Tough time for region’s taxi drivers

Headshot of Jackson Barrett
Jackson BarrettBusselton Dunsborough Times
Email Jackson Barrett
Busselton Taxi’s Jeff and Janet Devenny.
Camera IconBusselton Taxi’s Jeff and Janet Devenny. Credit: Sarah Ison

Regional taxi drivers are feeling the heat more than ever this summer, with one owner saying he will pull the pin if he fails to find new drivers within the fortnight.

Lester George owns six licence plates under the Margaret River Taxis name and, between Sunday and Friday lunchtime, is the company’s only driver as his five other cars sit unused in a garage because of an inability to attract drivers to the struggling industry.

He said the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payments, a lengthy licensing process and the recent decision not to offer a buy-back scheme for regional drivers all contributed to the hardships.

“I am driving seven days a week, 12-hour days, just to get through,” he said. “The lack of drivers is because of the COVID payments — why would they come and drive?

“We will never get drivers while people are getting that payment.

“To get a licence is so hard, you do all your paperwork, the police clearance takes over a fortnight, you do a medical, you get your driver’s licence checked, send it all off to Perth and you are still waiting two or three weeks from there. It take five weeks if you’re lucky ... they go and find another job.”

Restrictions on the number of hours a driver can work mean Mr George cannot do the night shift as well as the day shift, so he has no night-time drivers except for Fridays and Saturdays. He said if a buy-back scheme was made available to regional drivers, he would sell his plates, despite it meaning a significant financial loss.

It was announced earlier this month an inquiry would not be held into the decision to exclude regional drivers from the scheme available to metro plate owners.

“If the buy-back scheme kicked in, I’d send the plates back and shut up shop,” he said.

Busselton Taxi owners Janet and Jeff Devenny said they too were struggling to cover hours, and called for customers to be patient.

“With a heavy heart, Busselton Taxis are forced not to operate at certain days and certain times,” Mr Devenny said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails