Everyone knows that driving a vehicle that gets good gas mileage is beneficial to the environment. At Yellow Cab Company of Sacramento, we’ve discovered that trading to more fuel-efficient, earth-friendly vehicles is also a boost to our company’s and our drivers’ bottom line.
When most people think of a “Yellow Cab,” they picture a large four-door sedan, often the Ford Crown Victorias similar to those traditionally favored by police departments throughout the United States. These sturdy workhorses have the advantage of roomy backseats and good mechanical reliability over time. On the downside, however, their gas mileage is typically about 16 or 17 miles per gallon. Gas prices fluctuate, but, as you no doubt have noticed, the general trend over time is up, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. Higher prices at the pump make it harder for our drivers to make a profit.
Our fleet comprises 114 vehicles total right now, including six that are owned and operated by the cab drivers, and one more owner-operated Scion on deck. Over the past five years, as part of our normal cycle of replacing older vehicles, Yellow Cab has begun phasing out our Crown Vics and replacing them with hybrid and higher-fuel efficiency Toyota Prius hybrids, Scion xBs, and 4-cylinder Toyota Camrys. We just got in four new Priuses this week! Currently we have 26 Priuses, plus two new ones that are not yet outfitted as cabs; 47 Scions; and 10 Camrys. The remaining vehicles in the fleet are five ADA accessible vans, one Mazda5 and one owner-operated Caravan. With these new Prius additions we’ll be left with just 24 of the Crown Vics, and we hope to replace all or most of them by the end of 2014.
The Prius, which combines a conventional internal combustion engine (burning gasoline) with an electric propulsion system, is the best-selling hybrid in the world and gets about 50 mpg, city and highway driving combined. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board (CARB) rate the Prius as “among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on smog-forming emissions.”
And the Prius’ gas mileage record keeps getting better. Toyota executive Satoshi Ogiso told Autoblog.com last year that each successive generation of Prius has improved fuel economy by about 10%. At that rate the 2015 model Priuses are expected to get about 55 mpg—good news for motorists and for Mother Earth.
The Scion xBs and Camrys also have helped our drivers cut fuel costs, with the Scions getting 24 to 29 mpg, the Camrys 23 to 27 mpg. The Scions also have a roomy backseat for passengers and good cargo space. Consumer Reports has rated its reliability as “outstanding,” and it’s known as a safe vehicle, winning the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick six years in a row.
No doubt in coming years we will see technology improve and costs of that technology go down, and other alternative fuel sources may be developed as well. In the meantime, we at Yellow Cab are committed to continuing our efforts to reduce the fuel use, and the “carbon footprint,” of our fleet. It’s the right thing to do for our families and our community, and it makes good business sense for our drivers and our company, too.
At the Sacramento Hotel Association’s annual Hospitality Gala last month, I had the great honor of accepting on behalf of Yellow Cab Company of Sacramento the association’s 2013 Supplier of the Year Award. The event was very well done, featuring a delicious Farm-to-Fork dinner at The Citizen Hotel, Hospitality Employee of the Year Awards from each member hotel, and the awarding of $1,000 tuition scholarships to three deserving local students. For a list of the Hospitality Employees of the Year and scholarship winners, and a slide show of photos from the gala, visit http://www.sacramentohotelassociation.com.
I have participated with the association for many years and have appreciated its work as a cheerleader for our Sacramento region and its efforts to make Sacramento a visitor-friendly, welcoming community. Those efforts are good for the hospitality industry, of course, as they are for the taxicab industry.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve have been especially appreciative of the Hotel Association’s hard work, along with the Downtown Partnership, the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Sacramento, in drafting the city’s proposed new taxicab ordinance. All of these folks understand that a taxi ride from airport to hotel or from hotel to meeting location may be that critically important first impression a visitor receives of our community. If we want Sacramento to be a destination for visitors, a popular location for conventions and meetings, a magnet for new businesses, we must put our best foot forward. We at Yellow Cab Sacramento are proud of the professionalism, courtesy and strong safety record of our drivers and staff. A city ordinance upholding those industry best practices gives everyone in our business a benchmark to ensure we’re providing the best service possible to our customers and to our city. That’s why, in accepting the Supplier of the Year Award for Yellow Cab, I expressed my thanks to the Sacramento Hotel Association for its leadership and community service.
