant workplace abuse on the part of the government. I thought slavery ended two centuries ago? Is that too dramatic a term? What else would you call working for nothing? Charity? I don't mind working for charity, as long as I can pay my bills from the money I earn from my "real job".

As usual, this is all going to fall on deaf government ears, but it was worth a try. 


  1. Sounds like all fucking kinds of dodgey to me. You get paid once the job is done. Not before.

    I just had a taxi driver demand $50 before the fare started...I relunctantly obliged and gave him $50. Then after he dropped me off, he wanted more money to continue the fare to drop my mate off - all of which was discussed before starting the fare.

    I gave my mate the additional funds required for the detour to get to his place, but the taxi driver demanded the money from me instead of me giving it to my mate. I told him to go to hell, and my mate said stuff that I'm not going to be treated like a criminal. So he got out of the cab as well.

    Then the cabbie said he is calling the cops, and I actually called the cops...and the cabbie drove away.

    Seriously, it fucking stinks. I've had enough of this bullshit that cabbies have pulled.

    Enough is enough.

  2. Thanks for the comment. In all public transport fares are paid before the journey. Buses, trains, hire cars, etc. However in regard to taxis this is an anomaly yet to be addressed by the NSW government. Victoria has pre-paid fares after 10pm. It will eventually be law in NSW, and until then I believe disputes will continue. At present, a taxi driver in NSW has the right to ask for a show of money, but is not legally allowed to take money in his hand. However, because of the high percentage of runners, police usually overlook this. In fact, a couple of times when I had runners and the police were called, they told me to make sure I have the money in hand before the trip next time. It also saves them more work. So I doubt anyone will be successful in having a driver charged for asking for money (that probably explains, though, why he drove off after you called the police, because all police react differently, but most will turn a blind eye to a driver asking to be pre-paid. They see it as common sense, and it will eventually become law).

    Unfortunately, certain groups are predisposed to fare evasion, and they are young males in their late teens or twenties, so every driver is going to be wary when they ask to be driven a long distance late at night or in the early morning hours. I have lost a lot of money through fare evasion, and I'm talking in the hundreds of dollars. Unfortunately too, fare evasion is increasing, particularly with the bad economy, and dishonest customers are trying all kinds of new tricks, like credit cards that "mysteriously" don't work at the end of a $50 fare. If it's a busy night, that means lost time for the driver chasing up the funds. They use dud cards and then try to blame the driver's Eftpos machine.

    You may well be one of the honest ones, and naturally feel insulted for not being trusted, but if a driver has never met you, doesn't know who you are, can you blame him for just wanting to make sure he is paid? The way drivers ask for money is also important. They shouldn't demand it, but ask politely. If a customer refuses to pre-pay, and I suspect a possible fare evader, I'll ask them to catch another cab. I'd rather lose a $70 fare than drive all that distance wondering if I'm going to be paid. Seriously, I'd settle for a local $10 fare before that. With a few of them without time and kilometres lost I'd be up to $70 soon anyway, with peace of mind.

    I hope you have better experiences in future, but remember that it's give and take. If you're honest, then there shouldn't be a problem handing the driver $50 at the outset, just to gain his confidence in you. That works wonders for me, even if I know it's going to be a $70 fare, but all drivers react differently. Yes, you have rights as a customer, and so does the driver. In every cab this is displayed on the inside window of passenger's front seat, right before your eyes. Read and understand what your rights are, and what rights the driver also has. Courtesy and respect from both parties can make so much of a difference.

    1. Sunday morning around 4.15 am at Kingsgrove I've dropped off a passenger din't pay, fare was $60. Passenger just told me see you next time and have a good morning then waked away, din't run. I asked him for the fare he replied he never paid taxi fare then gave me a smile and left. I didn't know what to do I am new in Taxi industry. I know police will do nothing just more hassle.

    2. It's not uncommon. The image of the "runner" as fare evader, or someone who "does the bolt", is quite over-rated. I'd say that a relatively small number of fare-evaders actually run off, and it's usually always limited to young people, both male and female, but particularly young males.

      The reality is that most fare evasion occurs through deception ("I've just got to go inside and get the money, I'll be back"), "faulty" credit cards ("Strange, I have money in the account, must be your eftpos machine"), the "sudden realisation" that one doesn't have enough money to pay the full fare, or excuses like "you took the long way", or "your car isn't roadworthy so I'm not paying the full fare". If there's a choice between two or more routes, I usually ask the customer which way they prefer to go, or I'll say I'm going to use the navigator to ensure I take the shortest way (if I don't know the shortest way). A certificate of inspection (done every three months on taxis) should also be available. However, if you drive dangerously and disobey road rules, don't be surprised if they refuse to pay. If you're negligent in any way, they may well have a case for not paying, or only part-paying. If I absentmindedly take a longer route, I always take a few dollars off the fare. It's only fair.

      The bottom line is that people who really want to evade paying the full fare, or part of the fare, are usually "professionals" who've become very adept at it, and may even find it a habitual thrill. And the ways they try to evade are numerous, too many to list here. I know of one case where a well-dressed "gentleman" convinced a taxi driver to take him to Sydney, saying he had the money where he was staying, and would leave his suitcase in the cab while he went to collect the money. The suitcase and immaculate attire (and no doubt "good conversation" en route) persuaded the driver it was safe. When they arrived the man left the cab but never returned. When the driver checked the suitcase, he discovered it was filled with rocks. So always be on the lookout for dud "valuables" left as "insurance", especially mobile phones. If it's a cheap or old mobile, watch out.

      As for the police, you're right. It's almost always useless to call the police after a fare evasion, unless you have positive identification and know they can be located. In every case where I've had fare evaders caught, the police were nearby, and in some cases I've driven them to a police station (after ascertaining the risk of assault en route to be low).

      A final word of caution (speaking from experience). If you make an agreement with a customer for them to pay later, and they don't pay, the police are out of the picture, and it becomes a civil court matter. There's nothing they can do once you make an agreement, because it's between you and them, not the police.