New private hire rules could pose safety risk to passengers

private hire

private hire

Cllr Sheard has raised concerns over a new piece of legislation that comes into force on 1 October 2015.

The changes made by the Deregulation Act will allow private hire operators to sub-contract bookings to other operators anywhere in the country.

Private Hire operators are taxis that you have to book in advance.  This means you could make a booking with your favourite operator in Kirklees and receive a vehicle from another operator.

The taxi or ‘private hire’ could also be licensed by a different council that has less rigorous licensing arrangements than we have in place in Kirklees or West Yorkshire.

Cllr Sheard is also worried that the changes could lead to confusion as private hire vehicles from other authorities can have different markings on them making it easier for unlicensed drivers or other drivers to illegally ply for hire.

Another concern is that council enforcement officers, who carry out roadside spot checks, don’t have the powers to inspect vehicles which are licensed by other councils. The Deregulation Act will allow private hire vehicles to work across England and Wales – leaving local enforcement officers powerless to inspect vehicles licensed from other districts.

Councillor Sheard said:

We take the safety of our residents and visitors very seriously and we are very concerned about the implications of the new Act, and the risk it poses to the travelling public.

We have worked hard to establish a strong licensing process with robust policies which includes rigorous background checks on new drivers, ongoing checks for existing drivers and high standards for vehicle safety and customer service.

Our drivers are compulsory required to have training in safeguarding, equalities, customer care and health & safety and are also tested on English language and comprehension skills. All Kirklees drivers also undergo training on child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Standards required in other local authority areas of the country may not meet our own. This new legislation will make spotting unlicensed drivers, or drivers illegally plying for hire, much more difficult amongst the subcontracted out of town vehicles – which our enforcement officers will have no powers to stop and inspect.”

Our licensing team are working  with other authorities in West Yorkshire to try and make sure the changes have as little impact on public safety as possible.

They will be looking at:

  • Sharing delegated powers so Licensing and Enforcement Officers can carry out inspections and suspension powers on vehicles licensed by any West Yorkshire authority
  • having the same minimum standards in the driver application process and training requirements for new applicants
  • sharing a robust convictions policy and convictions criteria
  • One standard set of Private Hire Operator conditions across West Yorshire

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