Making the switch from driving taxi to driving delivery is pretty straightforward, says professional driver I. Ras Gad Shangox. “There are so many similarities, it’s like the same thing in a different dimension,” he observes.
“Some elements are very similar; others are very different, but maybe better,” notes Shangox, who drove taxi for 28 years before selling his taxi plate and getting out of the business in 2016. He now drives a grocery delivery truck and says he found more upsides than downsides to making the change.
“With taxi, I would pick someone up, drop them off, and go on my way. I’d drive around looking for business; at a certain point, I’d go home. Now, I go to work and my company gives me a pre-determined route. When I’m done, I go home. It’s like driving taxi, except that instead of looking for business, everything is there for you already.”
The delivery truck he drives requires a “G” license – “it is the last, largest vehicle you can drive without a “D” license,” he notes – but he did invest time and effort into getting a “D” license when he made the switch from taxi to delivery truck. To date, his work has not required it.
As a delivery driver employed by a grocery company, “for the most part you are on your own. Unless you are extremely rude and someone calls your boss to complain about you, you never hear from anyone. As long as you are responsible, you are on your own. You return the truck, and you go home.”
With almost 4 years driving delivery before COVID-19 changed the world, he had a frame of reference for “the old normal” before the “new normal” struck.
“COVID has changed everything,” he declares. “Everything is different now. I can tell you this, grocery delivery is here to stay; COVID has been the catalyst. Delivery driving of all kinds is here to stay.”
He notes that despite talk of self-driving vehicles, “somehow the parcels still have to get from inside the back of the truck to the door of the house or condominium. They still haven’t figured out how to make that happen without a human being.”
One of the differences between driving taxi and delivering groceries which Shangox did not enjoy pre-COVID was the fact that grocery clients often insisted he enter their homes.
“It was not unusual for customers to ask you not only to bring groceries in the door, but to carry to them to a specific place in the house or even put them on the shelves. I never liked that. However,” he notes, “that ended with COVID. Now, we deliver to the front door or the front porch, and that’s it. I like this better.”
For a taxi driver, delivery driving – and unloading parcels – is a whole different way of life; the physical labour, he notes, is a real adjustment. While he is fortunate to enjoy good health and a strong back, “some of the guys, they really suffer.”
“It’s a mindset: I get up at 3am. I’m home at 2 or 3pm. The truck is loaded and ready for me when I arrive; only rarely have I ever been called upon to load the truck – that has happened but it is very rare. Usually, I pick up the loaded truck and the manifest, and I go about my day which includes unloading at each address. I finish, and I go home.
“I am still pretty much my own person.”
Comparing life as a self-employed taxi driver to that of a employed delivery driver, Shangox is philosophical:
“You can work for yourself, and have a good day or a bad day. You can work for someone else, and have a good day or a bad day. Either way, it’s up to you.”
He does appreciate the benefits of employment, including sick days and vacation pay, and makes special note of the tips he receives:
“People are very generous. Surprisingly generous. The tips are very nice.”
One element that driving taxi and delivery truck have in common, he points out, is not being stuck inside a building.
“I could not stand around inside. I do not know how they do it. That, I could not do.”