August 17, 2008

Dhaka's cab service collapse and the choice of the vehicle

Taxi cabs were introduced in Dhaka in 1998. We had seen a variety of cars at the beginning, from Indian Ambassador to Japanese Toyota cars. Later on many brands from India like Maruti, Tata were imported as taxi cabs. After the ban of baby-taxis or engine run-three wheelers in 2003 growing number of AC & Non-AC Taxis were imported and the the total number of taxis plying in Dhaka streets are about 11,000.

According to Dhaka's cab firms are on the verge of collapse as 70 percent of licensed cabs have been written off the road. Authorities are blaming Carjacking and bad drivers for this collapse but the choice of car is one of the reasons behind it.

The most of the non-AC cabs were 800cc Suzuki models imported from India which produced many technical problems. Within 3-6 months of purchase, parts began to fail and a perennial problem of repair/replace came down on the shoulders of the owners and drivers. I asked a taxi driver why this happens as I have seen private owners of Maruti driving it for years without that many trouble. He explained, taxis are different from personal vehicles. How many time do you switch the ignition in a day? 4-5 times average? But in the case of a Taxi the number of ignitions will be more than 100 in a day. So the ignition unit of a Maruti needs replacement every 2-3 months. The bottom line: taxis are different and need to be tough.

When I saw Mercedes Benz plying in German streets as taxis I thought what a rich country this is! But now I know why taxi drivers choose Mercedes and especially E Class. It's body has a rust free guarantee of 15-18 years (a South Korean equivalent provides only 6 years) and it is one of the best engineered and constructed cars around, with mechanics that never seem to wear out and build quality that most other manufacturers have. Moreover Mercedes gives a 14% rebate as long as the car is used as a taxi for at least one year.

There is a saying that:
"In the old days, Mercedes-Benz cars only really needed to appeal to two sorts of people; German taxi drivers and businessmen."
I hope you understand that the vehicle need to be tailored for use as taxis to make them sustainable for a long period to make profits. The London black taxis are produced by one company LTI to maintain quality and homogeneity.

Dacia Logan taxis in Indian streets. (Image credit: wikipedia)

I think time has come for Bangladesh not to allow just any private vehicle as taxis. There are many alternatives to the usual brands Bangladesh import for taxis. Dacia Logan can be a good alternative if duties are minimized. Its one of the cheapest car in Europe with high performance. Its one of the ads placed an engine of BMW besides the car highlighting that with its price you will only be able to buy a BMW engine. It even has a plant in India and Indians are using it as taxis. Moreover good driving trainings should be introduced including loand for drivers to purchase their own vehicles. If the vehicles can be their property, they will take good care of it.


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