IRU International Taxi Forum: “There is no future for the taxi trade without (international) cooperation”

IRU International Taxi Forum: “There is no future for the taxi trade without (international) cooperation”

Every two years, parallel with the European Taxi Fair, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) organizes its Taxi Forum. Over 300 representatives from 36 countries came to Cologne for the 8th Forum on November 2nd.

The Forum traditionally makes the Taxi Fair’s Friday truly international and the Fair’s Saturday more German. Many attendees were curious about the IRU Forum and the association’s activities in the taxi world.

Despite its bold press release claiming that “IRU takes the lead on the future of taxis” it was exactly that lead which has clearly been missing this year. And although the IRU’s internal goings on weren’t open to all, much had clearly changed at the IRU and in Cologne. The lavish business evening (prior to the Forum) was gone, just like the usual lunch after the Forum. Gone too were most of the big sponsors which used to support the very much pared down event. Sadly, the association very much shies away from discussing how it sees its own role in the taxi industry (see our comment under Opinion).

The association used its 8th Forum to reclaim some of the lead in taxi land by introducing Ms. Raluca Marian, who has taken over from Oleg Kamberski as the new lead in passenger transportation. He will now be handling the social side of transportation in Brussels. Kamberski was warmly thanked for his services to the international taxi industry and given a fond farewell by IRU’s Taxi Group president Christian Holzhauser, who added in his summary: “The taxi industry’s future is today which is both exciting and challenging. This year’s edition of IRU’s International Taxi Forum showed once again the sector’s efforts in embracing new technologies and in continuously improving its services to customers. Legislation must, however, also keep up the pace with change and ensure clear rules for mobility service providers and intermediaries.”

Marian was quick to point the way forward and extending it to the whole mobility sector by saying that “fairness and safety must be at the core of all mobility services. IRU is best placed to bring all stakeholders – taxi companies, apps, start-ups and all taxi-related businesses – around the table to find solutions together and improve or trigger rules which increase the potential success to all players in this sector.“

There is room for growth in the taxi sector. IRU’s Brussels General Delegate Matthias Maedge, opened the Forum by saying that “where mobility services turn over 65 billion euros a year today, the total mobility market will be over 2 trillion euros in 2030. So there is a need to engage more strongly, to shape regulation with other mobility partners and to create our future together.”

French researcher Richard Darbéra warned that the future business models in various areas of the taxi trade will have to move more swiftly with technological change. “We need to develop a common app with constantly updated services, benefitting drivers and customers alike.” In that area suppliers are happy to work with the taxi trade, as the inventors of three world-wide apps stressed: the multi-user and multi-focus app Splyt, Allo Taxi, a successful Lebanese-developed app and software developer Original Software.

Several other speakers, outlining the business environment where the taxi trade seems to be overtaken left right and centre by identical services, warned of challenges to businesses and challenges to regulation.

Will regulation remain a local, regional or national responsibility or will the European Commission take more of an interest? Perhaps regulating the platform economy whilst leaving taxi regulation as a national responsibility? “Whatever regulator, same business, same rules”, Marian added. “And there can be no compromise on safety.”

Hermann Waldner from Taxi.eu – an app linking up customers from 140 dispatch centres in Western Europe – underlined the importance of working together. Sadly, internationally the taxi trade is remarkably badly organized and incapable of even making the smallest fist against the competition – even 7 years after the arrival of Uber…

Waldner would very much like to see the whole international taxi industry connected electronically – sharing customers, ideas and lobbying power. “There is no future for the taxi trade without cooperation. Internationally there is hardly any cooperation between taxi companies. But when we get together, link up and share our experiences, our strength is worth more than the billions external investors pump into our competitors. The same investors by the way who are buying up major taxi companies all over Europe.” A pipe dream? “If that was the case, why can’t Amazon, Google and Apple wait to work with us?” (© 2018 TaxiIntelligence)

  • IRU’s Raluca Marian: “Whatever regulator, same business, same rules. And there can be no compromise on safety.”

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