Need a ride? Poll by world's largest taxi app Hailo finds cabs often drive empty

Drivers and customers frustrated by inability to find each other

Jan 17, 2013, 09:02 ET from Hailo

BOSTON, Jan. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 60 percent of cab drivers spend between a quarter and half of their shifts without passengers and many work more than 60 hours a week just to make ends meet. That's according to a new study of Boston cab drivers released today by Hailo, the world's fastest-growing and largest app-based taxi service. Hailo recently polled 200 licensed Boston taxi drivers, revealing a telling look at what the cab drivers face daily, as well as the behaviors of some of their passengers.

"The findings demonstrate that cabs waste time and fuel searching for passengers, while many people looking for cabs are unable to find them," said Vanessa Kafka, head of the Boston Hailo office. "This study shows there is a real opportunity for Hailo to help make Boston taxis work better for both passengers and drivers."

The amount of time cabs spend empty is an issue around the world. With nearly 14,000 drivers, cabs in New York City spend nearly 40 percent of their time empty. In Toronto, taxis drive empty 60 percent of the time, and even in London, with its highly regarded taxi system, drivers on shift are looking for passengers 40 percent of the time.

The study also shines a light on other issues that Boston's 6,000 licensed drivers regularly contend with, including:

  • Nearly 70 percent of drivers reported having passengers evade fares at least once a month. In London, by contrast, this typically only happens once a year to drivers.
  • While most passengers tip between 10-15 percent, more than 20 percent of passengers tip 5 percent or less. In comparison, the average tip in Chicago is 17 to 20 percent, while New Yorkers typically tip 22.5 percent on a $13 average fare.
  • While the majority of Bostonians are on their best behavior, more than 25 percent of drivers experience people fighting over cabs once a week and a quarter of the drivers polled reported negative interactions with passengers over a seven-day period.

The drivers also had many positive experiences to report. More than 60 percent of taxi drivers who have worked in other cities say that Bostonians tip more than the other locations where they have worked.

A surprising 83 percent of cab drivers prefer to have passengers tell them which route to take; they are in fact required to ask passengers if they have a preference on how to get to their destination.

"I would love to see Boston's taxi industry become more efficient for cab drivers like me and for my customers," said Alex Beker, one of Hailo's driver partners and a Boston taxi driver for the last 30 years. "Compared to many other cities, Boston's cab drivers are quick to adopt new technologies. It allows drivers and passengers to connect in a more efficient way, helping me fill my backseat with more passengers. Hailo was founded by cab drivers like me to make the system work better for everybody and I think that's exactly what we need."   

About Hailo
Conceived by three London taxi drivers and three entrepreneurs, Hailo was launched in 2011 in London and, within a year of operation has carried nearly two million passengers and now generates a Hailo fare around the world every 8 seconds. Hailo has 250,000 registered customers and more than 500,000 downloads.  It currently operates in five major cities across the world, including Boston, London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago and is expanding to New York, Tokyo, Madrid, Barcelona and Washington D.C. in 2013.

Hailo is an app-based taxi service designed to make it easier for passengers and drivers to connect. Passengers can use the free app to hail licensed Boston taxis. After ordering a cab, passengers receive the name, phone number and even a photo of their driver, eliminating any safety concerns. The app also includes an integrated smartphone payment system which means customers simply hop out of the cab at the end of a ride without having to hand over a credit card or have cash on hand.