In a lot of UK cities and towns, the taxi industry has thankfully seen a strong resurgence in custom since coronavirus restrictions were dropped in 2022.
The positive signs of growth and demand for taxi services has however provided the opportunity for some cabbies to begin the unsavoury art of ‘brooming’ away work they don’t want.
Refusing job offers is seen as both unprofessional within the industry and frustrating for passengers looking for a taxi. It can also become a more serious problem if members of the public are left in vulnerable situations.
Most taxi drivers do not broom work and can expect a stern telling off from colleagues behind them on taxi ranks or on the street. Refusing less lucrative short rides when it’s your turn at the ‘point’ of a rank is simply a big no! Cabbies should always take the rough with the smooth and luck will inevitably balance itself out.
It’s not always short rides that are broomed. Some drivers don’t like driving too far outside city centres due to the ‘dead mileage’ or lack of fare when driving back in.
Last summer, police and licensing officers in Plymouth carried out a series of operations following a spike in complaints about drivers refusing long journeys from the city centre.
Plymouth taxi licensing officers carried out 17 test purchase rides of hackney carriages. Of those, two drivers refused to take the test purchasers home to Southway.
The drivers were interviewed under caution in relation to offences under the Town Police Clause Act 1847 for refusing journeys without reasonable excuse.
What is the law on brooming and what is seen as a ‘reasonable excuse’?
S.53 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 states:
“A driver of a hackney carriage standing at any of the stands for hackney carriages appointed by the commissioners, or in any street, who refuses or neglects, without reasonable excuse, to drive such carriage to any place within the prescribed distance, or the distance to be appointed by any byelaw of the commissioners, not exceeding the prescribed distance to which he is directed to drive by the person hiring or wishing to hire such carriage, shall for every such offence be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.”
Stephen McCaffrey, a regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and PHV law, said: “A driver of a taxi (or hackney carriage) can only refuse to carry passengers within a controlled district if he has reasonable excuse to do so. What constitutes “reasonable excuse” is ultimately a matter for a court of law to determine.
“What is certain however is, that refusing a fare based on the fact that the journey is too short will not pass the reasonable excuse test. Drivers of taxis are under a duty to provide local public transport services. To this end, every person who wishes to undertake a journey in a taxi (provided it is within the controlled distance) is entitled to do so and this right is protected in law.
“Taxi drivers face the possibility of a criminal conviction, a fine and the possibility of losing their taxi licence if they are found guilty of an offence under section 53 as stated above.”
The effects of brooming
Whatever the reason, brooming is not welcomed. Whether it be refusing short, long or fares travelling in the ‘wrong direction’. Whether it be refusing ramp access to disabled passengers or turning away working dogs. It’s unacceptable.
Anthony Street, Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) Executive, once spoke on the subject of brooming and said, ‘you’re not only letting yourself down but also giving a bad name to the entire trade’. He is spot on.
Any industry or brand is only as strong as its weakest link.