We are extremely concerned that Private Hire Drivers may have to get a Customer Care qualification prior to receiving a Drivers License.
There are many reasons why this should not happen.
x The Industry is predominantly self employed
x Customer Care is already good in The Industry
x This will prevent new drivers entering The Industry
x This requirement would particularly harm the smaller operators
x This proposal would put up costs
x The timing would be disastrous
x Customer Care is a commercial consideration not a regulatory one
Reasons for concern
The Private Hire Industry is very diverse, ranging from single driver businesses to multi-million pound operations. One fact that is sure is that the Industry is predominantly made up of self-employed drivers.
This fact alone raises many questions. Who pays for the training? What will be the cost? How can a company invest valuable resources in a self-employed individual? Who will examine a driver in customer care? What will the cost be? Who will pay the drivers a wage?
a) While being trained
b) When being examined.
Customer Care was not an issue during the whole debate on Licensing; operators already have the ultimate reason for ensuring their drivers are user friendly - they risk losing customers if they are not.
How will a potential driver react when told that before he or she can work as a Private Hire Driver he or she will need to get a customer care qualification? In our view they will look for another opportunity and The Industry will be starved of drivers.
Retrospectively assessing Customer Care ability also raises the same issues mentioned above and has no place in these initial regulations. OUR POSITION - Customer Care
Customer Care has no place in driver regulations whether introduced now or retrospectively.
Customer Care training as a pre-condition is unnecessary, will put up costs and be very difficult for the industry to administer.
The work force is predominantly self-employed and the net result of such a requirement would be expensive and damage the essential supply of drivers, particularly for the smaller operators with less resources.
We are not concerned that Private Hire Drivers may have to pass a topographical knowledge test or provide evidence thereof prior to receiving a Drivers License.
We will be very concerned if this testing cannot be undertaken by Licensed Operators.
Contrary to much misinterpretation of the Act there is no requirement whatsoever in the Act to pass a formal knowledge test.
The Private Hire Industry has grown to a trade twice the size of the taxi trade in London precisely because there has been no unnecessary knowledge-testing requirement.
Notwithstanding this The London Private Hire Car Association and the legitimate Private Hire Industry accepts that topographical training and testing is essential to a successful service. The nub of the matter is who undertakes the training and testing, what level of training and testing is required and when should it be done.
What actually happens now is the testing is done before the training.
Every legitimate Private Hire Operator already assesses a potential driver with some form of test before engaging them as a contractor. It would be commercial suicide not to do so.
That test would be
a) Appropriate to the business
b) Appropriate to the needs of the customers.
The legitimate Private Hire Industry unlike the Taxi Industry has some form of communications device between the operator and the driver. Once the norm was a 2-way radio, now more and more sophisticated computer linked devices and navigational aids are being used.
This enables on the job assistance and training often happens real time. Drivers are matched according to their ability and therefore constantly assessed as they work. Some member companies have dedicated radio channels for new drivers.
Very importantly new drivers can get help and learn the job whilst earning a living. Operators send such drivers on very basic work and customers are generally very helpful towards new drivers.
This provides for the best of both worlds, enabling Minicab and Private Hire costs to remain cheaper, with operators able to maintain the supply of drivers needed to cope with seasonal demands, etc.
It is therefore essential that Licensed Operators are able to continue to test and train their drivers. As well as the commercial consideration for doing this any operator whose drivers ability was questioned regularly could potentially risk losing their operators license. The Private Hire User Liaison Committee, on which The LPHCA is represented, is close to agreeing a test that is suitable for Private Hire Drivers. There is no reason why Licensed Operators cannot deliver this test themselves as part of their Operator license responsibility.
There is no need to create an unnecessary industry and infrastructure around testing Private Hire Drivers especially when technology will surpass the need for formal testing in the near future anyway.
There is also no need to incorporate anything into the regulations that advocates external testing, there is also no need for appearances or anything resembling the knowledge testing that taxi drivers need to do. The PCO or another authorised tester could test one person businesses.
