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TAXI LAWS: Who can drive a licensed taxi or PHV?

In an effort to maintain safety and security in the taxi industry, authorities place significant importance on ensuring that only licensed individuals operate licensed vehicles.

PC Patrick Quinton, the Avon and Somerset Taxi Compliance Officer, sheds light on the guidelines via a useful handout that details the rules that must be adhered to by both taxi drivers and vehicle owners.

A Hackney Carriage or Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) is considered a licensed vehicle when it possesses a current licence granted by a Licensing Authority, typically a local council. However, if a licence is suspended, the vehicle loses its licensed status for the duration of the suspension.

It is crucial for drivers to understand that driving a licensed vehicle without a proper driver's licence constitutes an offense. The licence of the driver must be granted by the same council that licenses the vehicle. This means for example, a Bristol licensed driver cannot operate a South Gloucestershire licensed vehicle, nor can a Private Hire driver operate a Hackney Carriage.

PC Quinton goes on to emphasise the importance of compliance with the law, indicating that the penalties for violating these regulations can amount to fines of up to £1,000. Simply put, the absence of a valid badge equates to the inability to operate a licensed vehicle, irrespective of the purpose or necessity of its use.

The rules prohibiting unlicensed individuals from driving licensed vehicles also extend to situations involving partners or family members. Even if they are insured to drive the vehicle or taxi plates are removed, the requirement for a valid licence remains unchanged. With regard to this issue, the court cases of Benson v Boyce (1997) for Private Hire Vehicles and Yates v Gates (1970) for Hackney Carriages establish legal precedence for reinforcing the ‘no badge, no drive’ principle.

In cases where a driver's badge has expired, been suspended, or revoked, it is still illegal to operate the vehicle. To rectify this situation, individuals must surrender their licence and, depending on the circumstances, the vehicle licence may also be suspended. However, the driver is prohibited from using the vehicle for 21 days after the suspension comes into effect due to an appeal period. The removal of taxi plates and the temporary transfer to the council is a necessary step until the licence is reinstated.

Allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a licensed vehicle carries significant legal consequences. Not only can the driver face prosecution, but the owner of the vehicle may also be charged with aiding and abetting the offense. If the driver is uninsured, the owner may face additional charges for permitting the use of a vehicle without insurance. In some cases, such matters are reported to the relevant council, and the licensee's suitability to retain their licence may be reconsidered.

While there are exceptions that permit mechanics to drive licensed vehicles for testing and repairs, employing an unlicensed driver to transport the vehicle to or from a garage is strictly prohibited, as per the Transport Act 1980.


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