It seems that every time TfL wants to improve the safety of passengers, the minicab industry opposition reaches fever pitch.
Some people reading this might think it’s a bit rich for a taxi driver to moan about whingers, and in another situation they could have a point. But we have never complained about safety, only the unfairness of the current situation and the fact that while we are the most thoroughly trained and tested taxi industry in the world, minicabs and their operators are effectively allowed to operate like modern day cowboys, playing fast and loose with the rules. Safety is paramount, but not if you work in the minicab trade it seems. Instead, it’s look after number one. As I’m sure you know, TfL is consulting on plans to tighten up the rules for private hire. Proposals include advanced driving tests, improved safety signage and much more. But “yah, boo, sucks” has been the predictable response from the minicab trade and Simon Rush, PHV driver and president of the GMB Pro Drivers’ branch, in particular, who recently posted a “call to arms” online. He asks if TfL is “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut?” Well, no, it is using legislation to crackdown on nutcases, who tout, drive without insurance and endanger the public. "Our trade has yet more potential rules and regulations to contend with,” he writes. He claims to “understand the mayor’s main priority within his transport strategy is safety for the public and other road users,” which he says is a good thing, yet continues to pull it to pieces. He continues, “it would also be nice if some of his vision was about driver safety and rights. His vision has very little of this and you have to ask yourself why?” Well, the reason might be that drivers should be the responsibility of their operator, their employer; but then these people probably don’t want employees, just low-wage slaves? He mentions attacks on drivers but fails to offer up any suggestions as to why this is anything but a police matter. With regard to the gig economy, there is much being done – or at least discussed – but this is a government level issue and not something for TfL. He also complains about plans for an advance driving test, vehicle signage and hire and reward insurance, as well as enhanced background checks. And he fears “further consultations later this year focusing on ride-share rules” and the current congestion charge exemption for PHVs. He trashes the idea of vehicle signage, such as “wear your safety belt,” and “look, out for cyclists” as too obvious. Well, if it was, there wouldn’t be any accidents would there? And no, the public isn’t up on the law, and even if they were, people aren’t always concentrating as they should be in a city with a million distractions and dangers. Other possible signage includes, “who to complain to,” but surely that’s obvious too, he says. Well no, it isn’t always obvious, especially in the case of Uber. But then Mr Rush probably assumes that they, private hire drivers, aren’t Uber and Uber isn’t them, but he would be wrong. He says the GMB suggested a sign like those on buses saying “if you verbally abuse or attack a driver you will be prosecuted. Unfortunately, TfL doesnot seem to think PHV drivers count for much.” Err, well how about making your own or getting your operator to make some? That would be too much responsibility to take on I suppose. Hire and Reward Insurance
Hire and reward insurance has also been returned to the consultation agenda, including fleet insurance. The GMB thinks that while it is fair for Addison Lee to have it, it will drive non-rental operators to the wall, and the survivors will pass the cost on to their drivers. Heaven forbid drivers should have to pay insurance like the rest of us eh? In fact, it should be down to London’s blanket of cameras to scan minicabs and check that they are licensed. This seems tantamount to admitting that the minicab trade cannot police itself and needs to be under the watchful eye of big brother. He does at least admit that some form of advanced driving test is in order, but seems to think it should only be for new entrants, thus letting all the other misfits who have managed to slip through the net to carry on causing mayhem on our roads. Pointing the finger at buses, he claims that there were (only?) 503 casualties between January to September 2017, ignoring the daily reports of minicabs crashing and causing ludicrous incidents. The burden of cost for these things is too much, Mr Rush claims, because most PHV drivers are now earning less than 15 years ago. Has he read the news lately? Virtually everybody is earning less than 15 years ago; you want to try driving a taxi mate! At this point, I can imagine that his bottom lip began to quiver, as he suggested that the rise in costs may be just another way to cull minicab numbers and force many of them out of the trade; now, at least there’s a thought we can all live with.