A very important consideration is that all predetermined Private Hire journeys can be priced in advance because Private Hire Vehicles do not charge by a meter so the passenger can get a price before they travel. The LPHCA in 1997 published a document in Private Hire News magazine which showed the fundamental way in which Private Hire works and how it differs from the Taxi Industry. We take this opportunity to remind TfL of the fundamental differences between the Private Hire and Taxi Industries.
The main distinction between Private Hire and Taxi industries is that taxis are purpose built, wheelchair accessible vehicles that meet the Metropolitan Conditions of fitness that charge by the meter. Taxi drivers can publicly Ply for Hire on the Streets; Private Hire Vehicles must be pre-booked via a Private Hire Operator and cannot Ply for Hire.
In spite of the above, there is still a minority view being put forward that we need a one tier system in which vehicles are the only distinction. Broadly they are saying that all Private Hire Drivers should undergo the same topographical knowledge test as a Licensed Taxi that can Ply for Hire and rank at Stations, Street Ranks, etc., and that Private Hire Companies and Drivers should have a small and restricted operating area.
There is no logical reason for Private Hire Drivers to undertake the same topographical knowledge test as Taxi Drivers. The two trades, whilst both in the small vehicle people moving industry are fundamentally different and to make Private Hire Drivers undertake unnecessary training and testing would be of no benefit to the travelling public and may deflect resources away from the real issue of enforcement.
The Flag Down Taxi Industry gets the majority of its work from street hirings and because their customers expect an instant service, publicly hired Taxi Drivers need to undertake a topographical knowledge test for the area in which they wish to ply for hire.
In spite of this Green Badge drivers who operate in Central London are allowed to pick up in areas in the suburbs that they do not know on a 'street by street' basis.
If these Central London drivers are hailed to take a customer in the suburbs they do exactly what Private Hire Drivers do, consult their atlas. (Although the Private Hire journey will be pre-booked and therefore pre-planned before the passenger is picked up).
The reverse applies to Yellow Badge taxi drivers who have passed a local test that covers a sector in the suburbs of London. Many work as Private Hire Drivers in Central London for radio or computer controlled taxi companies, doing pre-booked telephone work via a radio or computerised data control unit. They are able to do this because the jobs are pre-booked and they have the opportunity to pre plan the journey like a Private Hire Driver.
So why do Taxis need a topographical knowledge test? As already stated Taxis (apart from when they undertake pre-booked work) generally provide an instant service and until they wind the cab window down, they have no idea of their destination.
Furthermore and very importantly, unlike Private Hire Vehicles they have a meter that determines the cost of the journey, they therefore have a duty to know the shortest route.
For the Private Hire Driver the story is entirely different, all bookings are pre-booked and known in advance, furthermore the fare can be agreed with the Private Hire Operator before travelling. The Private Hire Driver can therefore plan the most viable route not necessarily the shortest route.
For example from Harrow to Gatwick is 40 miles by the shortest viable route, however via the M25 the journey is 53 miles. Private Hire Companies in Harrow on average will quote (and therefore charge) the 40 mile price, regardless of which route is advocated or taken and the decision of which route to choose will be made on traffic, weather and time of day considerations.
The important thing is that every customer pays the same price and gets the most viable route, not necessarily the shortest. This is just one reason why the London Licensed Taxis topographical knowledge test that is based on knowing all the shortest routes is not appropriate for Private Hire Drivers.
Another key reason why Private Hire Drivers do not need to know street by street shortest routes is that unlike London Taxis, all Private Hire Drivers are supported by either a 2 way radio, a mobile phone or in more and more cases data communications / satellite tracking and positioning technology.
Types of Private Hire journeys will vary from Company to Company. Private Hire drivers cannot and do not (unlike ply for hire taxis) operate in small predefined zones.
Several Private Hire Companies that are literally next door to each other often have very different operating and catchment areas for their individual businesses, an example follows overleaf. Private Hire Company 1 could provide a basic minicab operation which in the main undertakes journeys for the general public at pubs, clubs, bingo halls, shops, local schools, hospitals, etc. Most of these journeys will be cash and short distance, the exception being longer journeys into Central London, The Home Counties, Airports, Stations, etc. This company's work catchment area would predominantly be classified as local. Private Hire Company 2 could provide a more up market service which in the main undertakes journeys for Corporate Clients as well as Superstores, Hotels, Local Authorities, Hospital Trusts and probably would provide a level of parcel delivery and a courier service.
