Tom de Ruyter of Taxi de Groen in Roosendaal hopped from one job to another for years, but never found the job where his heart was. Until he was asked 24 years ago to get started as a taxi driver. Although much has been modernized in the meantime, he believes the profession will never disappear. “And that’s fine,” he says. “Because this work is the most beautiful thing there is.”
De Ruyter came into contact with the profession of taxi driver when his neighbor indicated that the taxi company where he worked was looking for drivers. “I said, ‘Nice, but I only know three streets in the city.’ He said it didn’t matter and he introduced me to the company. Shortly afterwards I went for a test drive and I liked it so much that I was able to get started right away the next weekend.” From the beginning he drove all kinds of transport, from street taxi rides to patient transport.
Each week he found the work more enjoyable and he soon built up a clientele. The variety and the social aspect is what drives him to continue doing the work to this day. “I once had a small conflict with my then boss. I was done with it and thought: I’m going to do something else. When I went to look around, however, I soon found out that I might be able to earn 10o more euros from, for example, the assembly line , but I would miss contact with customers too much.”
Contact with colleagues changed He noticed this years ago even when he had broken his back in a fall. “Then I couldn’t drive a taxi for nine months. For the first few months I basically just lay in bed.” But the first thing he did when he could walk again was go to the place where he used to pick up customers to see if there were any of his customers there. “I really had to go to the city. I missed my customers, and their response showed that they missed me too.”
Although contact with customers has remained the same over the years, contact with colleagues is different then … in the past. “This is due to the disappearance of the mobile phone. This has been the biggest change in my work. You no longer have contact with colleagues while driving. That is a great loss,” he says. According to him, the conversations and the ‘beeps and cracks’ would not disrupt contact with the customer. “On certain journeys, for example for patient transport, I turned the volume down or turned it off so that the customer was not disturbed. If they really needed you, they would beep the microphone open.”
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A scandalous mistake by politics The corona crisis did not improve mutual contact with colleagues either. De Ruyter only worked a few fewer hours here and there, but this did not apply to all drivers in the company. “I also occasionally work at the plant. At around eleven o’clock in the evening you already knew that the colleagues could be sent home, and then you were all alone waiting for that one phone call from the hospital or the police station. But it also sometimes happened that you had nothing to do all night, and then you just had to wait.”
Corona has not caused De Ruyter to feel insecurity in the taxi. However, he knows that this was different for many colleagues and therefore believes that taxi drivers should have been vaccinated as one of the first professional groups. “This has been an outrageous mistake by politicians. Even my colleagues from the funeral division who had to pick up deceased corona patients were not vaccinated until months after the start of the vaccination campaign. While they have close contact with those people. They should have been vaccinated earlier, but that did not happen.”
The influx of new colleagues In addition, the The corona crisis has caused a large outflow in the company. Before the crisis, such a 200 man worked at Taxi de Groen, which has been reduced to approximately 200 man. “Those whose contracts were not renewed at the beginning of the corona crisis will also not return because drivers are now needed again.” New drivers are now coming in, he says. Also young colleagues. “They are still working on the training or have just completed it. “It takes six months to a year before these are reasonable taxi drivers.”
According to him, it also takes six months before the company and the driver themselves know whether someone is suitable for the work. “I used to train a lot of new people and I think only about 10 percent of the entrants has potential.” An important question that he used to ask new colleagues is: How would you like your father, mother, grandfather or grandmother to be transported? “Then I quickly said that I didn’t need to know the answer, but that this is how the taxi work should be done. This is your most valuable asset, and as a driver you probably have someone close to you in the car. You always treat them well.”
Appreciated in advance This pays off, because according to De Ruyter, things are often a bit small extra money taken out of the pocket when customers see him drive up. “That money can be stolen from me, but it’s the idea that you are valued for who you are and how you do the job. That’s gold.” According to him, this is also the reason that an unmanned taxi is not the future. “I don’t believe in that. Because this car will not ask how things went in the hospital, for example. That there is technology to look with is fine, but the profession of a taxi driver must and will always exist.”
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