Save for digital meters and debit machines, the technology employed in taxis hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years.
Jiffy Cabs is breaking new ground in that area by partnering with SkyHawk Telematics, a locally owned and operated software company, to install first-of-its-kind technology for this province’s taxi industry that owner Chris Hollett says will benefit all stakeholders — operator, brokers and drivers — and improve overall safety, ease of use and peace of mind for its passengers.
“We can guarantee, with transparency and accuracy, that our customers get home safely,” states Hollett.
SkyHawk’s product is GPS tracking technology that uses telematics to provide the operators with a suite of data, both in real time and historical.
“It allows them to see where their vehicles are in real time, what they’re doing, how they’re behaving and if they need to go back in history and look at trends and analytics,” explains SkyHawk vice-president Mark Gillingham.
“We have a whole suite of managerial reports and analytics built into this cost base accounting that can tell you how much fuel you’re burning, what your idle is, what non-productive idle is, utilization of your fleet, how many vehicles you have, do you have enough of a particular type of vehicle to do your job, how many are working and doing what they’re supposed to, and how many are just sitting parked for an extended period of time.”
There are a number of applications for the data.
Hollett says they’ll be able to determine if drivers are taking the best routes, and receive alerts if vehicles are travelling too fast through a school zone or if they travelled at above 120 kilometres per hour for any period of time beyond 30 seconds or more.
“We’re going to know all these things as soon as they happen and we’re going to be able to use it as a teaching point to make our service better.”
It will also reduce instances of drivers being tempted to turn the meter off so they can collect a cash fare without recording the income.
“They’re going to be mindful that we are monitoring stuff like that, so they’re going to be less likely to do (it) and it might scare some of the drivers we don’t want.”
There’s also the potential for reducing onerous insurance rates that are preventing some smaller brokers from turning a profit.
“Being able to show a marked difference in the driver behaviour from day one to, say, day 90 or 120 after it’s been in the cars, we’ll definitely be able to lower our (insurance) rates.”
Hollett is shouldering the cost of the basic units, but if independent brokers want more, SkyHawk can work with them to include 24-hour camera monitoring to see what’s happening outside of and in front of the car.
Jiffy, the largest single taxi company in the province with over 200 drivers servicing 85 cabs, has been testing the technology on 55 of its vehicles, with plans to outfit the remaining cars through January.
Also in 2018, Jiffy and SkyHawk will reveal more information about the next phase of the partnership: a dedicated Jiffy Cabs app for smartphones.
“We want to be able to get a cab to your location and send you a notification when it’s close by and send you a notification when it’s outside.
“You’re still going to have to get your card or cash out to pay, especially in the first iteration of the app, but we’re going to build upon it.”
Digitizing Jiffy’s dispatch services is something Hollett’s father, Tom, had been exploring until his death in 2016. When Hollett took the reins, he explored the possibility, but found it would require a sizeable investment for something to work the way he wants it to.
When he came across SkyHawk and learned what they could do, he saw the potential of working with a local company to create something that met Jiffy’s needs versus trying to tailor an existing product to fit them.
“I would rather be a leader and then go sell that product to other companies here in the city or even across Canada and the United States, because SkyHawk has a pretty far reach when it comes to their profile,” Hollett says.
The bulk of SkyHawk’s contracts are across Canada and throughout the United States. They track and monitor vehicles for the departments of transportation for the states of Iowa, Delaware, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the province of Nova Scotia, the cities of Hamilton, Ont., and Burnaby, B.C., and over 5,000 vehicles belonging to Hydro One in Ontario.