Taxi cross border hiring is a term that refers to the practice of taxi and private hire vehicles (PHVs) working outside the area where they are licensed. This means that a driver and a vehicle licensed by one local authority can pick up and drop off passengers in another local authority's area, as long as the booking is made through an operator licensed by the same authority.
This practice is legal under the current legislation, which allows taxis and PHVs to undertake pre-booked work anywhere in England and Wales. However, it is also controversial, as it raises several issues and concerns for the taxi industry, the licensing authorities, and the public.
Why is it controversial?
Taxi cross border hiring is controversial for several reasons, such as:
It creates an uneven playing field for the taxi and PHV industry, as different local authorities have different standards and requirements for licensing drivers and vehicles. Some authorities may have lower fees, less rigorous checks, or more lenient policies than others. This may encourage drivers to seek licenses from authorities that are easier or cheaper to obtain, rather than from the ones where they intend to work. This may also result in lower quality and safety standards for the passengers and the public.
It undermines the local democracy and accountability of the licensing authorities, as they have no control or oversight over the drivers and vehicles that operate in their area. They cannot enforce their own rules or regulations, or respond to the complaints or feedback from their residents. They also lose out on the revenue from licensing fees and taxes that could be used to improve their services or infrastructure.
It creates confusion and frustration for the passengers and the public, as they may not be aware of the origin or status of the drivers and vehicles that they use. They may not know which authority to contact if they have any issues or concerns, or how to check the validity or quality of the service. They may also face difficulties in finding a taxi or PHV in their area, as some drivers may prefer to work in areas where there is more demand or higher fares.
What are the possible solutions?
Taxi cross border hiring is a complex and contentious issue that has no easy or simple solution. However, some of the possible measures that could be taken to address it are:
Reforming and harmonising the legislation and regulation of the taxi and PHV sector, to create a consistent and fair framework across the country. This could include setting minimum national standards for licensing drivers and vehicles, simplifying and modernising the licensing system, and ensuring fair and consistent enforcement across all authorities.
Crucially it will need the Government to engaging and consult with all the stakeholders involved in the taxi and PHV sector, including the industry representatives, the licensing authorities, and the passengers and the public, to understand their views and perspectives, and to find a balanced and mutually acceptable solution.
Taxi cross border hiring is a legal loophole or a fair practice depending on who you ask. It has both benefits and drawbacks for different parties.