Updated: Jan 15
The RMT’s Mick Lynch has urged Transport for London (TfL) to review and amend a new taxi driver policy that could see drivers lose their licence for accruing just six penalty points.
Since the policy was announced, taxi driver representatives have queried why cabbies risk having their taxi licence REVOKED, yet a new applicant for the role of London bus driver can APPLY for a job with the same six points on their licence.
Taxi drivers in the capital have shown widespread dismay at a new driver policy change that could see their licences SUSPENDED or REVOKED for totting up just 6 driver’s licence penalty points.
Changes to the new policy include:
For an offence of driving without reasonable consideration, if the courts award 6 or more points, the penalty from TfL could be a licence revocation. If the courts gave less than 6 points TfL could issue a three-month licence suspension.
For an offence of using a handheld mobile phone, which carries a mandatory 6 points TfL could revoke a licence.
More than one conviction for a major driving offence within the last five years would merit a licence refusal and no further application would be considered until at least seven years after the most recent conviction.
Any driver accumulating nine or more penalty points will receive a warning that incurring additional points is likely to result in the loss of their taxi licence.
Licensed taxi drivers who accumulate 12 penalty points on or after 20 December 2021 will have their taxi licence suspended for six months regardless of whether they are disqualified from driving and lose their DVLA driving licence or not.
The RMT’s General Secretary Mick Lynch wrote a letter addressed to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, expressing concern at the policy which affects both black cab and private hire vehicle (PHV) drivers in the capital.
The contents of the letter was shared by RMT’s Paul Bond on social media. The letter reads:
I'm writing to you regarding concerns raised with me by members in the London Taxi trade about Tf's updated Taxi and PH Policy. We share with you the concern that the Taxi trade should be a service that the public can trust and we believe it has that reputation. Our members provide a high-quality, accessible public service demanding a high level of skil that forms an essential part of London's transport eco-system.
However, I have to point to some clear injustices and inconsistencies within the policy document I've seen, dated March 2022 that I think warrant more consultation and some revision.
1. Firstly, the application of penalties for driving offences seems overly draconian and inconsistent. Under the current policy, an existing license holder who is convicted of an endorsable major driving offence faces, in most cases, revocation of their license.
This indudes offences such as using a hand-held device or mobile phone which carries a six-point penalty. In effect a taxi driver can lose their livelihood for having six points on their license. By contrast, I would point out that TfL expects a lower standard from its fleet of bus drivers. Each of the operators who contract with TfL to provide bus services is currently recruiting bus drivers with 'no more than six points' on their license. A conviction of the same offence therefore carries a different penalty. There are currently around 25,000 bus drivers operating in London, compared with 18,000 taxi drivers. If the primary concern here is public safety then the same standard should be applied to all or this needs to be looked at again.
2. Secondly, I would point out a similar inequity in the processes used to address such disciplinary offences. A taxi driver can have their license suspended or revoked by TfL officers without a hearing in advance of the decision. They can only speak for themselves at an appeal hearing chaired by a TfL officer who cannot make a report, cannot make recommendations and no record is kept. This is a poor standard of natural justice and compares badly with the kind of disciplinary process that an employer like TfL or one of its sub-contractors would be expected to follow in regard to an employee. It should not be impossible to devise a fair process for determining whether a driver is 'it and proper' that does not penalise taxi drivers for their self-employed status.
3. Finally, I would draw your attention to the fact that this aspect of TfL's policy also appears to be at odds with the Department for Transport's Statutory and Best Practice Guldance, published in July 2022. This recommends that Licensing Authorities operate with a Regulatory Committee or Board that is convened at periodic intervals to determine licensing matters, with individual cases being considered by a panel of elected and suitably trained councillors drawn from a larger Regulatory Committee or Board.' This 'ensures the appropriate level of separation between decision makers and those that investigate complaints against licensees, and is the most effective method in allowing the discharge of the functions in accordance with the general principles referred to in 5.4’. The principles referred to in 5.4 of the guidance state that in licensing decisions:
the rules of natural justice should be observed.
decisions must be reasonable and proportionate.
where a hearing is required it should be fairly conducted and allow for appropriate consideration of all relevant factors.
decision makers must avoid bias (or even the appearance of bias) and predetermination.
TfL's policy has no oversight by elected officers, with power to make initial decisions, to chair and conduct hearings and to decide on their outcomes all lying with TfL Licensing Officials. I believe that on these grounds, Tfl's policy is flawed, does not follow the rules of natural justice, is open to bias and predetermination and for the reasons pointed out above fails to be reasonable and proportionate.
I'm asking you to instruct TfL officers to look again at this policy urgently and agree to meet with our members with a remit to amend it to address the weaknesses I've identified.
I look forward to your response at the earliest opportunity