Concerns have been raised that a council policy on low-emission vehicles and the impact of Covid-19 will mean Nottingham struggles to fill 200 black cab driver vacancies.
Nottingham City Council wanted around 400 of its fleet to be upgraded to low emission vehicles by the end of June 2020.
Drivers had to take out loans to buy the new cars, which can cost between £36,000 to £70,000.
Some drivers have left the trade or refused to upgrade, with some fighting the decision in court.
The council says Hackney drivers have been aware of the proposed changes since 2017/18 and have had more than 18 months to purchase the new vehicles.
The council says the changes are worth it as the new vehicles will improve air quality and make the city a cleaner and greener place to visit.
On Monday, councillors agreed to give previous holders of hackney driver licences an extension to apply for new ones before opening the system up to new applicants.
Mohammad Yousaf, 65, has been a Hackney taxi driver for the last 30 years and is paying back a £44,000 loan on the new vehicle he has bought.
He said: “The council forced us (to buy these cars) because it is their policy, and we had no choice. I paid £44,000 – it’s like another house.
“You have to pay instalments – and you also have got a family to keep. On average, I get a job on this rank every two to two and a half hours.
“We rely on people travelling and people are not travelling so I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am still in the dark.”
Imran Majeed, 54, has been a taxi driver for 26 years and bought an electric cab worth £70,000. He must pay back £650 a month.
He said: “I came to this rank at 9.30am this morning and I still have not had a job and it is 11am. I think more people will leave the trade.”
So far, there are 177 drivers with compliant vehicles.
Around 50 drivers have left the trade, informing the local authority that they did not wish to renew their licences and obtain the new vehicles.
Thirty-three vehicles have been refused a licence as they are not compliant and drivers have appealed against the decision to the magistrates court.
The outcome of these appeals will be heard in January 2022.
Also, 160 licences have either expired or were refused (and have no appeal outstanding) with no application for a policy compliant vehicle having been made.
The council says the vehicle change coupled with a loss of trade due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic means there are now around 243 licences up for grabs.
At the council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee on Monday, September 6, councillors agreed to give previous holders of hackney driver licences an extension due to Covid-19 and a downturn in business.
They are being given until the end of September to register an interest and then a further three months to either licence a compliant vehicle or confirm that they have ordered one.
From October 1, licences will then be open to the general public in the hope the council can reach 420.
Cllr Sally Longford (Lab), Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Carbon Reduction and Sustainability, said in July this year: “The past year has been difficult for everyone and we do understand the impact on taxi drivers in Nottingham.
“We’ve worked closely with the trade to explain our plans around moving towards a fleet of low-emission vehicles and this forms a key part of our wider carbon-neutral ambitions.
“We are not going to reverse our policy on clean vehicle requirements, since this helps us meet our duties under the Clean Air Act to improve air quality and bring health benefits, and it would be unfair to those who have already invested in new vehicles.
“We are all committed to improving the quality of the city’s taxi services and improving air quality and these changes will benefit both the local trade and our residents in the long run.”