Taxi dispatching is a vanishing vocation, poised to disappear within a decade, says a report from Workopolis, which based the findings on evolving technology and consumer preference.
The former comes as little surprise to Justin Raymond, co-president of App-based dispatch service Hailo North America. Start-ups like his have shaken up the taxi industry, relying on Google Maps or GPS, instead of a human dispatcher, to connect cabdriver and customer.
“The time-saving, convenience and safety … has been a game-changer for both taxi drivers and passengers,” he said in an email. “The way we see it, taxi dispatching is not so much disappearing as experiencing a fundamental change to its business model.”
Diamond Taxi got rid of human dispatchers in 1986 and the difference was notable, said company president Jim Bell.
“Drivers used to have their favourite dispatchers and follow them around,” he explained. “We brought in computerized dispatching in the summer of 1986; the previous Christmas about 150 bottles of booze came in for the dispatchers, because you want to be friendly with the dispatchers. The second year we had about four bottles. I guess our computer doesn’t drink very much.”
Besides eliminating favouritism, Bell credits the automated system, which has been updated at least four times, with “more efficiency. We are able to match up a customer and a driver much quicker.”
But over at Beck Taxi Ltd., the country’s largest cab service with a fleet of 1,750 vehicles, operations manager Kristine Hubbard has no plans to replace the company’s two-way radios and 50 dispatchers.
“We’ve always treated technology as a bit of a buffet; and while we’ve watch our competitors switch over to computer dispatch, they have not grown as a result,” she said. “We’re doing very well. We’re looking at close to 10 per cent growth over this time last year.”
Their mobile app is used about a million times annually, compared to eight million radio dispatched orders in 2013. “We still have people calling us on rotary phones,” said Hubbard of the company founded by her grandfather.
“Even people with smartphones, who can download our app, many still want that contact; they have questions they want answers to. If it’s up to me, we’ll never lose our dispatchers. If anything, we’re looking for technology that will allow us to use our radios in a more community way with the drivers.
“The traditional dispatcher job has changed. It’s not someone who is only capable of talking on a radio; there is a PR element to the job that probably did not exist before. Everybody’s listening and we want drivers to feel supported by the dispatchers.”
Also on Workopolis’s endangered list are grocery cashiers, postal workers, word processor/typists and social media experts. The latter also happens to be on the “hot job now” list, but as the digital generation enters the work force, that facility will be second nature, not a special skill, said Tara Talbot, vice-president of human resources at Workopolis.
The fastest-growing job titles on the online employment site, which is partially owned by Torstar Corp., are financial advisor, representative financial advisor, field sales representative, sales associate and social worker.
People still desire a face-to-face relationship when it comes to money, said Talbot about the strong showing in the sales and finance sector. “There are all kinds of information you can get online, but you still like to look someone in the eye and shake their hand and know that they are looking after you,” she explained.