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Taxi & Private Hire Legislation needs a radical overhaul

1 Comment 5th July 2010

Taxi and PH laws were established in 1847 and 1976 respectively. Many things such as mobile phones, computers, GPS, Sat Navs, and reliable motor vehicles did not exist.

There needs to be a complete new set of laws to govern taxi services on a national basis. Perhaps the introduction of a national test and a badge issued ( such as is done with a PCV badge) which is valid everywhere with councils overseeing a local knowledge test and minor local matters.

Similarly vehicle standards should be nationally set with decisions such as how many people a Ford Galaxy can be licensed for( no boot, so should a seat be removed and a purpose built cage fitted to take luggage, some councils say yes some say no).

All cabs should be fitted with a taximeter for fare calculation , the fare rate being charged should be displayed as a number on the roof sign to help avoid drivers overcharging. The minimum and maximum fare rates  should be set by the local council to allow competition between companies and avoid the situation of "rip-off" fares being charged.

CRB checks should be portable.

Any Cab Company taking on a driver, even if the driver is self employed, should be subject to the same legislation as a true employer when it comes to the individuals "right to work" status to avoid the widespread problem of foreign students working as cab drivers rather than attending college as they should.

Eight seat minibuses are too large for a taxi service, these should be operated by bus/minibus operators not Taxi drivers.

All cabs operating in a town, whether they are based there or not should come under the jurisdiction of the local Licensing Officer.

Companies who operate primarily a national contract service with account holders should be able to do so without having to comply with a set of local regulations designed for local people going about their normal daily lives eg hospital/hairdresser/pub/school/supermarket etc

Finally there should only be one type of Taxi (as in most countries) and current private hire drivers should be incorporated on a grandfather rights basis.

Why does this matter?

The industry is hampered at every turn by petty local officials and/or councillors who think they know better than Vosa /Dept for Transport/Eu regs and impose regulations based on the whim of an individual.

However some councils such as Crawley set similarly high standards for both PHV and HC while other less rigorous councils simply do the minimum when it comes to PHV standards. Do the public in one area deserve a lesser service than in another?

Equally other councils ignore those laws that do exist and allow cowboy operators to ride rough-shod over the very essence of the current laws particularly over cross border hiring and only using cars and drivers from the same local authority. Leading case is Shanks vs North Tyneside. I could supply names of companies and councils not far from Crawley.

It is equally ludicrous that legislation allows Hackney Carriages  and Drivers plated and licensed by Berwick council to operate as Private Hire Vehicles and drivers anywhere in the country that they like, though maybe not London.

When cabs from another area operate mainly in a neighbouring town then the local Licensing Officer in the second town has very limited control over their activities.

Legislation means companies such as Hallmark who specialise in aircrew and corporate travel on a national basis currently have to get their drivers to study and pass a knowledge test for Luton, their base. This is not of much help in finding Exeter Airport.

Computerised booking and despatch technology, together with the mobile phone, has transformed the cab industry in recent years but legislation is still in the dark ages and desperately needs to be  brought up to date.

The 1976 Local Govt.(Misc. Provisions) Act sought to licence and control the Private Hire industry which had sprung up in response to a need unmet by traditional Hackney carriages which were largely limited in number. However the situation that pertained then has been left far behind and we are faced with 21st century technology trying to operate under a set of rules that saw a 2-way radio as high tech equipment.

The public simply want to get a cab that is safe, clean, on-time, and not too expensive. They don't care whether it is called a Hackney Carriage or a Private Hire Vehicle.

Cab drivers and operators want to provide that service but are hampered by the current legislation and councils own bye-laws and regulations made under the old law regime

There will be many with vested interests who will object to any changes simply because it will not be favourable to all groups but the public will ultimately benefit from a modern cab service that they can either pre-book, hail in the street, or pick up from a rank.

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One Response to Taxi & Private Hire Legislation needs a radical overhaul

  1. Dave Wray says:

    this is an issue airing saentiments close to my own feelings The need for differential between artificially controlled aspects within very similar groups of the same industry.Many years ago licensing of goods vehicles was unified and some time later so was the bus industry. Why this position continues in car passenger public transport flies in the face of so many business protocols in the commercial world at large. Virtual cartels exist among restricted HC fleets in many council areas and almost all rules favour hackney operation Lack of real competition with fixed pricing extra age allowance sometimes on almost identical vehicles stupid colour and livery restrictions and other whimsical practices leading to intrinsicate values added to limited licenses sold to the highest bidder by the encumberant holders, advantages to hc in use of bus lanes ranks provided in restricted parking areas where p.h are subject to no such facilities although paying virtually the same in premiums much is made of “not legally insured if not prebooked” but where p.h makes use of new communication techniques new rules are quickly imposed to outlaw this although of course H.C can take bookings by phone some level playing field this then” Public Protection” this is not, restriction we almost always hear is maintained to facilitate the upkeep of hackney drivers income.Oh well back to the Office to await my next call to a pick up no one knocking on my car door or flagging me down .

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