The DfT report into taxi and private hire vehicle licensing has now been released.
Welcomed by many, including Wes Streeting, chair of the all party parliamentary group on taxis as well as Steve MacNamara at the LTDA, Gett, MyTaxi, LEVC and TfL to name but a few, the wide-reaching report highlights what changes are required to the current legislation, so as to bring it into the 21st century. The report was compiled by Task and Finish Group Chair, Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq.
So what are the new proposals?
Here is a brief overview of the recommendations put forward within the 68 page document.
There must be an urgent revision of taxi and PHV legislation, providing a safe, up to date structure, in which a two-tier system can be effectively policed.
A national minimum standard for both taxi and private hire licensing, which incorporates drivers vehicles and operators must be put into place by government.
The national minimum standard must be set at a high level so as to ensure passenger safety, with a panel consisting of regulators, passenger safety groups, and operator representatives, determining what that minimum standard should be on a nationwide basis.
Best practice guidance must be updated. Consistency must be achieved ahead of a national minimum standard, therefore licensing authorities must not be allowed to deviate from recommendations, except under exceptional circumstances.
Authorities should also collaborate with neighbouring licensing areas, so as to reduce variations in licensing requirements.
In the short term, the London licensing model should be emulated by authorities in large urban areas, thus combining those areas into a single licensing area.
In non-metropolitan areas, collaboration between smaller authorities should be normal practice, with a progress review over the next three years.
A statutory definition of both plying for hire and pre-booking meeds to be introduced into legislation by Government.
Within this definition, the use of technology and vehicle clustering must be considered. Taxis must retain the sole right to ply for hire.
A panel of regulatory experts should be assembled by Government to explore and draft the aforemenrioned definitions.
App providers and radio circuits should be required to meet the same licensing requirements as PHV operators.
Where wheelchair accessible vehicles or zero-emission capable vehicles are required or available, Government should mitigate the additional costs faced by the industry.
Legislation should be put into place to allow licensing authorities to introduce a cap, where there is a proven need.
Enforcement should be able to cross-border, so if a driver from one area is stopped by a compliance officer from another area, the same enforcement requirements will ensue when crossing into another authorities licensing area.
Legislation should be brought forward to allow enforcement and compliance against PHVs or taxis breaching the national minimum standard as well as a requirement that all taxi and PHV journeys should start and/or end within the area that issued the relevant licences.
Government should bring in legislation decreeing that all taxi and PHV journeys should start and/or end within the area for which the driver, vehicle and operator are licensed, with measures put in place to allow specialist sevices to continue. Operators should not be prevented from holding multiple licenses.
Licensing authorities should ensure fees are appropriately set so as to facilitate enforcement, licensing and admin.
Government should introduce legislation to allow TfL to regulate pedicabs.
Fixed penalty notices should be issued for minor taxi amd PHV infractions.
Explicit consent must be given for all rideshare journeys at point of booking
The DfT must launch a consultation on a draft of its Statory Guidance to local authorities.
The guidance should outline a licensing authorities responsibility pertaining to vulnerable passengers
All licensed vehicles must be fitted with audio/visual CCTV, subject to data protection measures.
This should be implemented ahead of any legislation pertaining to national minimum standards.
Both Government and local authorities should examine ways of mitigating the cost to both taxi drivers and PHV drivers who install CCTV in their vehicles.
A clear distinction should be made between taxis, PHVs and unlicensed vehicles must be part of a national standard so as to assist the public.
All drivers should have clearly visible identification such as a badge or other identification.
PHVs must be required to provide information to passengers, including driver photo ID and the vehicle licence number prior to any journey undertaken.
All drivers must obtain an enhanced DBS check. This must be implemented ahead of the introduction of any national minimum standard.
Drivers should be required to subscribe to the DBS update system, and checks should be carried out a minimum of every six months .
Guidance must be issued by Government which clearly specifies convictions that it considers should be grounds for refusal or revocation of driver licences and the period for which these exclusions should apply.
Provision must be reviewed and uodated to ensure as much relevant information of conduct as well as crimes, by taxi and PHV drivers (and applicants) is disclosed ensuring that licensing authorities are
informed immediately of any relevant incidents.
Licensing authorities should use the National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN) register of drivers who have been refused or had revoked taxi or PHV driver licence. All those cases must be recorded, and the database checked for all licence applications and renewals. Licensing authorities must record the reasons for any refusal, suspension or revocation and provide those to other authorities as appropriate.
A national database of all licensed taxi and PHV drivers, vehicles and operators, must be set up by Government.
All taxi and private hire drivers must undertake safeguarding/child sexual abuse and exploitation awareness training.
All those involved in licensing decisions must undertake appropriate training.
Government must review the assessment process of passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) licensed drivers and/or consideration of the appropriate boundary between taxis/PHVs and public service vehicles (PSVs).
All taxi and private hire drivers must be able to communicate in English at both a written amd oral level.
All taxi and private hire drivers should be required to undergo disability quality and awareness training.
Licensing authorities that have low levels of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) in their taxi and PHV fleet should ascertain if there is unmet demand for these vehicles.
In areas with unmet demand licensing authorities should consider how existing powers could be used to address this, including making it mandatory to have a minimum number of their fleet that are WAVs.
Licensing authorities which have not already done so should set up lists of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) in compliance with s.167 of the Equality Act 2010, to ensure that passengers receive the protections which this provides.
Licensing authorities should use their existing enforcement powers to take strong action where disability access refusals are reported, to deter future cases. They should also ensure their systems and processes make it as easy as possible to report disability access refusals.
Licensing authorities should take into account any evidence of a person or business flouting employment law, and with it the integrity of the National Living Wage, as part of their test of whether that person or business is "fit and proper" to be a PHV or taxi operator.
Government should urgently review the evidence and case for restricting the number of hours that taxi and PHV drivers can drive, on the same safety grounds that restrict hours for bus and lorry drivers.