Taxi blog, By James T H Button

What you think about when you get into a taxi (which for this blog means either a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle)? Probably where you’re going to: that could be home, out for the evening, to a railway station or hotel, or to the shops. You might also be thinking about what you’ve been doing before you got in the taxi; an evening out with friends or family, a theatre trip, shopping or work. What is quite likely is that you’re not thinking at all about the driver, the vehicle or the firm you booked through (if it’s a private hire vehicle).

And that is quite correct, because you shouldn’t have to think about that. All those people hold licences to enable them to transport you comfortably, safely and conveniently.

The driver is the person that you will have direct contact with in the vehicle, and they will have been assessed to be a “fit and proper” person to meet the responsibilities and requirements of being a taxi driver. He or she will have provided an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Certificate to the Licensing Authority (Transport for London within Greater London, Local Authorities outside Greater London); they must have held a full driving licence for at least a year; and they must have the right to remain in work in the UK. In addition, they have probably had to satisfy a medical test; may have received training on disabilities, safeguarding and child sexual exploitation; and may have also passed a driving test or a test of their knowledge of the area. They are people you can rely on to drive you, your family and your friends safely, and have their passengers welfare as their main consideration.

The vehicle must meet the Licensing Authority’s requirements in terms of ease of entry and exit, space for passengers and luggage, as well as the means of identifying it as a licensed vehicle. In some cases it may be constructed to carry wheelchair-bound passengers who wish to remain in a wheelchair for the journey, and there may be other features to assist people with other disabilities. Many Licensing Authorities also impose limits on either the age of the vehicle, or require it to meet strict emission limits. Before the vehicle is licensed it will have been tested by the Licensing Authority to ensure that it is satisfactory both mechanically and cosmetically, and then will be tested regularly for the duration of the time that it is a licensed vehicle.

If you have made a booking for a private hire vehicle via private hire operator, that operator will also have been assessed to be “fit and proper” to have the responsibility for taking bookings for the vehicle. They can be trusted to not only compile the necessary information to enable your vehicle and driver to arrive at the correct time and place to pick you up, but then store that personal information in accordance with the statutory requirements and ensure that it is not used inappropriately.

All this activity behind the scenes requires high levels of professionalism and cooperation on the part of both the licensees and the Licensing Authorities and it is a testament to both of those that in most cases you never even have to think about how the system works. On rare occasions where the service provided is not satisfactory, or as a passenger you have cause for concern about the driver, the vehicle or the operator, you should contact the licensing authority who can then consider whether or not they should retain their drivers licence.

James T H Button

President, Institute of Licensing