We would like the views from taxi drivers and passengers on some proposed changes to the conditions for a licence for hackney carriage and private hire vehicles (taxis) in Rother.
Taxi licenses are for the protection of the public, passengers and the taxi industry. For example, they ensure that vehicles and drivers meet set standards and are properly insured. You can read more about taxi and private hire licensing.
The council licenses the drivers of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, the drivers and the operators of private hire vehicles (businesses). These are all commonly called taxis. The difference is that hackney carriages apply for hire and wait at taxi ranks. Private hire vehicles can only be booked in advance through an operator. Some drivers can hold both licences.
Last November the Government published new best practice guidance with some changes. The council already meets most of the best practice guidance.
We propose to make some changes to meet the government’s new guidance.
Proposals for New Training Requirements
The government’s new guidance sets out in detail the requirement to ensure that disabled people are protected and that they can access taxis.
Our new policy is that from 1 April 2024 all new taxi drivers will be trained on:
- Disability awareness,
- Customer care: attitudes and behaviour towards all customers
- Safeguarding (the protection of children and vulnerable adults).
Existing or current drivers will be trained before they can renew their licence and this requirement for training will start after 1 October 2024. This is a recommendation from the government guidance. Note: drivers already receive training on identifying and acting on child sexual exploitation.
Also, our new policy will require all private-hire operators and their customer-facing staff to receive training on disability awareness, customer care: attitudes and behaviours and safeguarding. This would apply to new operators and staff from 1 April 2024 and existing operators and staff before their next licence renewal after 1 October 2024.
We would like to know your views on whether drivers should be required to take refresher training once a year on these three subjects, in addition to the training on licence renewal.
Proposals for the safety of passengers and drivers
Vehicle Age Limits
The government guidance has asked licensing authorities not to set targets that are all the same for the age of all licensed vehicles. Instead it asks councils to put targeted requirements to meet policy objectives on emissions, safety ratings and increasing wheelchair provision.
Our policy has no age limit for vehicles if it is licensed before 1 April 2018. From 1 April 2018 we only accepted a vehicle for registration if it is less than seven years old (from date of first registration). If it meets other requirements a vehicle can continue to be licensed until 10 years old. This condition was adopted in 2018 because officers found a number of old vehicles in very poor condition, both a safety concern and detrimental to the interests of the trade.
We would like your views on increasing the age limit of certain licensed vehicles to a maximum of 15 years old. The 15-year age limit would apply to electric and hybrid vehicles and any vehicles that are wheelchair accessible.
The reasons would be to
- encourage more low emissions vehicles and
- increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
The council is aware that there are very few licensed vehicles that can carry wheelchairs and some vehicles are not suitable for disabled passengers, even those that don’t use a wheelchair. It is difficult to adopt policies and conditions that increase this provision. Officers will be discussing options with the trade and will bring forward any other proposals at a later date.
We propose that tinted windows are allowed in the vehicle, to the rear of the B-pillar, if they have a minimum light transmission of 30% or above.
This proposal from the government guidance is designed to balance public confidence whilst ensuring that a wide range of vehicles may be licensed.
Our current policy is that rear passenger windows should be no darker than the front side windows and that drivers and passengers should be clearly visible when looking into the vehicle. This is so that passengers can see if anyone is in the back seat before entering the vehicle.
For most cars on the road the minimum light transmission for windscreens is 75% and for the front side windows it is 70%. There are no rules for tinting the windows rear of the B-pillar.
Vehicles are often manufactured with glass in the rear that is darker than in the front, especially in luxury, estate and people carrier style vehicles.
It costs a lot for drivers in time and money to replace standard manufacturer and factory specifications for window glass.
Some passengers may feel more comfortable in vehicles that do not have very heavily tinted rear windows. However, there is no current evidence that tinted windows are detrimental to public safety.
Making hackney carriages more identifiable
The government guidance talks about it being important that the public can easily see the difference between hackney carriages (which can apply for hire, such as on taxi ranks) and private hire vehicles that have to be booked in advance. Many councils make hackney carriages have the same colour.
We want your views on making it a rule that all newly licensed hackney carriages have to be white from 1 October 2024. To be able to see a difference, no newly licensed private hire vehicles would be allowed to be white after 1 October 2024.
You can read more about the government guidance and the council’s response in this document.
How to Have Your Say
You can submit your views to this consultation by clicking the button below.
Any questions and longer submissions can be emailed to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This consultation closes at 12 noon on Friday, 8 March 2024. Late responses are at risk of not being included in the findings and might not be considered by the councillors when they are making their decisions.
If you wish to complete your submission on paper, a copy of the questionnaire (and a large print version) are available to download below. These should be returned before Friday 8th March to Taxi Licensing Conditions Consultation, Corporate Policy & Projects Team, Rother District Council, Town Hall, Bexhill-on-Sea, TN39 3JX.
What Happens Next
The members of the council will consider these results at Licensing and General Purposes Committee in May 2024.
Updates or any further information that comes up during the consultation period will be added to this article.