Shakail Ahmed of Pilling Lane, Chorley, said he "hit rock bottom" after losing his licences and his business, but now after two years, he's rebuilt his life and regained his badges thanks to Shaz Malik, who used television sensation Tiger King as a cautionary tale.
In 2019, Chorley Council stripped Shakail of his private hire and hackney carriage licences after complaints were made against him.
The first incident, reported on May 23, 2019 and caught on CCTV, saw Shakail clip a hedge at speed while trying to retrieve a drinks bottle from under one of his pedals.
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Chorley Council’s General Licensing Sub-Committee warned him about his future conduct due to his 18-year clean driving record, but a second incident was reported involving him hitting a kerb while carrying passengers including two small children.
On August 22, 2019, there was a third incident when Shakail used an unlicensed vehicle to carry out a booking.
Shakail said the problems were related to tiredness.
He said: "I worked all hours not to let any of my customers down. If that meant working 20 hours a days, that’s what needed to be done.
"What I didn’t realise, is that it was going to be start of my problems. Years went by, I worked seven days a week, long hours driving and managing my own fleet of cars.
"I guess as you get older, naturally you can’t do what you used to do and stay up all night, the human body needs to rest as some point. I carried on, ignored all of the signs.
"Eventually everything does catch up. One day, I started to nod off whilst driving. I'd never had this happen to me before and I ignored the signs and told myself I can do it - a few more hours, a couple of coffees and red bulls, windows down that will keep me awake.
"Until one day I started to lose concentration whilst driving and things started to get worse over a period. It became a regular occurrence and I stupidly carried on drinking coffees to keep me awake, until I had an accident and collided with some fences. That was the beginning of my downhill journey."
Chorley Council made the decision that Shakail was not a fit and proper, and his licences were revoked for five years. Shakail said he felt that 18 years of his life had counted for nothing, and was forced into selling his businesses - Star Cars, Four Fours and Eccleston Private Hire.
Four Sixes based in Hollinshead Street, Chorley, took over the businesses and Shakail asked one of the directors, Shaz Malik, to be taken on as a base operator. Shaz refused until Shakail could acknowledge his bad decisions and was prepared to learn from them.
Shakail said: "Shaz Malik was the only person in taxi trade who was willing to give me a chance. At that stage in my life I was mentally exhausted, there wasn’t much fight left in me. When I first operated for Four Sixes, I was nervous I'm not going to lie, I had lost all of my confidence.
"Shaz told me to watch a Netflix documentary, Tiger King. He said to me "You're the Taxi King", but I didn't understand at the time.
"But Shaz told me, I had had a great business, but lost it all by foolishness. Shaz then put a board up for me of Joe Exotic - a constant reminder not to be like him, understand were you went wrong, don’t dwell on it, just understand it, don’t beat yourself up about over and over again , find the positive out a bad situation, which was difficult to do at the time, considering I had lost everything."
Starting from the bottom of the business, Shaz helped Shakail relearn skills, and helped him reapply for his licence, which was successful earlier this year.
He has now started driving for Shaz's company Four Sixes.
Shaz said: "The council rightly takes these kind of incidents very seriously, and it's very unusual that someone is able to successfully reapply within two years. But that's how far Shakail has come and it shows how much he's learned."
Shaz added: "He's a big part of Chorley, everyone knows him. But the taxi trade really turned on him when he lost his licences. He needed support and I wanted to give him that. When someone's down, I believe in helping them back up.
"He's not a bad person, he's just made some bad decisions.
"This is a major achievement for him and all I want out of it is for him to now help other people - which is what I see him doing with other drivers.
"And I've got to say, he's the best base operator I have ever known. He is a huge asset to the company and nobody else could see it."
Shakail said that he now supports the council's 2019 decision "100 per cent", saying: "If they didn’t take me off the road, I don’t know we’re I would be today."
Thanking Shaz, he said: "I am different person now, everyone tells me, and it’s a great feeling. I believe anything is possible. I thought I would never gain my taxi badge, but I made a recovery which I didn’t even think was possible to do.
"And I want you to share something with all the taxi drivers - work will always be here, whether it be day or night - bit we sometimes forget in our busy lives that sleep is equally as important as eating.
"If you're tired, go and rest and don’t do what I did thinking you can carry on by drinking coffees and energy drinks, this is not the remedy. Engery drink providers should state on their labels, this is not a soloution for tiredness, there is a misconception on energy drinks. Sleep matters."