Stolen Rides! Always a possibility, often a problem!
Other operators with scanners on your radio channel or cellphone frequency have the ability to get to your pick-up location before you do, and the client often has no idea he's being "stolen" from you! In some areas, this is an industry by itself!
So what can I do?
Well, first, immediately begin encoding your locations. You won't have much luck hiding the street address and house number of the private homes, but you sure can have a number or letter assigned to the hotel, bus-station, airport terminal and shopping enter. "364, go to 24B a lady at 3:00PM." That will get you there before the competitor IF you CHANGE the assignment numbers every so often so they can't make up a list. Last week 24B was D17.
Next, use codes like the police do, to cover your instructions. "364 H1 at 24B 1500" H1 is "pick up a lady" and H5 can be "pick up a man". H22 is a couple. Have these on a small card or paper posted in each cab or in the driver's pocket. So "364 H1 at 24B 1500" means 'Car 64, Pick Up a Lady at The Hyatt Hotel Back Entrance at 3:00 PM (1500 is 24-hour time)' We know of one company that gives all times one-quarter hour after the actual pick-up time. If you have to pick up at 4:30, they announce 4:45 AM. That way the competition shows up 15 minutes late every time. Does this stuff sound like Homeland Security speak? Hey, it's money out of YOUR pocket! It sounds complex, but it's not. Try it!
Here's another good idea; use checkpoints! Don't tell Car 21 who is across town to "Go to 321 Main Street the grocery", rather tell him "Call me from Main and Central Avenue." He'll head over that way and when he gets there, he'll say "21 at checkpoint." Then you say "Piggly Wiggly - lady and child - Mrs. Smith." He's there in seconds. The poacher can't possibly get there that fast. One saved ride!
OK, let technology do it for you. For most two-way radios, there are encoder-scramblers available. You say "Hi there Johnny" but the poacher hears "Crackle beep grzzzhtp". Your driver on the other end has the decoder in his radio so he hears "Hi there Johnny." Every radio in your fleet needs to be equipped with these little boards - your two way radio company can get them and put them in. They scramble your conversation whilst it is airborne, and decode it for your people only. These little modules run a couple hundred dollars in some cases. a bit less in others. Your radio service supplier can tell you. They come by the names scramblers, inverters, encoders. They'll know.
By the way, regarding Cellular Telephones: there's an old saying, "If you can build it, I can break it. If you can hide it, I can find it." If you use a cellular telephone or a PCS phone, I can scan the frequency and hear what you say. Cell phones are not secure in most cases, and you should never depend upon them to keep intruders out of your communications. For Pete's sake, don't read your customers credit card numbers on the radio or the telephone for your dispatcher to verify! That's nearly as public as putting the numbers on a TV screen! Incidentally, "trunking" radio channels are NOT generically secure. Trunked systems can be scanned and monitored as easily as the conventional types if you have the right scanner from Radio Shack or the like.
Digital Dispatch Systems are pricey but they send computer-like code over the airwaves to the cars. These are the little screens you see in big-city cabs, and they instruct the driver via written messages rather than sound waves. Hard to steal that information from a scanner. The drivers respond with a button or two. The address and client data never get spoken on the air at all. These work well for large fleets, but are just out of range of the budget for most transportation professionals in small fleets or independent. It involves a digital radio system and dispatch operators who can type. Some cities like L.A. have literally ROOMS FULL of dozens of dispatchers all working over the same radio systems. They don't talk to the driver, most of the time. They talk to clients and dispatch with a keyboard. It's a bit out of financial range, however, for a three car cab company in Stinking Water Creek, Nebraska. You decide!
More later! Fred Stock 760-345-4347 firstname.lastname@example.org