We’ve all been there: after a late night at work, a rough night at the bar, or an early morning running late for an exam, there has always been one person who has been able to help out in a situation of dire need. Your mom? Your best friend? No, this person is neither related to you nor do they know your deepest and darkest secrets. You have probably never met them before and you probably do not know their name. But whenever you need a ride to take you home, they’re always waiting.
Cab drivers of Hamilton.
They’ve bore witness to some of the more questionable moments of your life and for a small fee have gone along with everything without judgement. From semi-digested waste flying out of their roll-down windows to back-seat disagreements and two person interactions of the other sort, they’ve seen it all.
But who exactly are these drivers that have so openly and willingly allowed us to be passengers in their vehicles? Who are these drivers that have been passengers in our own lives?
Jagtar Singh Chahal is the CEO and Chairman of Hamilton Cab and has been working with the company since 1989. “The taxi industry is a complex culture. In order to drive a car, you need a taxi plate license from the city,” explained Chahal. Becoming a driver is not as easy as getting your G2, buying a car and giving people rides around town - that would be illegal and borderline kidnapping. To become a certified driver, one is required to get a taxi license from the city and either purchase or rent a plated vehicle.
“There are limited licenses and plates in the city and the value of a plate is currently very expensive, over $200,000. If you have a plate, you can lease it to another operator who will buy their own car and will take care of all the expenses,” stated Chahal.
A notable fact about the taxi industry is that a number of people manage to find high levels of success working as a driver. “Many people think that being a taxi driver is a low-level or low-stigma job,” explained Chahal. “But in my 23 years with Hamilton Cab, I have seen more people go home millionaires than in any other profession, including steel companies and other high paying jobs.”
Take Yogi for instance, a man in the taxi industry that many drivers, including Chahal, know and look up to. Over 20 years ago, Yogi began his career as a humble taxi driver in the city of Hamilton. Over the years his operation grew as he purchased more plates and leased more drivers. Today, he owns over 60 licensed plates, runs his own taxi business throughout the city, and has garnered an impressive nickname that hints to his leading role in the Hamilton cab industry.
Aside from providing insight into the lives of cab drivers, Chahal’s experience has also given him insight into the lives of passengers, including McMaster students. “We have had a lot of experience with Mac students. We used to work in partnership with the Michael DeGroote School of Business,” he explained. “But over the years, students are the same. They are usually very good, but students also love to drink and party.”
Hamilton Cab drivers have witnessed some interesting sights and sounds and continue to do their job as mysterious benefactors for those in need of a ride home. Hamilton Cab drivers are the friends you never knew you had.
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Notable Stories from the Driver’s Seat
Chahal described one incident after an armed robbery of a bank, a cab driver was driving through town when the culprit of the crime ran into his vehicle and ordered him to continue driving. Luckily, all cabs have a GPS system that can be used to track the vehicle. Due to this system being in place and the calm, cool and collected character of the driver, the police were able to trace the vehicle and catch the robber red handed.
On a blustery winter day, the cab company received a call from someone requesting a pick-up from the grocery store. A driver happily went over and loaded up the passenger’s groceries into the vehicle and began to drive to the requested destination. A few minutes into the drive, the dispatcher called the driver and explained to him that they had just received a call from an aggravated customer standing alone at the grocery store after a cab driver allegedly stole all their groceries.
“I don’t drink”
When Chahal first started working with Hamilton Cab, he was sent to pick up a rather intoxicated girl from an unspecified location. After driving her home he told her the needed fare and she explained that she did not have enough. She proceeded to hand over a half empty bottle of liquor that she had been polishing off over the course of the ride as a substitute for monetary payment. Chahal innocently looked at her, accepted the bottle and exclaimed, “I’m sorry, I can’t take this. I don’t drink.”