When the Hoskins purchased an existing Brainerd business they wanted clean vehicles, uniformed staff and 24-hour service that could be reached by a sharp whistle or a phone call.
Their Brainerd Area Taxi cabs are expected to be in full force as the final seconds tick away on Y2K.
The Brainerd couple, John and Heather Hoskins, purchased the cab company in July. The cab company has been around for many years and was once operated by Reichert Bus Service. But John Hoskins, who was one of the original drivers, said one of the early changes he wanted to make was to run 24-hours a day.
Full force of cabs on call for New Year's Eve
Ensuring a good time on New Year's Eve may mean leaving the driving to someone else.
And this year the Brainerd Area Taxi service is offering a free ride to keep people from drinking and driving. Sponsored by area distributors and many downtown bars, the sober cab will run from 6 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Monday within the Brainerd and Baxter city limits.
Individuals attending house parties who may be under the influence and should not be behind the wheel will also be taxied at no charge.
Other regular calls during the night will be considered calls for hire with metered charges applying.
Sober cab sponsors include Brainerd and Baxter area beverage distributors and Brainerd drinking establishments.
Sponsors are Rohlfing Distributing, C & L Distributing-Budweiser, Fruth Beverage and Lake Region Beverage, the Blue Ox, Iron Rail, Pit Stop, Tropical Nights, Last Turn Saloon and Shep's on 6th.
"I believe if a person needs a cab or needs a ride anytime, they should have it," he said.
In the beginning, the late night shifts may have meant a single passenger. But John Hoskins said people now make reservations to go places at 2 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. keeping the cabs busy. Snowstorms and severe cold add to calls.
Riders have been those stranded at work or people faced with a vehicle sapped by extreme cold. The shortest run was two blocks. The longest rides have included trips to Minneapolis, Milbank, S.D., and hauling movies to Fargo, N.D.
The courier service aspect of the taxi service may be less well known. Cabs pick up prescription drugs from stores and have transported X-rays from Brainerd and Crosby hospitals to the Twin Cities. Cab drivers also pick up mail and deliver lost luggage.
"Some people call even for fast food delivery," said Heather Hoskins.
Jerry Alsleben, pharmacist at Thrifty White Drug in the East Brainerd Mall, said the courier service offered by the taxi is primarily used between stores if one pharmacy is out of a product and needs it rapidly. The service is also used to transport prescriptions to the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center on weekends and evenings.
The taxi service has a staff of eight drivers. Equipment includes two Crown Victorias, a mini-van and a 15-passenger van that is available for airport runs and bachelor parties. Cost includes a $2 minimum charge when passengers get in and then $1.60 per mile on a metered service. The Hoskins are interested in expanding their business to include credit card service in the near future.
Cabs are radio dispatched right out of one of the cars on most nights. John Hoskins said the taxi service averages 125 to 150 calls per day and actual runs keep two cabs busy from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight.
Tonight a dispatcher, in the cab company's office on Cypress Drive in the Baxter Industrial Park, will be on hand to answer the heavier call load from New Year's revelers.
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