It has been a while since my last chauffeur blog. It has been challenging to find the time to sit down and write. It’s also taken a little while to get a feel for where the industry is right now. As things were returning to normal (last year), we were experiencing an increase in demand. With fewer drivers at our disposal, it meant I spent more time behind the wheel – which I really don’t mind.
As restrictions begin to ease again, DrivenByQ are experiencing another fresh wave of bookings. Business passengers are keen to return to business as usual. The trepidation which existed last year seems to have evaporated. In its place is a new quiet confidence. There is a push back against the virus along with the fear it once commanded. There is a willingness to ‘get on with things’ again.
An increase in demand is good. We really need to restore some profitability after the heavy financial losses inflicted by the pandemic. There is though, one slight issue. There is a chauffeur shortage and sadly, the team we had before Covid have found alternative careers. This is true for so many drivers who were in the private hire industry as well. I doubt they will want to come back any time soon either.
Many who were previously self-employed have found a regular wage with regular hours in a job which also affords them holiday and pension pay. With a very low unemployment level in the UK and an increase in the national minimum wage imminent, why anyone wishes to take the risk of self-employment in an uncertain industry like travel is beyond me. To compound this, the costs for a new chauffeur entering the industry have increased too.
The insurance for a newbie is still around £3,000 a year but purchasing a vehicle is around 50% more expensive (second-hand). Delivery of a brand new vehicle carries no guarantee either. This is because of delays caused by a microchip shortage. Slower police checks also mean the chauffeur industry lacks appeal right now because new licences seem to take forever.
Gladly, freelance drivers still exist in the industry. They are however, picking and choosing the jobs they undertake. For this reason, we are increasing the payments we pass on to them as a sub-contract chauffeur. We need to offer rewards which motivate people. It is therefore, highly likely that regular price increases will now be part of a new normal for the chauffeur industry. Unfortunately, it is the only way to maintain availability for our customers.