Last month, the Government published the final report from its independent taxi licensing review in England. While the report recognises a number of issues with the legislation surrounding regulation of the sector, it fails to adequately address the pressing need for a national system of licensing.
The taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) industry has undergone significant changes in recent years, as market conditions have shifted to accommodate the rising popularity of smartphone booking apps such as Uber.
In response to these changes, in 2017 the Government commissioned an independent review to assess the adequacy of current taxi and PHV licensing authority powers, and to make recommendations for action on identified priority issues.
Time for change
The final report from this review, published at the end of September 2018, recognises that the legislation underpinning taxi and PHV licensing, much of which was written several decades ago, is not fit for purpose.
“PHV legislation was written for a world where radio signals were unlikely to reach outside the licensing authority area, and people had to go to a local minicab office, or telephone it using a landline, to book a car.”
Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Steps towards a safer and more robust system (2018)
The report makes a series of recommendations to both Government and licensing authorities, including the introduction of measures to improve passenger safety, such as the mandatory installation of CCTV in vehicles and the enforcement of national minimum standards for drivers.
It also recommends that all taxi and PHV journeys should start and/or end within the area for which the driver, vehicle and operator are licensed. This has significant implications for areas such as Birmingham, where many taxi and PHV drivers operate despite being licensed elsewhere.
However, the report fails to address what may be a broader solution to many of the issues facing the sector, and one that we have pointed to before: the implementation of a national system of regulation, similar to that used for HGVs and coaches.
Licensing of HGVs and coaches (in Scotland as well as in England and Wales) is the responsibility of a public body known as the Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain. Traffic Commissioners have a great deal of authority and autonomy, and their own system of public inquiries in which they can make findings of fact about drivers’ suitability. The introduction of such a system for taxis is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility.
This Government review is a promising step towards creating meaningful change in the regulation of taxi and PHV licensing. But, while any efforts to reform legislation by bringing it in line with the modern world are commendable, the failure to use this review to propose a genuine overhaul of the regulatory model represents a significant missed opportunity.
For more information on all taxi licensing matters, contact Regan or Gemma at email@example.com, or call 0121 201 3765.