The work would be a mixture of cash and account work. This company's work catchment area would be mainly London and the Home Counties but they would also undertake an amount of local work. Private Hire Company 3 could provide an Executive, Chauffeur and or Limousine service, often providing specialist vehicles (e.g. stretched limousines). The type of journeys undertaken would be very diversified. For instance this company could provide cars for weddings to funerals and would often work for the corporate transport sector providing cars for the Government Car Service, Embassy's, Film Location work, Television Companies, Major Airlines, celebrities and VIPs.
Such work would usually be undertaken as part of a contracted arrangement. This company's work catchment area would at a minimum be London and the Home Counties but more than likely be Nationwide and in some cases European & Worldwide. In many cases such a Private Hire company is unlikely to undertake very little work near its office location.
There could also be a fourth Private Hire Company that did a combination of all of the above using many types of vehicles, with differently skilled drivers working in a wide spectrum of operating and catchment areas. All 3 Private Hire Companies in the above examples have different operating areas that are completely indefinable and this is just one of the reasons that a knowledge based test is both inappropriate and indefinable for Private Hire Drivers in London.
So what testing is appropriate and necessary for The Private Hire Industry? The answer is simple A Private Hire Drivers Test.
What the Act actually requires
In Law Nothing - because of the paragraph: -
The Licensing Authority may impose different requirements in relation to different applicants.
This allows for maximum flexibility - which is what the industry expects and Londoners need.
The objective of the Act was to provide a safe, reliable service that compliments other modes of transport at an affordable price.
The PHULC (Private Hire user Liaison Committee) on which The LPHCA sits has been working to define requirements which have been established as: -
The ability to: -
Read a map book
Plan a route
Have directional awareness
Take simple instructions
Which are appropriate to the level of the driver (Including new drivers) and the jobs they need to do. OUR POSITION- Topographical Training & Testing
The topographical training and testing requirement should be based on the unanimously agreed Private Hire User Liaison Committees format.
The testing must be deliverable by Licensed Operators else the Industry may collapse, unable to meet seasonal and peak demands or the needs of The Travelling Public in London.
Our proposal will meet the legal requirement of The Act, the needs of The Travelling Public and the working realities of the Private Hire Operator.
A gravy train of testing centers, knowledge type schools and the squandering of valuable resources developing inappropriate, expensive, computer based, testing systems must not be allowed to happen.
If TfL gets this wrong the smaller, more vulnerable Private Hire businesses that are often the only form of 'door to door' transport in some parts of London will go out of business. Prices will rocket, driver supply will be decimated and parts of the Industry will be driven underground.
A key fact to remember is that in car technology will overcome regulatory requirements in the near future so there is no point over prescribing at this critical time for The Industry. OUR POSITION- Area restrictions
We agree with TfLs position: -
Due to the nature of the business involved in the Private Hire Trade TfL are in favour of a topographical test, which enables drivers to work in all parts of London.***
It is considered that this approach will allow flexibility of employment, ensuring that there are no restrictions upon drivers as to which operating centre they can work from.
*** Private Hire not only operates through, inside and outside London, but nationally and internationally. Therefore any wording in the regulations would need to reflect this and not be restricted to just London.
Fit and proper requirements - Particular comments invited:
Are there any further factors TfL should consider in reviewing good character? Whilst TfL may not necessarily debar applicants with particular convictions or cautions, how should we view these? OUR POSITION- Fit and proper requirements
The fit and proper requirements should not be too prescriptive on driving offences but should be firm on sexual and violent criminal offences.
Some potential drivers may be put off applying for a licence because they wrongly believe that a minor offence or some insignificant matter from their distant past may preclude them from being a Private Hire Driver.
TfL would be wise to emphasise that all applications will be considered and rejection is subject to a right to appeal.
OUR POSITION - Criminal Record Checks
Whatever criminal record checking process is enabled it should be able to determine suitable drivers in real time. Taxi drivers who are taking the knowledge can be screened whilst awaiting testing, however Private Hire operators need to obtain drivers more quickly.
The need to take on Private Hire Drivers seasonally and quickly must be preserved and the criminal checking system should be instant in todays electronic world.
