Safeguards needed: call taxi operators

K.V. Prasad
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Call taxi system is not approved

Safe? There is concern over safety of school children travelling by call taxis. – Photo: M. Periasamy
Safe? There is concern over safety of school children travelling by call taxis. – Photo: M. Periasamy

Already facing flak for the exorbitant fare levied by some operators, the recent abduction and murder or two school students by a driver has put call taxis in a spot.

Even as they try to establish themselves as an acceptable mode of public transport in the city, the gruesome incident has brought about questions of safety, especially if young girls are the passengers.

Agreeing that the incident will cause panic among parents, an operator says they too will have to carefully choose taxis after checking the credibility of the operators.

There are inherent problems in this mode of transport. First, the entire call taxi system is not approved by the Department of Transport. Therefore, they do not come under a regulated network such as autorickshaws. These taxis have only tourist cab permits. A call taxi system simply does not exist as per the Motor Vehicle Rules.

Second, vehicle tracking system through a wireless system is available only with four or five operators who operate large fleets of 30 to 40 vehicles. There rest are all one or two-vehicle operators

A major operator in the city points out that every vehicle in the large fleets has a wireless system through which the control room keeps track of the taxi's location.

For instance, those manning the control room know the exact distance from a particular residential area to a school. And, because of that, they also know how much time it will take for the taxi to reach the school.

But, even before the taxi reaches the school, the control room checks the current location with the driver over the wireless. Generally, the control room becomes alert in the event of a delay and asks the driver to explain.

At the end of the trip, the driver is supposed to confirm that the passengers have disembarked safely. This system is not available with the small operators, who own one or two taxis. They do not have a meter to show the accurate fare and the wireless network. Risk factors are high in these cases.

The large operators have the control room landline and mobile phone numbers displayed on the vehicles. This will enable parents to keep track of their children's trip to the school.

The control room of one operator replies to booking calls from passengers with SMS containing the driver's phone number and the vehicle number.

Larger operators say they have copies of the family card and residential address of the drivers to track them down in the event of any crime. But, what will be helpful is the method of tracking during the trip itself. Listing various safeguards his organisation has in place, Best Call Taxi's Director P. Kathiresan, however, advises parents to opt for vehicles owned by schools.

Parents should be vigilant when they use private cabs instead. If the usual driver does not come on a day, they should check with the cab operator immediately.




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