Hampton Roads taxi drivers struggle to survive during 'stay at home' order

Posted at 3:27 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 06:35:10-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - While people are staying inside to slow the spread of coronavirus, local taxi drivers are still making their rounds to help people in need of groceries, medicine and supplies get to where they’re trying to go.

But like many industries, drivers are struggling to make ends meet while most travel has come to a screeching halt.

Dispatchers are still taking trip requests at Coastal Ride, even though there are far less people to pick up the phones.

“Customers are calling us asking, ‘Can you help me?’ and we’re saying, ‘Yes,’" said Coastal Ride President Judy Swystun.

People hail a Coastal Ride with the ‘App-A-Cab’ app or by calling 757-853-7777. Since the coronavirus crisis, the family-owned business is struggling to keep drivers on the road.

“We’re almost 50 percent down, we’re definitely in the most challenging time of our entire career that I’ve been here,” Swystun said.

Drivers like Louis Clay now disinfect the car after each time they drop off a passenger, making sure they pay special attention to commonly touched areas like handles and spray down the seats where passengers sit.

Drivers rely on disinfectant to keep their car safe for themselves and their passengers, but with store shelves empty Coastal Ride had to get creative. They purchased an industrial-size drum of disinfectant so their drivers never run out when they need it the most.

Clay says it’s common for him to take people to food banks - “That’s been very popular right now" - and even go grocery shopping for the elderly.

After 20 years of taxi driving experience, Clay says he’s just trying to keep his head above water now while doing what he can to make the lives of others a little easier.

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