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Government’s New Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Guidance Warmly Received

Trade associations have given their seal of approval to the government’s recently announced taxi and private hire licensing guidance. This long-awaited publication, last updated in 2010, is intended to help local licensing authorities understand their responsibilities to both drivers and passengers.

The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) described the guidance as “excellent.”  The trade body said that they had submitted “a considerable response to the government’s best practice guidance consultation in June 2022” and are pleased that the outcomes “have broadly aligned” with their input across multiple areas. Chairman Steve Wright said, “We are delighted that so much of what the LPHCA has been advocating has been listened to and included formally into government guidance.”  “We are grateful to the DfT and government” for this, new guidance.

Likewise, David Lawrie Director of the National Private Hire & Taxi Association (NPHTA) had good things to say despite expressing frustration at the length of time it has taken to be produced,“ Finally the new Best Practice Guidance has been released.” “We have to say that it is mostly comprehensive, it introduces some common sense approaches and is very supportive of the industry.”

In the new guidance, one of the big themes is accessibility for passengers, particularly those with disabilities and guide dogs.

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The Government’s Definition of Private Hire

To understand these new guidelines, it is first essential to understand the definition of private hire vehicles and the current framework in place.

While the legislation gives a broad definition, it is important to consider various factors to determine whether a vehicle falls under private hire licensing. The government believes that licensing authorities should avoid adopting blanket policies for specific types of services. Instead, they should carefully assess the unique circumstances of each case.

The Government’s Guide for Licensing Authorities

In the new guidance, the government addresses several key areas of licensing to help authorities make sensible, consistent and informed decisions. The LPHCA list the topics that are covered as being:

  • Points-based enforcement systems
  • Driver licensing: driver proficiency
  • Driver licensing: vocational training and assessment
  • Topographical assessments for PHV drivers
  • Vehicle checks by drivers – daily vehicle checks
  • Vehicle licensing: vehicle safety ratings – Euro NCAP
  • Vehicle licensing: seating capacity passenger count
  • Vehicle licensing: tinted windows
  • Vehicle licensing: vehicle testing – details of vehicle tests
  • Vehicle age limits
  • Vehicle licensing: vehicle identification and signage
  • Private hire vehicle livery
  • Vehicle licensing: door sign and displaying PHV operator details
  • Using the term ‘taxi’ on private hire vehicles
  • Sample notices between taxi, PHV driver and passenger

Moving towards accessibility in private hire

One of the biggest updates in the guidance emphasises the need to create accessibility for passengers with disabilities and guide dog owners.

Local councils are encouraged to act against drivers who discriminate against these passengers, including issuing fines and suspending licenses when necessary. PHV operators are advised to assess passengers’ accessibility needs before accepting bookings so that they can provide the proper support or an appropriate vehicle.

The guidance suggests that councils should promote wheelchair-accessible vehicles and ensure they are safe and convenient for a wide range of passengers. Licensing authorities should assess the mix of vehicles in their area to meet the needs of their community.

“Disabled people rely on taxi and private hire vehicles services, and it’s unacceptable for people to be unlawfully discriminated against when travelling.

These services must cater for disabled people’s needs, and local authorities should take action now to ensure drivers and operators understand their duties so everyone can travel with confidence.”

Secretary of State for Roads and Local Transport, Guy Opperman

Supporting the Industry for the Future

The government’s updated guidance also aims to support the taxi and private-hire industry by reducing unnecessary burdens. For instance, licensing fees should also be regularly reviewed to ensure they are fair and reasonable for everyone.

The release of the updated Best Practice Guidance for Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing is a significant development in the regulation of the industry. It emphasises the importance of accessibility, particularly for passengers with disabilities, while streamlining the licensing process and reducing unnecessary burdens on drivers and operators.

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