Regular visitors to the Plan blog will be aware that we have been actively lobbying both Government and the insurance industry to implement improved systems for detecting uninsured taxi and private hire drivers.
The problem is feared to be widespread. These fraudulent drivers not only present a serious risk to public safety risk - they also potentially cost honest motorists millions of pounds every year.
Our proposal for an online Taxi Insurance Checker (TIC) portal would allow Police and compliance officers across the country access to the information required to instantly and accurately validate a driver’s cover at any time. Crucially it would confirm whether the driver is insured for “Carry passengers for the purposes of hire and reward.”
During our 12 month campaign we have undertaken the following initiatives:
- Lobbying numerous trade organisations for support including: UCG, LCDC, GMB, LPHCA and NTA
- Meeting TfL twice to present both our concerns and a workable solution
- Supplying key information to MP’s and Council representatives
- Publicly questioning TfL’s Director of Service Operations Peter Blake at two trade events
- Presenting at the National Taxi Association’s AGM
- Liaising with the Association of British Insurers
- Contacting the Motor Insurance Bureau
- Held discussions with a private sponsor from within the industry to fund development
The problem is believed to be worst in London due to the number of drivers operating in the area. During our meetings with TfL we highlighted concerns regarding the accuracy of their compliance teams checks against the Motor Insurance Bureau’s (MIB) records. We believe they are likely to be unreliable in relation to the type of insurance cover a driver has in place.
Taxi and private hire compliance officers do not only need to know whether a driver has a live insurance policy. They also require “class of use” information i.e. is the vehicle covered for Social, Domestic & Pleasure use only or is insurance actually in place for the “Carriage of passengers for the purposes of hire and reward.”
Crucially insurers are not currently required to supply “class of use” data to the Motor Insurance Database (MID.) For multiple reasons some insurers may opt out of providing this vital information. Therefore many of TfL’s compliance teams’ checks will be against a database that is only partially populated with the relevant details. We have repeatedly asked TfL to confirm with the MIB which taxi and private hire insurers supply “class of use” information to the MIB. Only then will we have a true answer as to how accurate the system is. As yet we have are still awaiting a response.
Larger compliance teams
In his taxi and private hire action plan the new mayor outlined plans to increase TfL’s compliance team from 82 to over 300. By summer 2017 there will be an additional 250 compliance officers in the capital. Steve Burton, TfL’s Director of Enforcement and On-Street Operations believes this will allow the regulator to, “Significantly increase levels of enforcement.” However with an estimated 125,000 taxi and licenced private hire drivers operating in London their potential to effectively root out the problem is debateable.
There is another serious flaw in the current system of detection. Due to data protection laws taxi and private hire operators are unable to access the MID to check details of their drivers’ cover. Instead they are forced to make time consuming phone calls to insurers that can ultimately prove fruitless or inaccurate.
A system such as TIC (Taxi Insurance Checker) would enable operators to check the relevant insurance information in a matter of seconds whilst circumnavigating data protection laws. This would empower the industry to self-regulate effectively. The cost of development would surely be insignificant compared to the bill of employing an additional 250 officers in the long-term.
TIC could also be developed to send an automated notification informing the relevant licencing authority if a driver or vehicle under their jurisdiction were to be removed from cover. The licence holder in question could then be contacted for further information. This would enable TfL to enforce their recent legislation that requires vehicles to be continuously covered for the purposes of “hire and reward” throughout the duration of its licence.
Continuing the campaign for a nationwide solution
In recent months we have been in contact to supply information to a councillor for Lewisham and Southwark, Florence Eshalomi. Florence is a member of the London Assembly sitting on both the Police and Crime and Transport Committees.
We have also received enquiries from representatives of councils across the UK that are interested in utilising a system such as TIC to help prevent taxi and private hire fraud.
This is a key point as an online portal similar in concept to our Taxi Insurance Checker (TIC) proposal would be a national solution that would enable effective taxi and private hire insurance enforcement across the entire UK.
If you’d like to read about TIC in more detail please click the link below:
TIC information pack
Operator level insurance
We’ve been in discussions with industry representatives regarding proposals that are being considered by TfL for operator level insurance. We’ve produced a blog (linked to below) that outlines our stance and highlighted several areas that we believe require careful consideration.
Any new legislation will need to be consulted on thoroughly before being implemented. Recent procedural changes were not discussed with representatives of the insurance industry, this coupled with a poorly worded email announcement and little notice prior to their introduction led to widespread confusion amongst drivers:
Although the introduction of mandatory operator level insurance could potentially be a money spinner for the insurance industry we don’t believe it is necessary. We also fear that ultimately the cost is likely to be passed to rental drivers in both the black cab and private hire industries.
However the problem of compliance teams being able to accurately assess the validity of a drivers’ insurance cover and the need for them to regularly carry out manual checks of individual owner drivers and larger operators’ documentation could persist. We believe a comparatively minor investment in the development of a simple tech platform that allows the industry to access the required information would be much more beneficial.
We welcome your feedback. Please feel free to send us your comments via twitter @planinsurance