Several motivational speeches, a large cake and subdued optimism marked the 100th Anniversary of the Taxicab Limousine and Paratransit Association’s Annual Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas.
The TLPA-organisers had rolled the dice and chosen Las Vegas for the 100th Anniversary. The gambling town always guarantees a large turnout (less than the usual 1.000 attendees this time) for the association, which will hold its Spring Meeting 2019 in New Orleans (also a favourite destination), the Mid-Year 2019 (now just a lobbying meeting and no longer a jolly to a foreign destination for the richest of operators) in the political capital Washington DC and the Annual Meeting again…… in Las Vegas. But in a much cheaper casino. Very noticeable: apart from a separate meeting of the Canadian Taxi Association, it seems that TLPA’s international aspirations are gone. The number of international attendees could easily be counted on four hands. There were no international sessions.
Many things had changed at this conference. Was it previously held over five days (including a day for a golf tournament), on this festive occasion it was shrunk to three days – still with the traditional golf-day. The trade show was not as grand as it used to be in Las Vegas – still 60 exhibitors, but in much smaller stands – and the conference days were packed full with seminars, ‘Learning Labs’ and two general sessions. Time to chat to colleagues was precious. But there were two lavish receptions in the trade show area: lots to talk about.
Bumping into operators, my opening question was always ‘How are you doing?’ “Hanging in there” and “Keeping things going – just” – with a serious facial expression – were the most common replies. One operator on the West Coast saw his fleet dwindle from 400 to 200 cabs. But, in true upbeat US style all saw light at the end of the dark tunnel, created by ‘murderous’ competitors like Uber, Lyft and many other similar Transport Network Companies (TNC’s). With these taxicab operators not only competing for customers but even more importantly for drivers
(in the USA self-employed operators who pay for the use of the car, insurance and the taxi company’s services). “Let’s not forget, we have customers in the front and in the back seat,” one operator said.
No wonder one of the short Learning Lab-sessions (colleagues learning from colleagues in short presentations and frank discussions), was devoted to getting drivers in the door and hanging on to them. “Where do you get your leads?” “From social media.” “From special party’s and lunches.” “From referrals – join our company for 600 dollars or bring a friend for 800 dollars.”
Some companies even do profiling (‘what sort of person would I like to work for me and where do I find them?’) or use proximity beacons which automatically send messages to smartphones passing the company’s premises: “Looking for a job?”
All operators agreed that the signing-up and training procedure should be as short and effective as possible, with very much interest in safety. “Get your local police department to talk to new drivers”, was one advice.
Keeping the drivers is even more important. Companies have mentoring and retention staffers who – in an ‘open door policy’ – help and advise drivers and engage with them on social media. As one recruiter put it, somewhat cynically: “Get them in the door and sell them the dream.” Others, like Carmel, a black car (limousine) company in New York City, adapted the dispatching software so that drivers can pick short trips at the end of their shift and a last job which will take them in the direction of home.
(© 2018 TaxiIntelligence)
- Learning Labs: getting pointers from colleagues and competitors alike.