The system must speedily identify who is suitable, it is unclear from the consultation document how this will be done and by which agency. We therefore seek further clarification of how the criminal checking system will work, prior to regulations being finalised.
The Private Hire User Liaison Committee should also have input in this area and discuss this as soon as possible.
One thing that is clear is that current criminal checking mechanisms are woefully inadequate and what works for Taxi drivers will not work for Private Hire.
If a potential driver has to wait for the outcome of a Criminal Record Check for any length of time the applicant will simply seek another job. This will have a massive impact on driver supply and recruitment, a declaration from a driver may be adequate as an interim measure. NOTE: - There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Private Hire Drivers working for companies in the unregulated industry in London have acted improperly towards customers.
If a driver lodges a copy of their driving license, with a recent photograph, their vehicle documentation, etc., with an operator, they are very unlikely to go out and harm a client.
Further requirements - Driving Proficiency
Taxi drivers are currently required to demonstrate a level of competence to drive a licensed taxi.
Therefore, in addition to having held a full driving licence for at least three years, it may be considered appropriate for applicants for PHV drivers licences to be able to demonstrate a further ability of competence to drive a saloon vehicle used for private hire purposes.
If appropriate, they would be required to submit evidence to TfL that they have achieved an acceptable level of competency.
The evidence provided would need to be from an agency authorised by TfL to carry out private hire driver competency testing.
Is there sufficient justification for a demonstration of further ability other than the three years requirement of experience?
If yes, what type of test would be appropriate?
OUR POSITION - Driving Proficiency
There is no justification for additional driver testing as The Act already specifies 3 years driving experience and 21 years of age. PHVs are not specialist vehicles like London Taxis which are wheelchair accessible and have a unique turning circle for the narrower streets in parts of London.
Whereas an extra test is needed to drive a taxi because it is a specialist vehicle, it would be ridiculous to re test a Private Hire Driver to drive a vehicle that he or she had legitimately been able to drive for 3 years.
This is over regulatory, unnecessary and unwise. It was clear when the debates took place regarding driver proficiency that the requirements of the Act were adequate in this area.
As with many of the other unnecessary proposals, over prescribing the requirements to become a PHV driver by having an unnecessary driver proficiency test, would put up costs, reduce driver supply and compromise Londoners. The smaller Private Hire Operators would once again be most vulnerable to such over prescription.
Further requirements - Medical Health
Taxi drivers are currently required to meet the DVLA group 2 medical standards.
As PHV drivers are also professional drivers carrying passengers for hire and reward, it is proposed that the same high standards of medical fitness be required of PHV drivers.
Particular comments invited:
Is this medical standard reasonable?
Is the suggested annual medical examination for drivers from the age of 65 reasonable? OUR POSITION - Medical Health
The medical requirements should be the same as those required for Licensed Taxis and the 65 years of age rule seems reasonable.
Before regulations are drafted can we please have it clarified that the medical requirements are the same for taxi drivers. We would like an assurance that the frequency of medicals for Private Hire Drivers would be the same as those for taxi drivers.
We would also like clarification on who can provide such medicals and confirmation of the likely costs. (Can a company doctor or a GP provide the medicals?)
Register of Licences The Act says - The Licensing Authority shall maintain a register containing the following particulars for each licence issued under this Act, namely:the number of the licence, the name and address of the person to whom it is granted, the date on which it is granted and the expiry date; and such other particulars as may be prescribed.
The register shall be available for inspection free of charge by members of the public at such place or places, and during such hours, as are determined by the Licensing Authority. It is proposed that the register of driver licences will be available for inspection by the general public, between 9.30am and 3.30pm on normal working days at the Public Carriage Office, 15 Penton Street, London, N1 9PU.
OUR POSITION- Register of Licences
We are concerned that a public register of drivers details will be maintained for inspection, although we accept that this is in The Act and therefore is an obligation TfL have to meet.
In view of this we make 3 points, firstly access to the register should be limited, secondly a valid reason should be given to access the register and finally if a drivers badge is to have his or her name on it, the sensible option would be for carrying the badge rather than wearing it on their person. See our thoughts on badges below.
