Understandably a great deal of debate has been going on in the taxi and private hire industry regarding the use of PPE and imparticular vehicle partitioning. After lobbying from various trade bodies The Department of Transport published its ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): Safer Transport Guidance for Operators’ which contains relevant information on the subject.
We’re grateful to the Licensed Private Hire Car Asosciation (LPHCA) for forwarding these details to us , “The guide for operators will help organisations, agencies and others (such as self-employed transport providers) understand how to provide safer workplaces and services for themselves, their workers and passengers across all modes of private and public transport. Each transport provider will need to translate the principles and examples in this guidance into specific actions.”
On May 12th the DfT subsequetly provided additional guidance specifically for operators and passengers in England. We have compiled all contents below.
Department for Transport Guidance
Rupert Furness, Deputy Director of Local Transport COVID-19 Response at the Department for Transport supplied an additional letter and Q&A to taxi and private hire vehicle providers and licensing authorities in England only. It contains links to the wider documentation and answers to common questions to support the guidance DfT.
LOCAL TRANSPORT RESTART ENGLAND – Questions & Answers
What guidance has been published for the taxi and private hire vehicle sector?
The Government has published transport guidance on the safe provision of transport services during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are separate guidance documents for transport providers and for passengers. Both guidance documents cover all modes.
The guidance sets out government recommendations on who should be travelling and under what circumstances, and how social distancing rules should be interpreted. It also includes information about cleaning practices.
- Guidance for passengers
- Guidance for operators
- Guidance on clinically extremely vulnerable
- Guidance for households with a possible coronavirus infection
Should taxi and private hire vehicle drivers or passengers wear PPE such as a mask?
There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas.
We are advising passengers if they can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet – such as when travelling in a taxi or private hire vehicle.
A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.
Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by the law. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off. Use the guidance on face coverings to understand how to wear and make a face coverings.
Other measures such as changing habits, social distancing, screens, cleaning and hygiene are also suggested in the guidance.
Should protective barriers be installed between drivers and passengers?
The installation of protective barriers is a decision for licensing authorities, PHV operators and firm/individual operating the vehicle to make based on their own assessment of risk. They may also wish to consider:
- Eliminating the use of face-to-face passenger seating
- Use of ventilation
- Reducing occupancy to individual passengers in the back left-hand seat for vehicles that do not enable 2 metre separation; considering reducing occupancy in a larger vehicle
Can a taxi or PHV driver refuse to admit a passenger who is not wearing a face covering?
Taxi and PHV drivers are advised to make an assessment of risk as outlined in the transport operator guidance published on 12 May. The acceptance of a booking request by a PHV operator is a decision made based on the operator’s own assessment of risk. Any requirements for face coverings should be made clear to the passenger before the operator accepts the booking. Taxi drivers can use this assessment to determine whether or not it is reasonable to admit a passenger who is not wearing a face covering, considering other mitigations they put in place from their risk assessment. This does not however absolve them of their duties under the Equality Act 2010.
What support is the Government providing to the taxi and PHV sector?
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will allow taxi and PHV drivers to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.
Why are taxi and PHV drivers not considered critical workers?
Taxi and private hire drivers should not generally be considered critical workers. Those undertaking Home to School transport or the transport of ‘extremely vulnerable’ people may be considered critical workers on a case-by-case basis. Critical workers should make suitable arrangements for their children to stay at home where it is safe for them to do so; the need for children to attend school should be discussed with the school.
Can taxis and PHVs transport workers to and from hospitals?
Can taxis and PHVs transport passengers of ill health in and out of hospital?
Yes, but individuals should not use taxis or PHVs if:
- They have symptoms of COVID-19 – a new, continuous cough or a high temperature
- Any of your household are self-isolating due to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
Can taxi and PHV drivers support passengers with accessibility issues while maintaining social distancing?
Taxi and PHV drivers are still under the same obligation to provide reasonable assistance and make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. The guidance includes advice on measures that workers and passengers can take when it is not possible to maintain the recommended social distance.
DfT COVID-19 Safer Transport Guidance for Operators: Advice for Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers and Passengers on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The guidance was published yesterday and covers all modes of private and public transport. The full details can be found be following this link DfT Covid guidance . The below infomation is relevant advice for Taxi & PHV passengers.
Separate guidance has been published for passengers to outline who should be travelling and how social distancing rules should be observed across different points in journeys.
It is important that you review and implement these guidance documents if you are operating a taxi or private hire vehicle business, or are a self-employed driver.
- At taxi ranks try to keep your distance from people outside your household, where possible. Public Health England recommends keeping a 2 metre distance from others, where possible.
