Updated: Aug 16, 2022
Glasgow City Council's Licensing and Regulatory Committee have voted in favour to grant private hire vehicle (PHV) operators the option to install safety screen partitions in their vehicles as a method of protection from assault and violent attack.
Previously, safety screens were permitted, however this was as a temporary measure for protection from Covid-19. The decision will allow vehicle operators to indefinitely install screens within their cars post-Covid and for general safety purposes.
PHV licence holders will now have the option to install safety screens as long as they follow guidance which has been approved by the city's licensing chiefs. That guidance outlines the exact construction materials that the screens should be made from and the installation methods to ensure that screens are being fitted safely.
The Scottish Private Hire Association (SPHA) has been campaigning on this proposal and lobbying for the policy to be adopted.
John Paul Duffy, the West of Scotland Branch Chair of the SPHA, said: “We've been campaigning on issues of driver safety and as part of that we asked Glasgow City Council to grant drivers the permission to keep screens in their cars long term and beyond Covid to be able to increase on-the-job safety. Today's decision is a major success for our campaign and a major success for private hire drivers across the city who are looking for ways to better protect themselves while at work.”
According to the SPHA, as outlined in their case to the council, the main hurdle in gaining the option to install safety screens seemed to be that, historically, a lack of guidance on how to do so safely had prevented councils from granting permission. The association claimed that this was no longer the case as during the Covid pandemic, the Scottish Government had issued safety guidance.
Duffy added: “During the pandemic councils said they couldn't allow partitions in private hire cars because they required guidance from the Scottish Government to be published on how it could be done safely. The Scottish Government then published safety guidance which led to councils granting car owners the ability to install screens. Our case today was that now that guidance has been published on how to install screens safely, we can extend that very same guidance to allow drivers the ability to install safety screens not just to protect themselves from virus transmission, but also from being violently attacked. Over the past few months, the SPHA has also been working with the Scottish Government so that this guidance, which is now permanently in place in Glasgow, be adopted nationally as a matter of best practice for the trade.”
According to the SPHA, the new safety guidance in place specifies that safety screens being installed in PHVs must be made from a rigid, but flexible material such as polycarbonate or PETG and also gives instructions on how the screens should be fitted to the cars in such a way so that the screens don't interfere with the deployment of airbags, don't affect the structural integrity of the car, and don't cause problems with seat adjusters or seat belts.
The guidance also requires that vehicle owners notify the council that they are installing a screen and that they provide the council with proof that the screen has not invalidated the vehicle's insurance policy.
Eddie Grice, the General Secretary of the SPHA, said: “Today's decision by Glasgow City Council's Licensing and Regulatory Committee will be heavily applauded by members of the Scottish Private Hire Association and by private hire drivers throughout the city. With their decision today to allow private hire car licence holders the option to install safety screens for general protection they have shown that the council do take issues of driver safety just as seriously as they take issues of public safety.
“Private hire car operators have now been granted an option to protect drivers. This is a very positive step forward. It should also be pointed out that the presence of screens will also offer a level of protection and reassurance to the travelling public. Moreover, Covid is still a threat and the screens continue to protect drivers and passengers from the risk of infection.
“Over and above that though, the Councillors on the committee have now delivered on a promise made during the recent council election campaign. They have taken a proposal offered to them by trade representatives, put it on their agenda, discussed its merits, and voted to implement it. They have stuck to the pledges made and to that, I say, 'Bravo'. They have also been delivering on their promise to engage with the trade with an 'open door' policy. Councillors and Licensing Officers have made themselves available to trade reps here at the Scottish Private Hire Association and with others. Recently, they have held meetings with us and they are engaging with us by email and phone. They are listening to our concerns and issues and they are now acting on them. Other licensing authorities around the country should now be looking at Glasgow City Council for inspiration, and on that point we are calling on all other council areas in Scotland to follow Glasgow's lead and also grant private hire car owners the ability to install safety screens in their vehicles for general safety and security purposes. It has been refreshing to be able to sit down round the table with councillors and licensing officers recently and work together on the issues the trade faces. Long may it continue."