While controversial GPS technology has kept the plight of some taxi drivers in the news recently, the daily grind always takes a toll.
Taxi drivers deal with noise, pollution, rude passengers and stress on a daily basis, said Graham Hodges, a former cab driver and author of “Taxi! A Social History of the New York Cabdriver.” The tough streets of New York can damage a cabbie’s physical and emotional well-being.
Hacks who don’t own their cabs also sometimes have to wait on an available cab for several hours, he said. Then they first need to work to pay off a daily lease fee before they start making a wage for themselves.
Baruch management professor Edward Rogoff calls taxi workers who lease urban transportation sharecroppers.
“You pay a fixed amount everyday and you take all the risk if there’s business or not,” he said. “It creates all the worst incentives like driving fast and being reckless and not caring about the service you’re providing.”
Drivers are also at risk of accidents or a ticket that can take a chunk from a hard-earned day’s pay, Hodges said, not to mention what the cabbies will never take home.
“There’s no health insurance, no vacations, no pension,” he said.
So why hack it?
“With a little bit of money, you can get into it,” Hodges said. “For someone coming from another country, this is a good way to get into the city, but it’s also a grind.”