People often ask us about the vintage cab we feature on our website (www.yellowcabsacramento.com) and that is occasionally seen around town at charity golf tournaments, car shows and other community events. This vintage taxi is a 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook, similar to one of the first vehicles our dad, Frederick Pleines, Sr., purchased for the company when he took over as owner.
The very first cab our dad bought, in 1946, was for Skyline Taxi. He added several cabs and later merged with Union Taxi in 1951. Our vintage cab was restored in 2006 and is equipped with a taxi meter and two-way radio from the same period. It is a replica of many taxicabs seen in Sacramento in the early 1950s.
Lots of taxi companies in different U.S. cities have vintage cabs, and we had been talking about buying one for some time. Ken found this one on Craigslist. In restoring the 1951 Plymouth, we did not exactly duplicate the way a new taxicab was prepped in the early 1950s. In the ’50s, all the signage would have been painted by hand by a man named Nick, who worked with a stencil, a long wand with a ball on the end of it, and paint brushes. As young boys, we recall that it took Nick about two hours to paint one cab. Nick also painted all the Mayflower trucks in town. Today, all the signage on cabs are manufactured die cut decals. which are much faster to apply and do not vary in quality from car to car.
We say it is “similar” to one of our dad’s early cabs because at the time this car was made the company was Union Taxi. We wanted to brand it with our Yellow Cab Co. colors and logo, rather than those that appeared on the original. But we used the same typography that was used on the Union Taxis, a font that was used on our cabs up until about 1970. We had the decals for the vintage cab copied from this old photo of our dad in a 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook.
The lightning strike graphic on the 1951 Plymouth also mirrors the cabs in our dad’s original fleet. The lightning indicates 2-way radio dispatching, a technology that our company was the first in this region to adopt. Our dad was very proud of what was then a state-of-the-art technology. Since then we’ve carried on our company’s tradition as early adopters: We were the first Sacramento cab company to introduce computer dispatching in 1991 and the first to utilize GPS (Global Positioning System) dispatching in 2004.
Since we rolled out the 1951 Plymouth, it has brought a lot of positive attention to Yellow Cab Co. of Sacramento. It has been on display at the California Auto Museum in Old Town Sacramento, and we have taken it to community events such as the Sacramento Hotel Association golf tournament and the car show at Downtown Ford. One time it even made an appearance at a ’50s-themed bar mitzvah at Arden Hills Country Club. Fred takes it to lunch every six months or so.
One thing the vintage cab has taught us about our dad and the taxi drivers of the 1950s and earlier—they had some upper-body strength. The cabs of that day had no power steering, and the 1951 Plymouth is historically accurate in that way as well. Driving it is hard work. We like the connection it gives us with the history of the taxi industry and the history of Sacramento—a real-life connection you just can’t get from a historic photo or book.
The City of Sacramento recently proposed new rules governing the operation of taxi services, with the full support of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Sacramento Hotel Association, the Downtown Partnership and other civic organizations. Yellow Cab Co. of Sacramento is also in full support of these efforts.
The proposed taxi ordinance, which was presented March 18 by the city’s Law & Legislation Committee, aims to professionalize the local taxi industry by requiring that drivers adopt industry best practices and minimum standards for customer service. The committee’s recommendations included, among others:
- An age limit on taxi vehicles
- Dispatch by means of two-way radio or mobile data terminals, rather than by cell phone
- Taxi Driver testing requirements
- Requirement of taxi operators to accept credit cards
- Prohibition on taxicab drivers preventing customers from entering other taxicabs and preventing other drivers from lawfully entering a parking space
Some of these recommendations, such as limiting the age of taxi vehicles and prohibiting drivers from preventing customers from choosing a different cab, are simply common-sense measures aimed at protecting the safety and well being of the traveling public. Others, such as requiring that drivers accept credit cards, are intended to make a positive, professional first impression on visitors to our community.
Yellow Cab Company of Sacramento has been serving our region since 1917. Our father began driving for the company in 1937 and became a company owner in 1951. Our family is proud of our company and of its tradition of safe, professional and courteous service. We are proud of our role in Sacramento’s history and of our ongoing efforts to improve the taxi industry. That’s why we support this ordinance. We think the new rules would be good for cab drivers, for taxi companies, for local business development and tourism, and for customers.