The work of a taxi driver is still too often underestimated. This is what Maureen Hoffman thinks, who started in 2008 as a driver in healthcare transport. Although she experiences her work as wonderful today, at the start of her career she was amazed by the gravity of the profession and the lack of guidance. According to her, the situation has not changed now, fourteen years later, and she thinks that is a major problem.
Every month, professionals from the sector give an insight into their work. Hoffman chose the taxi driver profession when her children started high school. “I no longer had to bring and collect them from school and it was no longer necessary to be home at set times. That’s why I wanted a job. Driving is a hobby of mine and I am a people person. This comes together in the taxi industry, which makes the work wonderful for me to do”, she says.
Hoffman is currently a regional taxi driver for TCR from Raalte. “I feel at home here and have a boss who takes good care of all his employees. I am very happy with that.” However, her career started less rosy. The first four years she transported students for a small taxi company. “The first weeks were very intense. You don’t get an introduction to the children, so you don’t know what kind of disability they have and how to deal with it. I came home crying for the first few days because of that. I wondered what the hell I was getting myself into.”
Ignorance of the trade Still, Hoffman didn’t give up and she started reading herself about disabilities such as autism and PDD-NOS, which she often had to deal with in the taxi. Over time, she managed to get along well with the children and ensure peace of mind in the taxi. Yet she knows that many drivers, just like her, enter the profession blank. “Starting drivers still often do not know what the job really entails, what can happen and what you are dealing with.”
According to her, most drivers are immediately given the key to the bus , a list of children and then get to work. Hoffman believes that this should not be possible. “The students all have a disability. They are treasures of children, but some will try you to the limit. You have to be prepared for that. Not every driver knows how to handle this.”
Lack of training leads to timely stopping Investing in training is her the solution. “I have experienced many times when a situation escalated with me on the bus. For example, there have been fights and something has caught fire.” In her view, the fact that every situation is different is no reason not to prepare drivers for this. “Injuries can be prevented, for example, by having students empty their pockets in the glove compartment before boarding the bus. As a driver, you just have to think about this.”
In the worst case, the lack of training can lead to drivers quickly throwing in the towel. Hoffman thinks it is a shame, because according to her the profession is beautiful. “Pupil transport is fun, but regional transport is what I like best. People who see you more often and recognize you are often happy that you are there. You create a bond with them and they appreciate what you do for them.” According to her, this is not only about the fact that they have some mobility and independence thanks to the taxi. “Many are alone and are also happy to have a chat with the driver.”
Wage reduction, job differentiation and allowances A major concern that Hoffman has is that the influx of young people into the profession is too limited. In order to turn the tide, she believes the profession should be made more attractive again. “In addition to the training part, there should also be a higher minimum wage, of at least fourteen euros. In addition, the annual salary step is too small. Instead of eleven pay steps with a 2 percent pay rise each, there should be five or six pay steps with about a 4 percent pay rise. Then you will notice – unlike now – a difference.”
In addition, she argues for job differentiation, i.e. having different tasks taken on in different roles, and the return of allowances for evening, weekend – and night shifts. By giving an extra reward for this, the irregular working hours are less of a reason not to choose the profession, she says. “Everything is now wet. The same applies to the remuneration of a ‘normal’ taxi driver and drivers who drive a wheelchair bus. This is completely different work, because a wheelchair bus is much heavier. That too should be rewarded differently.” However, all this starts with putting an end to the over-emphasis on price in tenders. “As long as this doesn’t stop, these wishes won’t come true.”
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