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St. George company dispatches taxi services around the country

Published January 8, 2011 5:08 pm

Relay hub in southwest Utah handles up to 18,000 calls a day.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

St. George • If you're calling for a taxi from Dulles International Airport, from outside the nation's capital, or from an address in Cleveland, Memphis or Southern California, there's a good chance your call will be directed to this southwestern Utah city.

Up to 18,000 calls a day for cabs around the country pour into a dispatch call center operated here by CCSI.

CCSI married the technology of global positioning satellites and Internet messaging with customized software to make St. George a relay hub, even though many of its clients are more than 2,000 miles away.

"It's better to be in St. George than in India," joked Egor Shulman, a computer scientist who developed the software at the heart of the business. Since 2005, CCSI, has been dispatching for cab companies that operate in more than a dozen U.S. cities from coast to coast.

Although no Utah taxi companies use his service, Shulman hopes that will change soon.

In addition to taxi companies, CCSI takes reservations for American Logistics, which provides medical and education transportation services. And some large taxi companies that have their own dispatch operations rely on Shulman's software.

Shulman, who has lived in Hurricane since 1997, owns the company with Steve Maloy, of San Diego; Mitch Rouse, of Cody, Wyo.; and Philip Ayres, also of St. George. They employ 90 workers, with up to 65 percent on a full-time basis.

"It's big for St. George," said Shulman of his work force.

From a customer standpoint, interaction with CCSI is nearly seamless. When taxi companies that contract with CCSI receive a call for a cab, the call is transferred to an 800 number that routes it to a dispatcher in the St. George center.

The dispatch software determines the caller's location on an electronic map, then finds the nearest available taxi using a GPS system. A cabby is dispatched by text message to the fare's location.

"Being able to find the closest cab really shines in getting from point A to point B the fastest," said Shulman.

Shulman got into the dispatch business in 1987, when he was approached by Motorola Inc. to create software for dispatching taxis in different cities from a central location.

After creating the program, Shulman was named team leader of the project, then located in Chicago. When Motorola decided to get out of the dispatch business in 1992, Shulman and some partners acquired the software rights, then marketed the service to taxi companies.

Shulman said that in 2003, one of the partners persuaded the others to start their own call center in St. George, where the golf courses were plentiful and the climate conducive to year-round play.

"It's the best place on earth," he said. "It is Zion after all."

Shulman and his partners bought property in aSt. George business park and built the center, which took its first call in 2005.

The continuous operation is staffed with employees at computers who busy themselves with reading, knitting and other activities when not taking calls.

Because a power failure could be catastrophic, CCSI has an elaborate system of batteries and generators to automatically kick in if electricity is knocked out.

The job of staffing the phones falls to Ben Davis, who works from an electronic chart that divides the day into 30-minute increments next to the name of each employee. Color coding lets him know who is off for the day and who is available.

Although a majority of the staff is full time, he said part-time employment suits St. George's sizable retirement community, as well as college students.

"Young people are good to hire because they are text savvy and good at multitasking," Davis said.

When dispatcher Matthew Hobson receives a call from Dulles International Airport in Virginia, his computer tracks it, then determines which company gets the dispatch and where the nearest cab is located. His questions are based on a script that appears on the screen.

"It helps if you like to talk to people," Hobson said.

Shulman declined to say how much clients are charged for CCSI's services, but said rates are competitive with what it costs cab companies to operate their own dispatch centers.

Don Barron, director of Yellow Cab Co. in Salt Lake City, said he has been approached by Shulman but declined to sign a contract because of the expense. But Art Boulette, general manager of Dulles Taxi Systems at Dulles International, said CCSI has been a good partner, helping the company save money.

CCSI "cuts our overhead by not having to pay employees to dispatch," said Boulette, whose company has a fleet of 220 cabs. "They have an excellent system and are always very professional."

mhavnes@sltrib.com

Taxi companies dispatched by CCSI

South Bay Yellow Cab • Southern Los Angeles County

United Checker Cab • Los Angeles south of LAX airport

Long Beach Yellow Cab • Long Beach and Lakewood, Calif.

Fiesta Taxi • Suburbs in eastern Los Angeles County

Los Angeles Yellow Cab • City of Los Angeles

California Yellow Cab • Orange County, Calif.

Allied/Nashville/ Diamond Cab • Nashville, Tenn.

Charlotte Yellow Cab/American/Green Cab • Charlotte, N.C.

RDU Airport Taxi • Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

Dulles Taxi Systems • Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia

Checker Airport Taxi • Dulles airport

Ace Taxi • Cleveland, Ohio

Source • CCSI