THE number of taxi drivers on Irish roads has dropped by more than 7% during the pandemic, the Irish Sun can reveal.
However, officials believe the industry is starting to rebound with 787 drivers passing their taxi test so far this year as part of an NTA recruitment drive.
A shortage of taxis during weekend rush hour in the city center made headlines earlier this year, with people forced to queue for hours or walk home in certain circumstances .
Figures provided to the Irish Sun by the NTA show the Irish taxi industry has 1,969 fewer drivers than during the pandemic.
The NTA says there are currently 25,259 licensed taxi drivers in Ireland, down 7.2% from the 27,228 drivers on the roads in 2020 before the Covid-19 crisis.
Jim Waldron of the National Private Hire and Taxi Association told the Irish Sun that many older drivers have left the industry during the pandemic.
He said: “Covid is the big influence. It gave people other ideas to go to other industries and other places.
“Our average age in the taxi industry is huge. You talk about a very high percentage of people over 65.
“A lot of these guys decided they weren’t going to come out anymore because of Covid and they quit, so it’s really because of Covid that a lot of people left the industry.”
The National Transport Authority is currently carrying out a recruitment campaign to attract more drivers to the industry which it says is leading to a boom in aspiring taxi drivers taking the test.
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Some 787 people have passed the taxi test so far this year.
A record 1,673 licenses were granted in 2019. Already this year, the number of people booking their test has increased by 16% compared to the same period in 2019.
NPHTA spokesman Jim Waldron believes the industry is in a positive position to grow as more pilots enter service this year.
However, he warned that some drivers are being put out of work on weekend shifts due to the dangers associated with those times.
Mr Waldron believes the NTA should consider funding new security systems for taxis and has asked An Garda Siochana to appoint a liaison to work with the taxi industry.
He said: ‘We are looking for a liaison officer to work with the gardai taxi industry and this has never been appointed.
“When there are issues like people getting mugged, they always bring in the taxi drivers, so what we’re saying is if we had a liaison working with us that would help.
“There are people who don’t want to contact the gardai because they don’t want to get involved, but if we had a liaison officer working with us then maybe they could go to him as a friendly face and say ‘I was in such a mood. a place and I saw an assault, I don’t want to get involved but I can give you this footage or whatever.