"The dangers of the illegal taxi drivers"

Japanese taxi drivers have been receiving a lot of attention of late. Various policy changes such as an “inside the taxi smoking ban,” rising fuel prices and therefore rising taxi fares, and deregulation of the control of supply-demand balance, has meant that taxi companies are facing challenges to maintain profitability and as an effect, taxi drivers have suffered.

An investigative mini-documentary on channel 4 this morning exposed the side-affects of the recent taxi industry modifications. A rise in the number of illegal taxis in Japan has meant that there is not only danger to the public but legitimate taxi drivers are facing even further competition in the already harsh environment. These illegal drivers are called “shiro-taku,” Shiro for white and taku, a shortened work for takushii (taxi). The cars are generally white with white number plates (real taxi drivers have green number plates and queue in the taxi ranks) and these criminal taxi drivers poach customers by walking the streets, finding often drunk cusomters and offering cheaper fares and the option of smoking in the cars. Due to the illegality of this “business,” the cars and therefore the customers are uninsured should there be an accident which is likely as a majority of these drivers also have awful driving habits. Ironically, several of these drivers are legitimate taxi drivers during the day, trying to make money on the side to supplement their income.

This mini-documentary interviewed taxi drivers, illegal taxi drivers and customers. The illegal taxi drivers think they are offering a service that customers want and in a dog-eat-dog world, the effect on legitimate taxi drivers is kept out of mind. The risk-taking customers go for the cheaper option and the now-luxury of being able to smoke in the cars and the only ones that end up losing-out seem to be the real taxi-drivers. Will more and more legitimate taxi drivers turn to illegality to supplement their income, therefore creating a vicious circle of under-cutting, over-supplying and excessive competition? Should this problem persist and expand, the authorities are likely to step in and clamp-down, yet it should be considered that the base of the problem may not be the illegality of it but the difficulties taxi drivers face due to de-regulation and policy amendments.

For more information about the taxi industry, see here: http://www.japaninc.com/jin450

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Where can illegal taxi drivers be found? I would like to know how much cheaper they are and what kind of cars they drive. Do they impersonate legit drivers or are they openly dodgy so that people know that they are cheaper?
Also, I wonder if they are better at finding the way.....

The documentary didn't mention exactly where they can be found in the whole of Japan but instead focused on one area - Tokyo's Ginza district. They tend to always drive white cars (part of the reason why they are called "shiro-taku", along with the white number plates).

And of course, they are openly dodgy. But they do offer nice services, like opening the door for you (as they don't open automatically like legitimate taxis). Some also wear white gloves and, because of the need for them to hunt around for customers, also wear big coats to keep warm.

It is advised not to use their services, even if they are cheaper or better at finding the way. You won't be insured if there is an accident and they drive pretty recklessly.

Oh, and it's illegal.

I am a little more concerned about the dodgy cabs themselves, more than the driver. I think I would rather ride in cab with modern safety features like airbags, crumple zones, good brakes ect rather than the 1995 design of the Comfort taxi.

If they're not ripping off customers, then who cares? Taxis have always been overpriced in Japan; its about time they had some price competition.

I think you're missing the point in that they are also dangerous. Would you risk your life for a few thousand yen?
Also, eventually, the taxi drivers are going to have to find other means of keeping afloat - otherwise they would have to get subsidies or something.

That's unfortunate for law abiding taxi drivers, but if the illegal taxis are obviously illegal, and they can only pray on people who are too drunk or oblivious to know any better, then how are they a real threat to legitimate taxis? Do drunken oblivious people really make up a huge share of taxi riders? Maybe so...

Does anyone know what the penalty is for operating an illegal taxi?

Does anyone know what saftey features legal taxis have vs the illegal ones? Such as the number and positioning of Aibags; Anti lock braking (ABS); Stabilit contril; traction control?

Also any accident figures between the two?

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