When the vogue of wearing Identity Badges as a safety measure became popular some time ago The LPHCA embraced the concept and supported it to the extent that we insisted all member companies drivers had one.
Sadly, we have learned that wearing a badge now compromises both passenger and driver safety.
The driver is compromised because it reveals his or her identity to potential assailants. Drivers do get attacked, do get abused and certainly are encouraged by the unscrupulous to pick passengers up illegally. The sight of a drivers badge is often the cause of a dispute when supply is short late at night and many drivers have sadly been compromised.
The correct passengers also get left high and dry when a driver is effectively railroaded into taking the wrong passengers. Hindsight has shown that wearing a badge can be dangerous and drivers have also had their badges ripped from their person.
This causes two problems, firstly the badge is in the hands of someone who is not a licensed driver, secondly the badge is not in the possession of the driver which technically prevents the driver from legally working.
Fortunately The Act allows for exemption from wearing a badge and The LPHCAs position is for block exemption from wearing but the mandatory carrying an ID Badge issued by TfL.
The other downside to potential mandatory wearing of a badge is that touts will replicate the badges. Whilst this will not fool an enforcement officer or the police it would probably fool most members of the general public and gives the tout a plausible credibility.
The final point to make is that many badges worn on the person will be lost; TfL will spend a horrendous amount of time re-issuing badges if wearing them is enshrined in the proposed regulations.
Particular comments invited:
What other details if any should be included on the badge?
What exemptions are acceptable and under what circumstances?
What level of detail/evidence would be required in support of the application for exemption?
Any exemption from the driver having to wear a badge will require that badge or card to be carried by that person at all times whilst undertaking a private hire booking.
OUR POSITION - Drivers Badges
Block exemption - All drivers should be exempted from having to wear a badge however we recognise that this will require that a badge or identity card must be carried by the driver whilst undertaking a private hire booking.
The Act says, The Secretary of State may by regulations make such transitional provisions and such savings as he considers necessary or expedient in preparation for, in connection with, or in consequence of:
a) The coming into force of any provision of this Act; or
b) The operation of any enactment repealed or amended by a provision of this Act during any period when the repeal or amendment is not wholly in force.
The LPHCA welcomes in principle the more sensible initiatives shown in section 7 of the consultation document. In particular, the driver voluntary registration scheme and the desire to recognise existing drivers.
These two schemes will enable a smooth transition for the trade whilst at the same time establishing the regulatory framework for the long-term future of The Industry.
We do however have serious concerns that you will successfully regulate the trade if everything is pre-conditional on retrospective requirements for existing drivers.
We applaud your forward thinking initiative on the driver voluntary registration scheme, however we would say it probably does not go far enough and we are pleased that you seek comments on how both existing drivers and new drivers should be defined. We are also very comforted by your words: In addition, TfL wants to encourage new drivers to the trade and so is also keen to ensure that a streamlined process can be developed to license new skilled and enthusiastic drivers at the same time as licensing existing drivers.
Particular comments invited:
How should existing drivers be defined?
Is the suggested approach for transition of existing drivers realistic?
Are there any practical implications for the industry in licensing the existing population of drivers, which have not been taken account of?
Should the licensing of existing drivers be conditional upon their obtaining evidence of topographical and customer care skills during the currency of the first licence?
OUR POSITION - Transitional arrangements
The transitional arrangements must be as flexible as possible. We are concerned but not surprised at the poor response to TfLs efforts to get just a few thousand potential Operators Licensed. 50,000 drivers will present a massive challenge to all involved.
For this reason we welcome the driver voluntary registration scheme and suggest that there is no cut off date set for the scheme. This will allow maximum flexibility and enable Licensed Operators to assist with the burden of dealing with drivers, something that they have successfully done for many years. In addition to the driver voluntary registration scheme, we wish to see a provisional license scheme for new drivers.
In response to the question. Is the suggested approach for transition of existing drivers realistic? The answer is yes, providing there is no cut off date on the voluntary registration scheme.
In response to the question. Are there any practical implications for the industry in licensing the existing population of drivers, which have not been taken account of? There are several. The Industry needs to operate seasonally and is dependent on drivers who appear perhaps at Christmas or during the summer for work, like Wimbledon, Ascot, Henley and other special events.
