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One in three London private hire driver candidates FAILS key TfL English and safety test

Transport for London (TfL) has disclosed via a Freedom of Information request that nearly one-third of Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) candidates have failed to meet the English Language Requirement (ELR) and Safety, Equality and Regulatory Understanding (SERU) test.

As of 10 December 2023, London boasts 106,149 licensed private hire drivers. Between 1 October 2021 and 1 October 2022, 5,201 licensees or applicants underwent the SERU assessment, and only 69 percent (3,612 candidates) successfully passed. This failure rate raises questions about the preparedness and suitability of a significant number of PHV drivers seeking to operate in the city.

The TfL SERU test, introduced following recommendations from the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2020, aims to ensure that all PHV drivers possess not only the necessary driving skills but also an adequate level of English proficiency and understanding of key regulatory matters. This test is part of the Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) Standards, which emphasises the importance of drivers being able to communicate effectively in English, both orally and in writing, with their customers.

The English Language Requirement (ELR) necessitates PHV drivers in London to demonstrate proficiency in English equivalent to B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), covering skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. This requirement is critical for effective communication with passengers and for ensuring safety and service quality.

Additionally, since 1 October 2021, TfL has altered the way they assess the English language skills of London PHV drivers. Alongside the speaking and listening test for satisfying the ELR, the SERU assessment was introduced to evaluate drivers' reading and writing skills, particularly their understanding of safety, equality, and regulatory issues.

The high failure rate in the SERU assessment points to a need for better training for would-be PHV drivers. This is crucial not only for compliance with licensing requirements but also for ensuring passenger safety and the aim for high service standards in London's PHV industry.


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