ORANGE taxi drivers have walked away from an Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) hearing feeling a little better about their future.
IPART hosted the forum on proposed taxi reforms in Dubbo on Tuesday, with more than 30 operators and drivers from across the region commenting on a draft proposal to increase the number of taxi licences in regional areas and freeze fares for most major centres.
The feedback they provided the panel, including Dr Peter Boxall, was of an industry that would struggle to cope.
High running costs and the competition from bus services, community transport and courtesy cars had already crippled the industry and further changes could be the final blow, they said.
Dr Boxall said he wouldn’t preempt the tribunal, but said the submissions and feedback provided would be important in shaping the final report.
“I think it’s more than likely we will make some changes to the draft recommendations,” he said.
“This hearing was valuable, it reinforced and was consistent with the previous hearings in Coffs Harbour and in Sydney.
“It’s quite clear competition is moving very fast with the taxi industry and it’s quite clear a number of operators are struggling.”
Taxi Cabs of Orange Co-Operative chairman Darryl Curran said IPART used data from the past three years when it needed to be using data from the past six to 12 months.
“I’m thinking a little more positively than I was before I went,” he said of IPART’s willingness to take in more information.
Mr Curran said devaluing taxi plates and increasing the number of licences would only make the industry in Orange less sustainable.
“Drivers are earning less than $10 an hour on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights – no business is sustainable at $10 an hour and we need Friday and Saturday nights to balance it out,” he said.
“[New drivers] will cherry-pick the good nights and take that work from us.”
Mr Curran said some rural areas did struggle with adequate taxi services, but not Orange.
“Our average waiting time is six minutes and we would be lucky to get one complaint every three months,” he said.
Mr Curran said after no fare increases since 2014, IPART needed to allow annual inflation increases so operators did not lose income.