Do Kiwi cabbies take us the long way home?

By Sieska Verdonk

Although local taxi drivers were not required to ask the preferred route, they must take the "most advantageous route for the passenger." Photo / Getty Images
Although local taxi drivers were not required to ask the preferred route, they must take the "most advantageous route for the passenger." Photo / Getty Images

Ever wondered if your cab driver was taking the long way round to bump up the meter?

Australian taxi drivers are obliged to ask passengers which route they want to take - but not here in New Zealand.

A story published by Australian news website News.com.au has stirred the debate about taking "the long way around" - and whether New Zealand taxi drivers are able to more easily give you a "tiki-tour" around town.

Frank Chung at news.com.au writes:

Dear taxi drivers: unless you're asking whether to take a toll road or not, it's hard to think of a serious justification for you to ever ask this question. Because honestly, does anyone ever actually respond, "I'd like to go the longest, most expensive way, please"?

Either I'm a local, in which case I will direct you to go the fastest, most direct route to my destination (which you should have done anyway), or I'm from out of town, and I expect you to take me the fastest, most direct route to my destination.

End of story.

Most people can relate to that sinking feeling you get when you hop into a taxi in an unfamiliar area and the taxi driver asks which way you want to go. It's the feeling that says, "I'm about to get screwed."

So, is there ever a justification to ask the question? Well according to the taxi industry, not only is there a justification, but taxi drivers are actually required to ask passengers which way they want to go.

In New Zealand, we are out of luck, with local taxi drivers under no obligation to ask passengers their preferred route.

John Hart, NZ Taxi Federation executive director said although local taxi drivers were not required to ask the preferred route, they must take the "most advantageous route for the passenger."

According to Hart, drivers also have to take the cheapest way for passengers - adding that roadworks are often present therefore drivers are sometimes perceived to have taken a long way around.

"Drivers use GPS now, so there is a clear record of the route that they went," said Hart.

Bob Wilkinson, chief executive of Blue Bubble Taxis, said the company had a policy of dealing with complaints when they arose.

"If a passenger complains, the company will check their GPS and if it looks sensible, we will go back to the passenger and say the driver was within their grounds."

There are 3500 NZ Taxi Federation cabs nationwide, with 2000 of those being Blue Bubble taxis.

They carry 20 million passengers per year according to NZ Taxi federation.

Pending reforms to the Land Transport bill will mean individual taxi companies will only have to keep records of their complaints for two years.

- NZ Herald

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