Meter is running

At Work

Baltimore County cab owner has taken clients as far as West Virginia, Atlantic City

Working

November 15, 2006|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Sun

William Ruh

Cab owner

Valley Cab Association, Pikesville

Age --57

Years in business --21

Salary --$20,000

How he got started --Ruh graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in physical sciences. After sailing the Caribbean with a friend for two years, he moved to Minnesota and worked as an engineer for 10 years. He moonlighted as a cabdriver and enjoyed the work. He became disenchanted with the engineering job and moved back to Maryland. Ruh went to work as a landscaper while attending college to become a math teacher. He worked one year as a teacher. In 1998, Ruh received a taxicab permit to drive in Baltimore County. "[Teaching] had some good moments for me, but I seem to have a happier life on the road."

Licensing --Ruh holds a Maryland driver's license and pays about $160 in annual fees. Part of these fees cover his taxicab driver's permit issued through Baltimore County, which includes fingerprinting and a background check. As a taxicab owner, he also pays the Maryland Public Service Commission a yearly fee. His vehicle must also pass an annual state inspection.

Typical day --Ruh works 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week. His days vary. He's allowed to pick up customers anywhere in Baltimore County and take them where they want to go. His longest run was to West Virginia, but he said he also has taken people to Washington and Atlantic City. A one-way trip to Atlantic City would cost about $200.

Ruh averages about 12 trips a day and makes $50 to $150 a day. He likes to look for customers at the Metro stops in the Pikesville and Owings Mills area. Many of his customers are senior citizens going to doctor's appointments and grocery stores.

Costs --The meter starts at $1.80, and passengers are charged $2 a mile after that. Flat rates can be negotiated before the trip. Tips are appreciated - a good one is about 10 percent of the fare, he said.

Breaking even --Ruh operates as an independent contractor and pays Valley Cab $21 a day to be associated with that company. Along with his favorite spots to look for customers, he also can get calls from the Valley Cab dispatcher. He must also pay for gas, repairs and insurance. "I usually break even by midday."

The good --"I'm my own boss."

The bad --The hours spent sitting in a car and the dangers of driving. He has been robbed twice.

Road rage --He said he tries to stay calm. "It is just traffic. Forget it. You won't even remember it in an hour."

Best day of the year --Ruh said he typically works New Year's Eve. "It's a wild time, and you can make some great money, but is it worth it?" He said other times of the year are just as good, such as the night before Thanksgiving.

Wears many hats --"We have to be psychologists, babysitters, bankers, miracle workers and advice givers."

Taboo subjects --Politics and religion.

Famous passengers --Ruh said he has driven writer George Plimpton, rock star Eric Clapton, actor Jim Nabors and wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage, just to name a few.

Extracurriculars --Ruh takes a month-long vacation to the West each year to camp and fish. He also plays tennis almost every day. Ruh also spends time as an amateur cartoonist and writer, and is working on a collection of short stories based on taxicab experiences.

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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