In the heart of Germany, in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), part of former East Germany, taxi companies in Olbernhau have developed a sophisticated system, which allows them to provide a taxi service in the late hours. Is it an idea for other cities?
When it’s dark, taxis are rare in the Erzgebirge, writes the local newspaper in Chemnitz. This is partly because demand in rural areas is rather low. The new minimum wage exacerbates the problem: which taxi operators can afford to let their drivers wait for hours, if there is nothing to do? Torsten Zeitler, taxi operator from Olbernhau, has the answer. With three other taxi companies he has developed a model that will guarantee taxis in the evening and at night. From Sundays to Thursdays there are drivers available from 06.00 in the morning to 24.00 at night. The companies agree who drives when. If a customer calls a company that’s not working that particular night, he is transferred via automatic call forwarding. On Fridays this rule even applies to 02:30 am. Saturdays it is ‘every man for himself.’ operates every man for himself. When there are special events, Zeitler says that the taxis even drive until 06.00 in the morning.
Mandy Strassberger, the owner of Taxi Drechsler has had very good experiences with this system. „Previously, all taxi companies were waiting for a few passengers.“ Then the companies of Zeitler, Drechsler, Wolf and Otto in Olbernhau negotiated this model. After a test phase, the model was fixed. That was four years ago – before the minimum wage. „Now it would be impossible to work without it,“ says Zeitler.
The taxi association Erzgebirge didn’t know of the practice until now. “Of course this is a great solution. As a rule, companies work like lone wolves“, says chairman Norbert Scheibner. His association represents 15 to 20 percent of the companies in the area, most of them in the old district Stollberg. In Olbernhau he has no members. Scheibner, who runs a company in Oelsnitz, has already considered similar models: as a night service for hospital patients, with a free central number. Such a phone number would cost money, however. Scheibner hadn’t thought of an automatic call diversion like in Olbernhau.
Despite all the advantages, there are two companies in Olbernhau, which do not participate in the agreements. Michael Drechsel, the owner of the private hire company Friedrich, sees „no 100 percent solution“, because the time after midnight is not covered. And Rainer Pichert says customers could reach him anytime around the clock.
198The idea that the three taxi companies could organise a similar model in Zschopau, Udo Götze, managing the company of the same name, thinks makes little sense. Because of the high labour costs of the night service this part of the business was always a minus business. Yet Götze still tries to service customers 24 hours a day. It helps with customers’s pre-orders. But spontaneous calls at night? „That is more problematic.“