With the government response on the Task and Finish Group Report on Taxis and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing now complete, it has emerged that the government could be looking to bring in legislation which would control cross-border hiring.
In their report, the Task and Finish Group (TFG) stated that Government should legislate that all taxi and PHV journeys should start and/or end within the area for which the driver, vehicle and operator are licensed.
The report also said that appropriate measures should be in place to allow specialist services such as chauffeur and disability transport services to continue to operate cross border.
The TSG report finally added that operators should not be restricted from applying for and holding licences with multiple authorities, subject to those operators meeting both national standards and any additional requirements imposed by the relevant licensing authority.
The government responded in their report by saying that there are clearly a range of views within the sector as to how cross-border journeys by taxis and PHVs should be permitted or restricted.
They then went on to say that although currently, a PHV journey can take place anywhere in England provided that the driver, vehicle and operator are licensed by the same licensing authority, the licensing requirements in different areas can vary considerably.
The government report then recognised that such variations, combined with the freedom to carry out journeys anywhere, can incentivise drivers or operators to obtain a license away from the area where they actually intend to carry out work, thus undermining the ability of local licensing authorities to set and maintain taxi and PHV standards for their area.
The government acknowledged that a national minimum standard will go some way towards resolving enforcement problems pertaining to cross-border hiring.
Surprisingly, The Suzy Lamplugh Trust have stated in its comments on
the TFG report that it did not support legislation to control cross-border hiring, primarily because the introduction of a
national minimum standard would resolve the current practice of drivers choosing
which licensing authority to obtain their licence from based on weaker safety checks.
It was noted by the government in their response to the TFG report that even with a national minimum standard in place, there will still be variations in licensing conditions which may also encompass licensing costs and processing times.
The government has said that it does not intend to remove the ability of licensing authorities to set their own local standards in matters not covered by a national minimum standard, or above and beyond those minimum standards. They have recognised that local authorities are
accountable for licensing in their areas and should continue to have the powers to properly shape and influence their local market.
The government then went on to finally say that they agree with the principle of the recommendation made by the TFG on cross-border hiring and will consider the matter further, with a view to bringing in legislation and how it might best work in detail.
Among the issues surrounding legislation, which may need to be addressed are area size, flexibilities and exemptions, impact on business models, transport types, and the impact on passengers and businesses which are close to any given licensing areas borders.
As with any report, there will no doubt be ammendments along the way before any proposed legislation is passed through parliament.