Taxi drivers in Ireland may soon be required to follow a dress code, or even wear a uniform, according to the National Transport Authority. Could this be part of an attempt to revitalise the industry? Private hire taxi drivers in England are not currently required to wear any kind of uniform, and although there is an expectation to dress smartly in some jurisdictions, this has never been formalised.
This is different to some other countries and cities. In Edinburgh, drivers must wear a collared shirt with smart shoes and smart trousers/skirt. Melbourne taxi drivers can be fined by the Taxi Services Commission for not wearing their uniforms, and in Mumbai there is a very strict uniform.
With concerns that private hire taxi firms need to compete with technology platforms like Uber and Hailo, this could represent a potential differentiator for private hire firms. Could a more formal style help embody the advantages of experience, class and customer service offered by private hire taxi companies over the more ‘casual’ Uber driver?
By wearing smarter clothes, or even a uniform, taxi drivers might be able to create an expectation of quality and reliability in the minds of customers. Ireland is not the only place considering this kind of policy: back in 2011, Leicester City Councillor Piara Singh Clair suggested a similar change. Pushing a more formal style of dress could very well be a part of a drive to create confidence and reinforce the legitimacy and competency of traditionally qualified and licenced taxi drivers.
However, there are also a number of potential downsides to the introduction of a dress code or uniform. Just as an increase in formality could emphasise experience and quality of service, there is also a risk of increasing perceptions that taxi firms are in some way ‘old fashioned’.
There is also a potential for backlash from drivers: introducing a new policy might well be unpopular, and represent a new barrier to retaining drivers. The increased expense for either drivers or the companies, depending on who would be required to pay for the uniforms, could also be a significant factor. Ultimately, a lot would depend on the specific uniform or dress code, but this itself represents a problem as well: how smart is ‘smart’? If the dress code is left open to interpretation, there could be inconsistency, but settling on a single policy to be applied to all situations could also be a challenge. Talk to your drivers, see what they think of the idea, would they be happy to trial it for a month and measure the impact?
image © Mr Porter