Private hire drivers must have partition screens approved or they “potentially risk putting lives in danger”, says Transport for London (TfL) Licensing Director.
The warning comes as London’s minicab drivers prepare for life after the COVID-19 lockdown. Many of the 110,000 minicab drivers in the capital are expressing an interest in inserting partitions into this vehicles in a bid to create passenger confidence and reduce the transmission risks of coronavirus.
Whilst the London Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell advised TfL that there is no evidence to suggest any partition screen helps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the capital’s transport regulators reiterated that if screens are installed they must be approved as being safe.
Private hire operator Addison Lee announced last month that it hopes to become the first operator to install partition screens between drivers and passengers across its fleet of 4,000 vehicles.
The move comes as findings from a survey of Addison Lee’s largest customers reveals that 80% of them will review policies around how employees get to and from work, with 90% citing safety as their priority when it comes to using minicabs or taxis.
Helen Chapman, TfL Director of Licensing, Regulation and Charging, told TaxiPoint: “The safety of everyone using or working on the transport network is our number-one priority. TfL has begun the process of identifying whether screens are suitable for use in private hire vehicles by commissioning two leading independent testing facilities to assess whether screens meet vital safety standards. These tests will include an assessment of whether the screens allow airbags to inflate properly, whether they create a fire hazard or restrict rear views for drivers.
“Any operator installing screens must have them approved before they are used in cars picking up passengers, or potentially risk putting lives in danger.”
The discussions and safety tests are set to be conducted at the automotive testing facilities of Millbrook and HORIBA MIRA. As part of the discussions it was raised that the introduction of protective screens into a vehicle could negatively affect the deployment of curtain and other air bag systems which are installed in the vast majority of private hire vehicles.
Millbrook and HORIBA MIRA are to offer TfL and the private hire industry a bespoke assessment that will consider the appropriateness of the screen and installation process for specific models of vehicles in accordance with automotive standards. The air bag issue is one element that will be considered as part of the assessment.
Graham Robinson, Taxi and Private Hire General Manager at TfL added in a notice sent to the two industries: “We have received a large number of applications from private hire operators, individual private hire drivers and some suppliers of partitions and our dialogue with these applicants continues.
“Our role is to ensure the installation of any such screen, and the materials used, comply with government and industry regulations and TfL’s requirements as the licensing authority.”