This is one reason why the voluntary registration transitional arrangements should have no cut off date. If a driver has a proven record in the trade, that can be verified, the provisions of the voluntary registration scheme could apply.
This would also prevent a massive build up of applicants at certain times of year.
We would point out that we believe the number of existing drivers that you have estimated may be conservative and we note that there is no reference to seasonal variations in driver numbers within your estimates. TfL must also consider the drop out rate for existing drivers that will impact on the driver supply for the industry. TfL must take serious account of the fact that some existing drivers will not pass the medical or criminal checking requirements and other drivers will not have suitable vehicles.
Flexibility must be the key here, and if TfL utilise the driver voluntary registration scheme it will help to sustain the flow of drivers that The Industry needs.
In response to the question. How should existing drivers be defined? The answer must be any driver who can demonstrate a provable history in the Industry that can be substantiated by a Licensed Operator or another respected source, e.g. accountant, solicitor, inland revenue, police officer, etc.
In response to the question. Should the licensing of existing drivers be conditional upon their obtaining evidence of topographical and customer care skills during the currency of the first licence? The answer is absolutely not.
Particular comments invited:
The key issues on which TfL would welcome views and which could, potentially, have a significant impact on the transitional arrangements and, subsequently, the overall complexity of a driver licensing regime are: the definition of an existing driver; see previous pages
whether existing drivers who become licensed, should be licensed conditional upon their obtaining evidence of topographical and customer care skills during the currency of their first licence;
NO see previous
whether private hire drivers should be licensed for designated areas of London (other than Greater London as a whole), taking due account of how an area might be determined, the justification for confining drivers to designated areas, and the consequential implications for driver movement and licensing authority enforcement; NO
the desirability/justification of a relationship or link between a driver and a licensed operator and how any such relationship or link should be maintained; and, There must be a link between a driver and a licensed operator. That link should be established via the deposit of an authorised copy of the drivers licence with every operator the driver works with. We are concerned that on page 2 of the consultation paper you indicate that a copy license could be a photocopy.
Many high class touts, usually working from a mobile phone will spuriously say they are working for a legitimate operator. The only realistic way to eradicate such individuals is when they have to deposit a licence with an operator.
The subcontracting section of The Act already covers the legitimate owner operator who will have his or her license at his or her own operating centre and when dealing with other operators will be covered by the subcontracting rules.
whether new drivers should be required to obtain evidence of topographical, and customer care skills before a licence is issued. NO see pages 2 to 6 In responding to these particular issues, and in suggesting proposals of their own,
respondees should give careful thought as to:
the licensing implications;
the processes which would need to be administered by TfL; and,
the impact of regulations.
All of our proposals will assist the licensing implications; (the processes which would need to be administered by TfL) and dramatically reduce the negative impact of the new regulations.
ENFORCEMENT The LPHCA and the operators and drivers who have called for legislation want effective enforcement. We are concerned that those who are in the system will be the easy targets for enforcement officers and the police.
For regulation of the Private Hire Industry to be effective, TfL must work with the industry and the police to prevent illegal activity. The driver with a card in their top pocket with a mobile phone number on it, is as dangerous as the freelance tout, because as soon as someone rings their mobile, they are working outside regulation. NEW DRIVERS OUR THOUGHTS
Whilst we welcome the initiative to deal with existing drivers we are extremely concerned that there appears to be no transitional arrangements for new drivers.
A leap from a completely unregulated industry into a completely regulated industry could be disastrous if there are no transitional arrangements for new drivers.
We therefore see a situation where new drivers should also be afforded temporary licensed status while the transition takes place. This could be in the form of a provisional licence based on the declaration form proposed by TfL for the voluntary driver regulation scheme.
The key difference between the voluntary driver regulation scheme and the new driver provisional licence scheme would be that existing drivers would be given grandfather rights and would only retrospectively need to prove medical fitness and require a suitable criminal record check.
New drivers awarded a provisional license would however need to undertake topographical testing as they wouldnt necessarily have the same skills as existing drivers.
