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ARE YOU A ‘SIDE-LOADER’?: Responsibilities of taxi drivers when transporting wheelchair users

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

Transporting wheelchair users in hackney carriage taxis requires more than simply accommodating their mobility devices. In order to guarantee comfort and safety, taxi drivers must adhere to specific regulations outlined in the Department for Transport's guidance. In recent years, incidents of improper wheelchair securing and non-compliance with disability regulations has sparked debate among the public and authorities.

According to the Department for Transport's Access for Wheelchair Users to Taxi and Private Hire Vehicles Statutory Guidance, drivers of designated wheelchair accessible taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) are obligated to fulfil the following duties:

1. Carry the passenger while they remain seated in the wheelchair.

2. Not charge any additional fee for transporting the wheelchair user.

3. If requested by the passenger, provide a seat within the vehicle for them while securing the wheelchair.

4. Take appropriate measures to ensure that the passenger is transported safely and comfortably, providing necessary mobility assistance.

The term "mobility assistance" encompasses various actions, such as helping the passenger enter or exit the vehicle, loading or unloading their luggage, and ensuring the proper loading and securing of the wheelchair.

Non-compliance with these duties can result in penalties for the driver and is considered an offense unless exempted. In practice, drivers should not keep the meter running while carrying out their obligations under the Act, such as securing the passenger or their wheelchair within the vehicle.

Unfortunately, there have been instances where wheelchair passengers were not properly restrained, leading to potential accidents and injuries. In one case, a Birmingham private hire driver was found guilty of incorrectly installing a wheelchair ramp, endangering a disabled passenger. The driver was ordered to pay £1,222 in fines. Similarly, a Bristol City taxi driver had his licence revoked after failing to secure a wheelchair passenger adequately, causing the passenger to topple over and sustain head injuries.

These incidents highlight the importance of drivers receiving proper training and education regarding the secure loading and fixation of wheelchair users in their vehicles. Licensing authorities play a crucial role in ensuring that all taxi and private hire drivers receive sufficient training in handling passengers with disabilities.

If a driver is convicted of breaching their duties under the Act, the licensing authority may review whether they are still considered a "fit and proper person" to hold a driver's licence. Failure to comply with Section 165 of the Equality Act 2010 indicates a serious lapse in care towards disabled passengers, and authorities may take appropriate actions, such as investigating alleged discrimination cases.

For taxi drivers, it is essential to remember that a wheelchair must be positioned in the designated space provided by the vehicle manufacturer, and it should not be secured sideways or at an angle. While some passengers may express a willingness to be side-loaded, it is advised to inform them about the licensing obligations and the importance of proper securing.

Taxi drivers who have concerns or further queries regarding the transportation of wheelchair users are encouraged to contact their respective licensing authorities directly for guidance and support.

Ensuring the safety and comfort of all passengers, regardless of their mobility needs, is a fundamental responsibility for taxi drivers. By complying with the regulations and offering assistance to wheelchair users, drivers contribute to building an inclusive and accessible transportation ecosystem.


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