Taxi drivers have to make a huge investment in their vehicle to earn a living on the road and it is easy to see why they can feel the weight of the world is on their shoulders.
In the same way a builder or plumber has to invest in tools and equipment, taxi drivers and private hire drivers need a vehicle that not only meets the needs of their job, but that is affordable and reliable.
After the initial expense of finance of a black cab or private hire vehicle, the driver has to pay running costs, which have soared in the cost-of-living crisis, as well as maintenance and repairs which are not only expensive, but which mean drivers are losing money while their vehicle is off the road.
It is easy to see how money worries can get on top of a driver who just wants to make their business a success in order to provide for their family.
The taxi fleet remains a male-dominated industry in which there is a stigma about asking for help or showing anything perceived as weakness.
This puts huge pressure on drivers and the fear it creates can be worse than any illness or issue they are dealing with.
Earlier this month, Mental Health Awareness Week highlighted the importance of getting people talking instead of suffering in silence, as well as accepting that it is okay not to be okay.
This great article in Taxi Point looks at the reasons why taxi drivers fear for their livelihoods – and why they might be frightened to take steps that could help them.
It points out that the job itself can trigger mental health issues because it involves working long hours alone, sitting down all day, poor eating habits, late nights, high overheads, as well as the stress of driving.
It said: “In some communities and industries, there is still a stigma attached to anxiety, depression or other mental health issues which means people keep them hidden away due to added fear that they could lose their livelihood if they seek help.
“Those working as taxi drivers can very much count themselves in this category.”
On top of this, a driver with other health issues or concerns might be reluctant to see a doctor or other medical help in case it appears on their medical record and they need to contact the DVLA and their licensing authority and notify them of the condition and the treatment prescribed.
They will be worried that their licence may be suspended or revoked, or their taxi insurance premiums will increase, and instead suffer in silence by pretending nothing is wrong.
After having invested heavily in a suitable vehicle for their private hire or taxi work, it is understandable that drivers feel they have so much to lose.
And Taxi Point is clear about the root of the problem: “Many licensing authorities put out what can only be described as token gestures. These gestures usually include information on mental health charities, visit your GP and generic advice on managing triggers. But, authorities know full well that drivers won’t get the help they need because of policies put in place by them and the DVLA Group 2 criteria usually set for cabbies.
“Taxi drivers are quite simply not getting the help they deserve.”
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Week was anxiety, which is a normal human reaction, but which can get out of hand if it isn’t addressed.
The Mental Health Foundation advises: “Anxiety is a normal emotion in us all, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem. On a positive note, anxiety can be made easier to manage.
“Focusing on anxiety for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week will increase people’s awareness and understanding of anxiety by providing information on the things that can help prevent it from becoming a problem. At the same time, we will keep up the pressure to demand change – making sure that improving mental health is a key priority for the government and society as a whole.”
Patons Isurance and Patons Vehicle Sales were founded by taxi drivers who knew the industry and the unique challenges it faces.
Our vehicle sales group has more than 50 makes and models which are all carefully matched to the hackney and private hire fleets, as well as finance options to help drivers with their purchase.
We care passionately about helping the fleet and its drivers because we know the difficulties they experience.
And if the difficulties become too much for a driver to manage, there is help available and talking about a problem is the first big step. To find out more, visit Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 | Mental Health Foundation