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The Mayor of London The London Assembly

How London Black Cabbie are using Social Media and Data to improve their own performance

You all know that Black Cab Drivers have a lot to say for themselves, right?  Well, a private Twitter account has been giving drivers the chance to tell each other what is going on around the Capital, and has helped turn an idea hatched by 2 drivers in the back of their cabs, into a community of 400 drivers.


Almost two and a half years ago myself and Karl James, two working cab drivers, set up @Tweetalondoncab (TLC) in the hope that we could capture the occasional request from our followers to pick them up.  Never being in the right place at the right time, we found other drivers on Twitter and the TLC account was created to aggregate those requests.  Cab drivers took to Twitter very quickly, it can be a solitary profession after all, and TLC has steadily grown. 

But it isn’t the bookings that TLC takes that is the real success story here, it’s a separate account, almost set up as an afterthought, that has had the biggest impact.  Drivers on Twitter quickly started Tweeting about what was going on around town, where traffic was bad, which stations needed taxis etc, but not all drivers followed each other and therefore wouldn’t always see this information.  So another account was set up, @CabbieUpdates (quickly reduced to @Cabup), so that drivers would only have to post information to that account & follow it, to see the information that all drivers were posting. 

Once we have verified each driver, they are allowed access to the account and can post into it.  We discovered a service called GroupTweet that allows you to DM your message to the @Cabup account and then sends the DM as a Tweet from @Cabup.  What this account has become is nothing short of fantastic, over 400 drivers follow the account and there have been over 110,000 Tweets sent from the account.  That’s 110,000 bits of information about where works is, traffic hotspots, drivers asking for help, drivers offering “going home jobs” to each other and much more. 

My favourite story about @Cabup involves me personally when I was stuck on the rank at South Kensington after my battery had gone flat.  I’d phoned the RAC but also put a msg in @Cabup moaning about my luck, well within 15 minutes 2 drivers had come to my rescue beating the RAC hands down when it comes to response time.  It is this sense of community that has grown up around TLC & Cabup, having access to a pool of drivers if something goes wrong, having a group of mates you can have dinner with and generally making the job a bit better.  There is even a TLC Golf Society (just to conform to the cabby stereotype you understand), and a TLC Book Club ran for a while. 

The cab trade does not have a central voice, all drivers are sole traders, and in it’s own small way TLC & Cabup has given drivers something to rally round.  But it is only 400 drivers out of over 20,000!  We would love Cabup to become a must have service for all Cab drivers, but understand that while a Twitter based service may work for 400 drivers, it isn’t really scaleable.  Cabup is a free service run by cab drivers, and each driver that joins TLC/Cabup is considered an equal partner in the service.

With that in mind we are looking into ways to improve Cabup and reward our members for the contribution they make to the service.  We have recently secured a sponsorship deal with one of the bigger Taxi Garages, with the garage offering TLC drivers discounts on work done there, and it is this sort of deal that we hope to bring to our members on a more regular basis. 

We have a great community of drivers, a service that they love, what we’d really like to do now is help it reach it’s full potential.  Whilst Cabup helps our members earn their money better, and could potentially bring them all sorts of fringe benefits, we are keen to keep the community at the heart of what we do. We would be delighted to work with, or hear from, anyone that can help our community grow & prosper.

By Richard Cudlip @mrcudlip