London cab drivers have been encouraged to become green ambassadors by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (RSA). Black cab drivers have already cut fuel consumption by 12% in the first two weeks of the trial, according to the Smarter Cab Drivers study.
Cab drivers in London are being given a bleeper to stop them revving their engines to much, as well as fancy silk purses and feedback “guest books” in a move to fight climate change and turn them into green ambassadors.
The RSA, who has helped launch an unusual and ambitions trial, says that the guest books are to assess the cabbies driving style, while the silk purses are meant to remind cabbies to drive smoothly. This should trigger a debate with passengers about the advantages to the purse and planet by saving fuel.
Jamie Young, a Royal Society researcher on the project says that the cabs have a “spring-o-meter” which is a dashboard-mounted device that wobbles and makes a beeping noise if the driver accelerates too harshly or brakes too aggressively.
Young said “We chose cabbies on purpose because they are stereotyped by critics as cynical and set in their ways and so are a relatively difficult group to influence and who tend to think the high cost of fuel just comes with the job,
“But they are also informal opinion formers because they come in contact with a large number of people so they can influence others … We are keen to extend these trials outwards and yes, ‘white-van man’ could come next,” Young added.
The RSA and the oil company Shell are undertaking the Smarter Cab Drivers study together and explains that by the time the nationwide study of taxi drivers is wound up in another two weeks, it expects savings of 15%.
The Royal Society claims that if this project is continued over the course of a year, not only will drivers save money on their taxi insurance, cab drivers could also be in line to save £600 a year, or in the case of a new diesel the equivalent of 200kg of carbon.
If all the drivers in the UK were encouraged to drive differently, Young says there could be a huge impact on Britain’s overall C02 emissions.
He says, “We’re pleased to see our Smarter Cab Drivers doing so well as they bid to improve their driving behaviour, and we hope that this campaign can show everyone how quickly you can become a smarter, more fuel-efficient driver – and save money in the process”.
Shell and the RSA have done research and talked to taxi drivers about what motivates them. One typical response from an unnamed cab driver said “We all know how to drive fuel-efficiently … I would happily drive along the Broadway at 40mph so long as cabs didn’t overtake me at 60mph so that I’m 20 places back in the queue at the airport.”