HONOLULU, Hawaii – Since tourism is idle and residents remain inside; there are almost no calls to travel by taxi.
And this has led some in the taxi industry to question their future.
“It took me 20 years to transform this business into a fairly large taxi company. In two weeks, we were left with almost nothing. Basically, we worked with 30%,” said TheCAB President Howard Higa.
Before the pandemic, TheCAB made an average of 2,000 trips per day.
It dropped to around 600, while the demand for taxi drivers increased from 500 a day to around 150.
For many drivers, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is not worth it. But for others, it is a matter of survival.
“Many of these people have no choice. They have to work,” said Higa.
“Tomorrow you have to put the food on the table. It is believed that they are infected with the virus or starve. What is the better of the two evils? It is sad.”
Taxi drivers TheCAB and Charley are independent contractors. They are all very successful.
“Call center call volumes have dropped to around 5% of what we are used to,” said Tom Nauwelaerts, manager of marketing and communications for Charley Taxi.
Charley taxi drivers can wait two to three hours between calls. The revenue from the company’s grocery collection service and pharmacies is not enough to support everyone.
“We are looking for federal or state aid programs as much as possible to tell drivers where to ask for help: help, credit, subsidies or whatever,” said Nauwelaerts.
Charley and TheCAB also employ office and support staff.
Higa said she constantly checks her company’s cash reserves.
“Maybe we have to cut wages. Maybe we have to save hours,” he said. “We will do what we can. What we will not reduce are the health benefits.”
– Source: Jim Mendoza – www.hawaiinewsnow.com