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Wolverhampton Council hit back at private hire drivers who have unapproved COVID-19 screens

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Wolverhampton Council have slammed private hire drivers who have installed unapproved partition screens, ordering them to remove them immediately.

With lockdown slowly easing and public travel starting up again, the debate continues over whether partition screens should be installed in all taxi and private hire vehicles.

Many cities that use traditional hackney carriage taxis will already know that those vehicles come with factory fitted partitions. But as private hire vehicles up and down the country are mainly estate and saloon type cars, they operate with a complete open cabin set-up.

To encourage travel within those vehicles and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, many drivers have turned to temporary screens.

But many licensing authorities have chosen to take the route of only allowing partitions which have been pre-approved to be installed, as with Wolverhampton Council.

Those drivers who have installed non-approved screens are now being told they must take them out of the vehicles.

The City of Wolverhampton Licensing Authority have released a statement detailing the use of partitions: “Condition 2.1 of the licence for private hire vehicles states ‘No material alteration or change in the specification, design, condition or appearance of the vehicle shall be made without the prior approval of Licensing Services.’ “Furthermore, in the cases where the company advertises itself on the partitions – Condition 5. SIGNS, NOTICES, ADVERTISEMENTS states ‘No signs, notices, advertisements, plates, marks, numbers, letters, figures, symbols, emblems or devices whatsoever shall be displayed on, in or from the vehicle without the express written permission of Licensing Services.’ “Therefore, no partitions, screens, safety guards should have been fitted to any licensed vehicle without the prior approval of Licensing Services.  No approval has been given to any vehicle proprietor and as such any screens fitted are in breach of their licence condition. “The safety of the public is of paramount importance to the Licensing Authority and as such, much like the Government, we follow the science.  There is no evidence available that demonstrates that partitions reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 infection. Partitions do not provide a fully sealed compartment which completely separates the driver from the passenger. Therefore, whilst it is possible that partitions might reduce the risk of transmission of infection, the risk would not be eliminated entirely. “The current position of the Licensing Authority is that prior approval for partitions are not being authorised. However, further advice is currently being sought and should the advice change, the position would be reconsidered. “Moreover, there are other points that would also need clarifying before any partition would be given approval:

  • Assurance that a product is compliant with government and industry regulations, for example the Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations and relevant safety, UK and European Community (EC) legislation.

  • Evidence that the product has been tested to relevant EU standards and approved by appropriate certification organisation.

  • Safety certification or manufacturers assurance of the impact on passengers during a crash.

  • Directions about how screens should be fitted, for example by a professional in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Specification of what screens should be constructed of, for example PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified) or polycarbonate.

  • That screens do not impede the driver’s vision, movement, or communication with passengers, or the driver or passenger access or egress to the vehicle.

  • Confirmation from the manufacturer that the installation does not compromise the integrity of the vehicle’s structure and safety features.

  • Insurance certification, confirming the acceptance that the partition does not affect the insurance policy.

  • Cleaning regimes – conditional requirement to wipe down the partition after every fare. The presence of partitions may also increase the transmission of Covid-19, where the virus is deposited onto a screen which has not been wiped down, the virus can linger for many hours (up to 72 hours for metals and plastics), thus passing the infection onto other passengers.

  • Request for a new licence to be issued, reducing the number of permitted passengers. Obviously the insertion of a partition would render the front seat redundant, thus reducing the permitted number of passengers.

“While this appears to be a long and onerous list, as previously stated, the safety of the public is of paramount importance and simply going along with populistic trends cannot be allowed to impede on the public’s safety.”

Image credit: Pixabay


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