- Taxi and private hire vehicle (for example minicab) operators are likely to have put in place new measures to help with social distancing. When traveling in taxis or private hire vehicles follow the advice of the driver. For example, you may be asked to sit in the back left hand seat if travelling alone. You may want to check with your taxi operator before travelling if they have put any additional measures in place.
- If you need to be near other people you should avoid physical contact, try to face away from other people, and keep the time you spend near other people as short as possible. Be aware of the surfaces you or others touch.
- There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas.
- If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
- A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.
- Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by the law. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and after taking them off.
- When finishing your journey, we recommend you: follow local guidance and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible.
If you like to read more the links above will help you navigate the relevant sections. It’s important to note that the DfT state, “The guidance will continue to develop as lockdown restrictions change.”
Update from Transport for London Taxi & Private Hire
Additionally for those drivers under the remit of Transport for London Taxi & Private Hire (TfL TPH) they have issued a significant update via Notice 07/20. The information on screen partitions has bee extracted below.
Use of partitions or screens in taxis and PHVs
- Partitions or safety screens provide a physical barrier between drivers and passengers in the vehicle. They are commonly installed as a safety feature to protect the driver from physical attacks or theft. There has been an increase in interest of the use of screens as a way of providing physical separation between drivers and passengers in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
- Black taxis are already fitted with partitions between drivers and passengers. The majority of PHVs in London do not have partitions/safety screens installed. There are a wide variety of different makes and model of PHVs in London.
- There is no evidence available that demonstrates that partitions in taxis or PHVs reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 infection. Partitions in taxis or PHVs do not provide a fully sealed compartment which completely separates the driver from the passenger. Therefore, whilst it is possible that partitions may reduce the risk of transmission of infection, the risk would not be eliminated entirely. It is not possible for the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC) or Public Health England (PHE) to assess the likely effectiveness of screens in reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in taxis or PHVs.
- If drivers wish to install a partition or safety screen, vehicles will need to comply to government and industry regulations and TfL’s requirements as the licensing authority.
- If partitions or screens are used, they should be cleaned regularly (see Cleaning of vehicles), including between passenger journeys and changes of driver.
Whilst being relatively non-commital.The information above should offer some additional clarity for operators, drivers and the public. However it is not definitive and may change as the pandemic situation unfolds. For these reasons the LPHCA feels unable to give any advice on the subject and, ” Are only able to present the latest government or regulatory advice. The details of which are to the best of our knowledge are accurate at the time .”
However the National Taxi & Private Hire Asosciation (NPHTA) say they are, ” Totally in favour of the installation of temporary protective screens in licensed saloon taxis, private hire vehicles and mini buses. Not only do these screens provide the best available barrier against coronavirus droplets being transmitted between drivers and passenger they also offer the passenger some reassurance.” The body has sent a letter to all licensing authorities throughout the UK to urgently saction the approval of such screens.
The trade body is recommending the installation of screens such as those producded by Car n Cab Care Protective Screens in the Wirral that will cost car and MPV drivers between £300-400. Their system has already been approved by a host of licensing authorities including Liverpool City Council as well as many insurers. It appears authorities may be prepared to support the initiative with Leeds City Council announcing that they are, “permitting people who have had safety screens fitted of an approved design and installation to claim 50% up to £250 of the costs.”
Addison Lee to Install Partition Screens in Vehicles
The London Evening Standard reported on May 13th that Addison Lee will be installing perspex partition screens in their vehicles to protect drivers and passengers. The screens will separate the front of its cars from passengers in the rear of all of its 4000 vehicles.
Work on the fleet upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of May as more people are expected to use taxi and private hire vehicles due to fears about travelling on public transport. Chief executive Liam Griffin said of his drivers,
“Their safety is our number one priority, and why we’re investing in screens to protect them and their passengers.”
This is a significant investment on the part of the recently recapitalised Addison Lee with industry experts estimating that fitting the screens would cost in the region of £1 million. The firm clearly feels confident that an opportunity exists for the private hire sector out of the adversity, to play a vital role in ensuring, “That the public transport network is not overwhelmed.”
The London Taxi Driver Asosciation (LTDA) highlight on their Twitter feed the section of TfL’s update that states, “Any Partition must comply with all regulations & be approved by MIRA & certification from vehicle manufacturer.”
Presumably Addison Lee would have checked that the screens they’ve sourced meet these standards and are acceptable to TfL before making such a large capital outlay. It remains to be seen whether other operators such as Uber follow suit and provide funds for their drivers to install partitions. Time will tell if the screens are fit for purpose in terms of enhancing safety and also whether they provide a significant return on investment. Regardless of the financial element, we very much hope that they can prevent further loss of life amongst both drivers and passengers.
Follow this link for the full TfL TPH Corona related update.