Melbourne, February 15: Melbourne taxi driver, Jimmy Behal, who has been driving taxis for almost 18 years in Melbourne, is the new star of the Taxi Services Commission’s ‘Open Doors’ Campaign.

Originally from India, Jimmy is belongs to Melbourne’s Punjabi community and lives in the western suburbs.

Driving since 2000, Jimmy, in 2005, switched to a more emphatic service within the industry – driving wheelchair accessible taxis.

“Driving accessible taxis can be demanding, but rewarding…” he said talking to Bharat Times about his star role in the campaign.

Jimmy, who operates 3 wheelchair accessible taxis on a government lease, explained that the “Open Doors Campaign is about raising awareness among the community and taxi drivers about carrying assistance animals in taxis and how drivers can assist people with a disability by opening doors and welcoming them in their taxis.”.

A maxi-taxi driver, Jimmy came on board as part of the ‘Open Doors’ campaign because he wanted to make other drivers aware of legal responsibilities and how they could help make a difference – providing optimum comfort for all passengers, including those with assistance animals.

In one of the four Taxi Commission’s campaign videos, Jimmy is seen transporting Maysa, who has an assistance animal, to and from judo class – just one aspect of her busy schedule.

“It is about raising awareness among drivers that assistance animals are highly trained.

“The assistance animals have exceptional behaviour and high standards and drivers should safely permit assistance animals into their vehicles”.

He encouraged more drivers from the Indian and South Asian community to join wheelchair accessible taxi service “as there is always a need for good professional drivers in the industry”.

“Especially those with “positive attitudes… ready to accept challenges”. Jimmy himself has never “looked back to driving normal cabs”.

Talking about the campaign, Jimmy believes that ‘Open Doors’ campaign is not “limited to passengers with pets or assistant animals. Drivers should provide service with courtesy and respect, especially for the elderly and people with a disability”.

‘Open Doors’ policy was always part of work-ethics of all Victorian taxi drivers. However, in recent times, the industry had come under criticism for much poorer standards.

With new taxi drivers entering the industry with little or no training on work ethics, there have been complaints ranging from drivers talking on their phones in an ethnic language while driving a passenger, not opening doors for passengers, no knowledge of routes…

Not limiting the ‘Open Doors’ campaign to passengers with assistance animals, Jimmy feels that ‘open doors’ ethics “not only give drivers and passengers a platform to know each other, it also help drivers to learn how to serve ethically in the taxi industry.

Proud father and taxi driver, Jimmy with family (309x550)
Proud father and taxi driver, Jimmy Behal with his family

“As I believe, taxis are not only about driving, it is a service industry and if you provide quality service and good old fashioned service, you won’t beat that”.

“I would like to send a message to fellow drivers that if they want to be professional in the work they do, they should put 100% effort into their service that would grow their clientele and increase their business.

“And people would be happy to use their service”.

The taxi industry being a service industry, Jimmy said that if drivers provided good service, “money will follow the service”.

As a star campaigner of the ‘Open Doors’ policy, he is “humbled to be given the opportunity to share my experience of 17 years of driving taxis.”

Jimmy now also works as a trainer to new drivers enrolling in the wheelchair accessible service. He takes pride in his new role – raising awareness among drivers and improving driver-customer relationship, especially where assistance animals are involved.

“I believe if respect is maintained in any relationship, it always grows better…”

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance, Jimmy now married for 16 years, is a proud father of two 15 year old twin daughters and 8 year old son.

His son loves breakdancing and hip hop and takes dance classes twice a week. “I take him to dance classes after work and dance competitions when needed,” Jimmy said talking fondly of his multicultural family.

Ramakrishna VenuGopal

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