Magazine article New Zealand Management

SMART COMPANY: First Cab off the Rank; Thinking Differently about Managing a Fleet of Cabs Has Worked for Kiwi Company TaxiCharge, Says Reg Birchfield

Magazine article New Zealand Management

SMART COMPANY: First Cab off the Rank; Thinking Differently about Managing a Fleet of Cabs Has Worked for Kiwi Company TaxiCharge, Says Reg Birchfield

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg Birchfield

The taxi business has been fare game ever since New Zealand deregulated the industry back in the 1980s. Resorting to RaffertyCOs rules and free-for-all competition made life tough for many cabbies.

So too have ballooning fuel prices and, more recently, increasing customer demands that taxis respond to their corporate carbon footprint considerations.

Luckily for some, however, off the rank came TaxiCharge New Zealand with a smart taxi management software program that is delivering solutions for both drivers and cab users. And its clever management problem-solving approach is providing compelling evidence that responding positively to environmental pressures can pay handsome dividends.

Auckland-based TaxiCharge general manager Mark Lines now runs a $100-million business which, despite the global financial crisis, boosted turnover by 19 percent and profit by 46 percent last year. The company now has 90,000 cardholders which is, according to Lines, up almost 30 percent in a year.

TaxiCharge was started in 2002. At its heart is a software program developed originally by fleet management company Cardlink Systems. Lines worked for Cardlink and, when it sold its specialist TaxiCharge application to five of the countryCOs cab company clients, Lines went with it.

The company has a perpetual licence to use the Cardlink software and Cardlink retains a seat on the TaxiCharge board. C[pounds sterling]But,C[yen] says Lines, C[pounds sterling]the product is now vastly different from what it was when we took over.C[yen]

Indeed, the company has developed one of the most sophisticated taxi industry transaction and management reporting applications in the world. The constantly enhanced software is, Lines says, the result of the companyCOs response to demands for greater accountability, reporting accuracy, transparency and cab customer demands for environmental efficiency.

C[pounds sterling]These factors are all major issues for taxi users and their managers,C[yen] says Lines . C[pounds sterling]As a result we have developed 60 reporting options, each of which can be customised for the client.C[yen]

The five original taxi company partners that own TaxiCharge has expanded to 22. The taxi companies concentrate on their core business of providing rides and TaxiCharge delivers the supporting cab company back-room infrastructure, including billing, reporting and managing driver payments.

The demand for in-depth reporting is expanding rapidly, according to Lines. The recession has seen more companies using cabs. C[pounds sterling]But increasingly, the companies that use taxis want to monitor their spend more closely,C[yen] he adds. C[pounds sterling]And they want to know how environmentally efficient our cab companies are.C[yen]

The companyCOs reporting and management system has created C[pounds sterling]virtualC[yen] paperless communication with its customers. Its 60 different reports include details of out-of-hours travel, non-compliance travel reports, weekend travel, C[pounds sterling]yet to be billedC[yen] transactions, year-to-date spend by cost centre and card holder, GST consolidated invoices and special event billing.

It also provides reports on kilometres travelled to measure greenhouse emissions, because cab users are getting picky about the efficiency of the vehicles they ride in.

Corporate customers, in particular, want to know if TaxiChargeCOs membersCO environmental practices are aligned with their own environmental strategies. Consequently, TaxiCharge is now re-certified under the carboNZero small enterprise programme from Landcare Research. …

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