Drivers increasingly opt to freelance rather than become full-time chauffeurs
One normally associates a freelancer with being a middle aged person with an experience of two decades or more, who prefers to work at his own convenience in order to be able to spend more time with family and children.
Not any more, as the gen next in many professions are also taking the liberty to work at their own pace and with freedom. And drivers are no exception to this.
Increasingly, young drivers, some in their early 20s and others in their 30s are now willing to risk an unstable income and prefer to be freelancers. Popularly known as ‘acting drivers’, they choose to drive based on the customer’s demands. They have earned a good reputation and clientele through word of mouth.
“I have been working as an acting driver for the last 10 years and earn anywhere between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 each month. I make local trips and go on longer drives at least thrice a month,” says K.V. Thangadurai (39), who is based in Periyanaickenpalayam. Having dropped out of school, he tried his hand at selling lottery tickets for a few years before starting to drive cars on a freelance basis.
Freedom to be able to go on family trips and less erratic work schedules are the main reasons cited by the drivers for turning to this option. Many of them also feel they are better treated by their clients.
“I worked as a full-time driver in Race Course and R.S. Puram, but found it difficult to get leaves when I wanted them. I also had to work long hours and was paid a relatively low salary,” says F. Robert, from Sivananda Colony and one of the youngest drivers at 22. He was initially doing carpentry work for houses which turned out to be unsuccessful, so he turned to driving full-time and subsequently to freelancing for more money.
He now earns anywhere between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 13,000 in an average month and saves a fixed amount for his wife and newborn child.
“I can also manage my personal affairs by taking time off when needed without having to worry about my boss denying me leave,” he says.
These drivers say their earnings allow them to save some money too. With an influx of people from various states and tourists keen to make group trips to nearby hill stations, taxi services have been steadily increasing in popularity and so have the acting drivers.
These drivers form teams and they remain in constant touch with each other.
“In case a customer contacts me and I am unavailable, I refer him to another person from the area who is free,” explains M. Sivakumar, an acting driver from Peelamedu.
Not just people new to the city, but even safety-conscious older people opt for these drivers. “I have been using the services of acting drivers once a week for over a year now. I was initially apprehensive about how safe the younger drivers would be. However, I have found that most of them are controlled in their driving and friendly in their approach. An acting driver works better for me as he doesn’t normally ask for an advance and is just required for a few hours. It is easier to pay him off at the end of the trip and other hassles are avoided,” says S. Madhu, a teacher who uses services of acting drivers for her weekly shopping.
The drivers normally charge Rs. 300 for four hours for a specific distance. A trip to Chennai costs around Rs. 800 and food and accommodation are provided separately by the customers.
“My daughter and son-in-law made a trip to Guruvayur recently and I arranged for the services of an acting driver recommended by a family friend. They were so impressed with his smooth driving that they tipped him out of satisfaction,” says Vasanth Kumar, a senior citizen.
“Nine drivers out of 10 drive safely, and we only use the services of those recommended by friends and family. The younger drivers themselves have a sense of responsibility and handle the cars well,” he says.
Keywords: acting drivers