When people want to get somewhere quickly and are, for whatever reason unable to drive, they’ll usually call a cab or a taxi. However, what they really do is a call a private hire vehicle or mini-cab.
What skills will I need?
Organisational skills are essential, particularly as you grow. You’ll need to not only be aware of what your drivers are doing but also your office staff. If you plan to stay at the base and maintain the radios then you’ll need to be able to multitask effectively at all times. You’ll also need knowledge of the local area, whether you’re driving a vehicle or staying behind at base. Passengers want a minicab as soon as possible, and you need to know which jobs to give to which drivers in order to minimise waiting times for customers.
A considerable local geographic knowledge is essential. For this reason it makes sense to start a minicab company in your local area, but don’t do this out of convenience if the market is saturated or non-existent. Profitability is your main concern; choose the most potentially profitable market even if you have to learn about the local area from scratch. Good driving skills are also essential.
Start-up costs for minicab firms need not be as expensive as those for taxi companies. You can either start off as a sole trader or, if you employ other drivers, you can request that they supply their own vehicles. You’ll also need to pay for radios, signage, and electronic systems such as meters.
Marketing and promotion will also be important as it's unlikely people will use your service unless you’ve achieved some type of presence in the marketplace. Patrons are commonly advised about the dangers of unlicensed minicabs and this makes marketing, promotion and a strong and reliable brand essential.
In most areas you’ll need an ‘operator’s license’ from you local authority to practice as a minicab company. Contact them in advance to find out how applications are processed as the rules are likely to differ throughout the country. Minicab offices will also need permission due to the high vehicular activity, and minicabs themselves must be licensed and display these licenses clearly.
Be aware that, by law, minicabs can only be pre-booked – you may not make unplanned pick-ups. Drivers themselves must also be registered, both owner drivers and employees. Like taxis, drivers of minicabs must be CRB checked.
Minicabs outside London are not allowed to have the same kind of design or colour scheme as local taxis, so you can tell them apart more easily.
Market research is essential as you’ll need to find a market that’s developed but not too saturated. You’ll also need to decide whether you’ll operate with owner drivers (employees who provide their own vehicles) or provide cars yourself. The latter option is far more expensive. Minicabs have to be less than five years old and must be checked every six months for roadworthiness.
Talking to your local council is also a good idea as you’ll need to know more about the application process for operator licenses and what compliance regulations you’ll need to fulfil before you can get one. If your geographic knowledge is sub-par, work on this until you’re an expert.