A new set of national minimum standards for taxi and private hire vehicle licensing has been put forward in a report prepared for the Department of Transport.
The Task and Finish Group has made 34 recommendations to keep passengers safe and limit the rapid growth in numbers of taxi and private hire vehicles operating across the country.
Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq said; “In scoping the work together we were determined, above all, to chart a future which ensured public safety for all, a working environment for those in the trade which guaranteed fair working conditions and whilst maintaining a competitive, dynamic market, preserved the character, integrity and aesthetics of this time-honoured trade.”
The report recommends national minimum standards for all drivers and operators including enhanced DBS and barred list checks, mandatory disability and equality awareness training, child/adult safeguarding awareness training and basic English.
A further recommendation calls for legislation to prevent taxi and private hire vehicle drivers working wherever they choose, regardless of which local authority licenses them.
The review follows the use of taxis and private hire vehicles in organised instances of assault, such as in Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford, where it notes that licensed drivers took part in or enabled sexual abuse of children and attacks on passengers.
It states that having CCTV installed in taxis and private hire vehicles would give passengers confidence in their own safety and also protect drivers from attack or abuse. In the course of the review, the trade body United Private Hire Drivers said that half of the drivers it had surveyed had been threatened or assaulted and that 57 per cent had been racially abused while working.
Stewart Wright, Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ taxi licensing specialist, said: “With 34 recommendations, the report is comprehensive. It aims to balance the needs of the public, drivers, and operating companies to create a system which is fit for purpose. The review sets out standards which will apply across the country so that passengers know what they are getting each time they step into a taxi or private hire vehicle.
“It does not close the market off to new entrants, which is welcome, but it does stress the value of existing services – drivers and licensing authorities will have to adjust to new ways of working, but the new standards should make their lives safer too.”