London’s taxi and private hire drivers should wear face coverings AT ALL TIMES or face ‘licensing action’ if they fail to comply, confirms the capital’s regulator.
The UK’s biggest taxi and private hire authority, Transport for London (TfL), sent out a notice to drivers on Friday 25 September stating that they were ‘expected’ to wear face coverings whilst working. Drivers found not to be complying were to face ‘licensing action’.
TfL has since confirmed that drivers must wear face coverings even when no passengers are travelling in the vehicle or when a taxi is waiting for a fare on a cab rank.
The threat of licensing action comes despite the Department for Transport (DfT) confirming that like all transport workers, taxi drivers are not legally required to wear a face covering while in their workplace. The DfT did however strongly advise drivers to wear face masks where possible.
Graham Robinson, TfL Taxi and Private Hire General Manager, wrote in September: “The aim is to achieve high rates of compliance with wearing face coverings, rather than high rates of enforcement.
“We are pleased that the majority of drivers are already complying with these clear instructions and Compliance Officers will continue to engage with both drivers and passengers.
“However, if a driver fails to comply, without a valid exemption, it may result in licensing action.”
The threat of licensing action goes against the decision taken by another major UK city. Liverpool City Council confirmed that taxi drivers remain exempt from the legal requirement after growing confusion within the industry.
Liverpool City Council (LCC) Licensing Manager, Kevin Johnson, said: “For the avoidance of doubt this legal requirement does not apply to the driver of the Hackney Carriage or Private Hire Vehicle - the current Government Guidance is that face covering should be worn by drivers but this is advisory only and not a legal requirement.”
LCC licensing were also quick to release a statement stating that drivers will not be liable of an offence should they carry a passenger not wearing a face mask.
For passengers the use of face coverings is now mandatory. Relevant exemptions will continue to apply for those with health, disability, or other reasons in line with the current face coverings on public transport regulations.
The penalty for passengers failing to wear a face covering will be £200 for a first offence, doubling each time to a maximum fine of £6,400. This is in line with penalties for breaking the rule of six.
TfL told TaxiPoint that so far no cab drivers have lost their licence during the COVID-19 pandemic due to failing to wear a face covering. It is hoped that the drastic measure of licence revocation will remain a last resort option for the transport regulators.
Last week transport officials from the Department for Transport (DfT) urged taxi drivers and private hire operators to promote the mandatory face covering requirements to passengers as compliance in taxis and minicab fell behind other modes of transport.
According to sources, there has been high levels of face covering compliance across the public transport network since the regulations were introduced, with the latest ONS figures showing usage to be at 91%.
However, using industry feedback, the DfT has been made aware that compliance is not as high in taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV) as it is across the rest of the network.