'1,500 calls in a weekend' - Taxi firms' struggles with driver shortages

Taxi firms including Dereham-based Ace have been suffering from driver shortages

Taxi firms including Dereham-based Ace have been suffering from driver shortages - Credit: Frank Hull/Courtesy of Frank Hull

Taxi firms are being forced to let hundreds of people down as severe driver shortages sweep the nation. 

One Dereham-based company, Ace Taxis, took 1,500 calls in a single weekend earlier this summer - but had just four drivers to cope with the workload. 

Businesses in Norfolk and across the country have been struggling to keep up for weeks as lockdown restrictions ease. 

A significant proportion of workers chose to leave or were laid off at the height of the pandemic. 

Bus services have also suffered, while a lack of lorry drivers means some shops have been left with empty shelves

Frank Hull, director of Ace alongside his wife, Natascha, said the present situation "cannot get any worse".

Natascha and Frank Hull, who run Dereham firm Ace Taxis

Natascha and Frank Hull, who run Dereham firm Ace Taxis - Credit: Courtesy of Frank Hull

He added: "The shortage is massively affecting us, and I know others in Norfolk are the same. We are letting people down left, right and centre. 

"On Sunday we had 135 missed calls between 9 and 11pm. When we answer, all we end up saying is 'sorry, we've got no availability'.

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"Things have been made worse by the amount of people getting married. We're getting calls from people asking us to go out to the coast and do a £3 job. They are just going through lists and ringing every company they can find. 

"We are really struggling for drivers. We put an advert in the job centre six weeks ago and we've not had any applications."

Daniel Booker and his father John at Dereham Taxis

Dan Booker (right), who runs Dereham Taxis, pictured with his father - Credit: Archant

For Dan Booker, owner of Dereham Taxis, fortunes can only improve. 

Mr Booker lost 40pc of his drivers and 80pc of office staff at the dawn of coronavirus, putting the firm at a disadvantage when normality began to return. 

"The thing is, up until relatively there had been a massive shortage of work," said the 46-year-old. "But the work is now bouncing back at a faster rate than I can employ.

"With day centres opening, residents able to leave care homes and more people going to hospital appointments, it is really difficult to keep up. We have turned a corner and now demand is outstripping supply. 

"I am just looking to employ again as quick as I can - especially a wheelchair-accessible driver. From here it is a matter of rebuilding."

Ace Taxis, based in Dereham, has been struggling to cope with demand

Ace Taxis, based in Dereham, has been struggling to cope with demand - Credit: Frank Hull

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