Ute Cabs

“We’ve maintained our business. We have a lot of business accounts and we’ve grown because people hear that we’re running meters and that we’re charging a fair price.” ­ Ken Olsen, President of Ute Cabs.

Ken Olsen, president of Salt Lake City-­based taxi company Ute Cabs, is not afraid of change. At this point in the game, he can’t afford to be.

“We keep telling our drivers and customers that there’s going to be change. Change is coming, and we don’t know what the future holds for us at this point.”

Family owned and operated for over sixty years, Ute Cabs has in recent years battled debilitating obstacles in the City of Salt Lake area, all the while upholding its standards for metering, dispatch and driver licensing with the help of Future Quest Wireless.

Challenges began when the City of Salt Lake put the city taxi business out to bid in 2011. When two non­-local cab companies won the bid, Ute Cabs took the city to court, fighting for four years until ride sharing app services Uber and Lyft started to rear their heads, causing the bid­ winners to drop their contracts, and the city to completely deregulate the cab industry in the region.

“According to Salt Lake City, there are no taxi cab companies,” says Olsen.

“We no longer have inspections through the city, we are no longer required to have twenty-­four hour service, and we don’t have to have dispatchers; we don’t have to do anything that would otherwise make us a taxi company.”

In this Wild West landscape, anyone with a ground transportation license can purchase a vehicle and run a ‘cab’. Olsen and Ute Cabs fought back by maintaining its status quo.

Standing firm with dispatch software

 “When the city deregulated, we kept the meters. We didn’t change anything. We kept our dispatch system, our dispatchers, kept our twenty-­four hour service. I require my drivers to run the meter rates when they’re picking up passengers. This ensures that they are getting a fair ride, and that I don’t have drivers running wild out there charging whatever they want. We have our set rates and we are adhering to those rates.”

Since 2011, Ute Cabs has utilized the FQ Wireless dispatch system, which Olsen says is “easier, simpler and more reliable,” than the system they had been using before. Olsen particularly prefers the Android tablet hardware versus the devices of previous systems. When he first encountered the system at a trade show, Olsen was impressed by the Android integration, which “seemed like the way of the future, and where dispatch was going.”

Passenger apps; the future of the industry

 Always forward ­thinking, Olsen integrated the passenger smartphone booking app from FQ into Ute Cabs, making it the first cab company in the city to offer app technology to its customers. Future Quest makes the app available in both fleet co-branded and private branded versions. 
With its passenger app, Ute Cabs is able to offer its customers firm advantages over using Lyft or Uber, including the ability to choose payment at the end of the ride. “Whether it be to a credit card or whether it be a cash type payment, they still have the option. With Uber and Lyft, it’s credit card only,” says Olsen. 
And now with the integration of the FQ Web Kiosk App, Olsen’s solid customer base of corporate clients can book a car from the app, no phone call needed. They can even monitor the car on its route in real time, making it easier to plan trips and anticipate arrival. 
As Olsen looks upon the future for taxi cab companies in the City of Salt Lake, all he can know for sure is that change is constant.
“Keep battling,” he says. “Every day is a different battle.”