A precedent for the issue of provisional licenses has already wisely been established for the Operator Licensing and the temporary license issued before the formal license has been well received. As TfL has found out with Operator Licensing, at the time of completing this response, six months of massive publicity has only realised less than a 50% take up in license applications.
A 'log jam' in Operator Licensing whilst not desirable is probably manageable, however the same situation with drivers would produce a disaster.
Assuming a 13% drop out in drivers because of the impact of licensing and we could be faced with a driver shortage of some 5,000 drivers.
The transitional provisional license arrangements could act as an interim buffer whilst the existing and new driver population was being licensed retrospectively.
This would have the least impact on The Industry and help to keep supply and demand matched, especially in the short-term and in particular with seasonal employment.
The transition into a fully licensed workforce would take place in a structured manner and the objectives of the Act will be met without compromising the safety of Londoners because of lack of available drivers.
REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT.
It is our considered opinion that the regulatory impact of Private Hire Driver Licensing has not been covered appropriately in Annexe A of the consultation document. In fairness to those producing the document they had little chance of producing accurate wording with some of the eleventh hour thinking that has been put into the consultation.
When our lawyer looked at some of the proposals she said, This appears to be becoming an Industry, we agree. Some of the proposals are almost quango like in what they wont do, rather than what they will do for the Travelling Public and the Private Hire Industry.
Clearly training schools, driver testing centres and certification bodies would make someone a small fortune if some of the potty proposals are put into regulations. In our opinion many of these late proposals would cripple the industry, break the smaller operators and drive everything underground leaving Londoners with a hell of a mess. This was certainly not the objective of Sir George Young and everyone else who campaigned for years to get the London Private Hire Industry Licensed. TfL has a moral obligation to everyone who campaigned for licensing and in particular to Londoners and The Private Hire Industry in London who supported the Legislation. That obligation is to deliver a safe, reliable Private Hire system that is affordable and available right across London, that gives equal opportunities to every Londoner whether they are a traveller or worker in what is a very large industry.
The key to the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act was its simplicity. License Operators, then License Drivers, then License Vehicles.
The Operator Licensing process will ultimately be a success because of its simplicity and because The DETR took notice of those in the Private Hire Industry who had campaigned for regulation.
The Private Hire Industry is at present in a very fragile state, facing steep fuel costs and 400% increases in Insurance premiums. Add in the fact that it is going to face the biggest challenge of its history - the licensing of 50,000 drivers, 2000 operators and up to 50,000 vehicles and the reality of what it will be going through will be clearer.
The Taxi Industry has complained for years that it is over regulated and that it has to work with unrealistic and outdated legislation. Technology is moving at such a rate that it will soon supersede todays training requirements.
It is therefore essential that TfL listens to those who have been successful in the industry for 40 years. It is essential that TfL does not over regulate and destroy what is good inadvertently propagating what is bad.
Over regulation will force parts of the Industry underground serving no one, defeating the objective of the legislation.
If TfL pursues the wrong path The Regulatory Impact Assessment needs to be rewritten. It will need to show the doubling of costs in the sector, with many legitimate businesses going under. It will also need to show many Londoners unable to get a Private Hire Vehicle by the end of 2002.
This can all be avoided by making the regulations focus on the essential, not what some consider to be desirable, at this critical stage of the industries evolution. The first raft of regulations should focus on the driver being safe, honest and able to do the job with a basic level of competence.
If further requirements are needed at a later date, TfL can revisit the subject of regulations again, with the benefit of the lessons learned during the massive task that lies before them. TfL will also have the benefit of knowing the level of technology available to the industry at a future time and what the travelling publics needs will be at the time.
We wish to re-iterate a final point regarding regulatory impact. The Mayor of London is known for his desire for Open Government, with this in mind we are astonished at what the document says on page 31.
A final Regulatory Impact Assessment will be prepared with the regulations, although it is not proposed to submit the final assessment to public consultation.
We do need to see a final Regulatory Impact Assessment and we will, as the industry representatives, need to see the draft regulations. The Government afforded us that basic right so TfL and The GLA must surely follow their example. As mentioned very early in the discussion document there is no right of appeal for regulations when drafted, so we must all get it right.
Steve Wright MBE Chairman LPHCA
The London Private Hire Car Association
213 Kenton Road