Unravelling the rights and wrongs of cross-border hiring

Cross-border hiring is one of the most talked about subjects among taxi drivers and trade representatives alike across the UK. It is part of a "holy trinity" of taxi issues, along with Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) capping and defining plying for hire.

The clarion call has gone out across the taxi industry for legislation to be brought in by Government to curb cross-border hiring, which is seen as a major safety issue. But what is cross-border hiring in "lay-persons" terms?

Cross border hiring can in theory cover a number of different activities. Some of these activities are perfectly legal while others could potentially be illegal, however at present there is no legislation in place defining its legality.

Licensing requirements for PHV drivers and their vehicles are different from the licensing requirements bestowed upon PHV operators. PHV drivers and their vehicles have the right to roam, whereas PHV operators have no such right.

A vehicle owner cannot use his or her vehicle as a PHV unless the vehicle is licensed by an authority or district. It is also an offence for an owner to allow a third party who is unlicensed to drive a vehicle for use as a PHV.

No offence is committed if a driver's vehicle is being used in one area, but the driver and vehicle are licensed in another area. However a driver, his vehicle and his operator must have licences issued by the same authority. This is sometimes referred to as the triple-locking or triple-licensing system.

Despite having the right to roam, PHV drivers must not ply for hire, and may only undertake a booking accepted by an operator licensed by the same authority as licensed them.

There is currently an enormous amount of confusion over this aspect of legislation because of the use of ride-hailing apps. These raise questions over where they may be licensed in relation to where a driver receives a booking, as well as who technically receives the booking, operator or driver?

The operator themselves may only accept a booking in the area for which they are licensed.

If a PHV operator makes arrangements for drivers to go to areas where neither vehicle, driver or operator are licensed, it could be argued that the operator is unlawfully allowing the invitation of PHV bookings. 

A PHV operator who knowingly sends drivers to areas other than the ones for which they are licensed, could end up having their licence revoked on the grounds of undermining the local licensing regime.

After years of discussion between taxi representatives across the UK, local authorities and Government, there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel with a potential updating and change of current legislation being looked into by Nus Ghani, who serves as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport.

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