A “dangerous” lack of taxis in the city could be fixed if Hull City Council relaxed the way new taxi drivers are registered according to Hull Private Hire Association.
According to the Hull Daily Mail, Magnus Murray, secretary of the group, says a chronic shortage of taxi drivers means people are opting to walk long distances because they cannot book cars late on some evenings.
Following a busy weekend with numerous events including Hull Pride, Mr Murray said some party-goers were told they would have to wait for hours on Saturday evening for a taxi.
The owner of 706 Cars said: “People are having to wait hours for taxis and it isn’t safe. It’s not just on weekends either. There can be lots of drivers working but there is such a demand at the minute that we just need more in Hull.
“When people are having to walk home because they are unable to get a taxi it is dangerous. We need more drivers, at least 300 hundred drivers would be needed to help sort this out.
“But it’s not even just a City of Culture thing. Last year we told the council there would be problems but they didn’t sort it.”
But Mr Murray said taxi companies would be able address this shortage if it was made easier for new drivers to register in the city.
Currently, all new drivers in Hull need to pass a BTEC as well DBS checks in order to register. Mr Murray says the process is costly and time consuming, putting unemployed people off entering the industry and addressing the shortage.
In contrast, Mr Murrary said that in Newcastle, drivers do not need any educational qualifications to register, and in the East Riding new drivers can take their BTEC qualifications while in the job.
Mr Murray added: “What they do in East Riding is require a BTEC but people can do it when they are in the job. It’s mandatory but makes it more affordable for people.
“They have the time to do it, a year, and are earning so can afford the money to pay for the tuition.
“If you don’t get the qualification in the time frame then they revoke the licence. It doesn’t put people off trying to become drivers but still holds them to that standard. I’ve put it forward to the (Hull City) council to do this but they aren’t interested.”
Mr Murray said the Association is hoping to involve the Government. He said: “We want to try to get Parliament involved because we believe it’s unlawful and our solicitors are looking into it.
“The council say there are 1,100 or 1,200 drivers but the truth is there are only about 900 working drivers which is not enough.”
A Hull City Council spokeswoman said the rules to register are a “benefit” to drivers and customers, and there are more than 1,000 registered drivers in the city.
She said: “Like all authorities across the country, the safety of residents and visitors travelling around the city is paramount. It is our responsibility to minimise any risk posed to people using a taxi or private hire vehicle.
“As of June, there were 1,231 private hire drivers and 233 hackney carriage drivers licensed by Hull City Council. Drivers’ working hours are at their own, or their employers’ discretion.
“The checks and assessments drivers must undergo in order to obtain a licence, which include background checks, have been introduced by the Licensing Committee over a period of time.
“These are there for the benefit of both customers and drivers, ensuring drivers have the appropriate knowledge and ability to be able to safely transport the fare paying public. These measures include the introduction of a BTEC qualification, designed to develop, support and enhance the knowledge of prospective applicants who want to earn a living from taxi driving.”
Mmmm… As with all licensing procedures within a local authority, the most difficult result to achieve is a balance between reasonable licensing conditions, and a realisation that people need to earn a living. Parliament is not the answer; more likely the Ombudsman. Once again, hats off to East Riding, whose humane approach allows for both. – Ed.
A Lancashire council, whose taxi licensing team could not cope with the high volume of out-of-area applications it received, has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after a woman could not work for nearly four months while she waited for her paperwork.
Taxi drivers can work for pre-booked purposes in any area of the country once they have been granted a licence and councils can set their own criteria for awarding those licences. The father of one woman complained that Rossendale Borough Council’s licensing policy meant it received a high volume of out-of-area applications, to the detriment of those wanting to work in the borough.
The father told the Ombudsman his daughter was un-able to work for 16 weeks while waiting for the council to process her licence. She had already secured a job with a local firm, but could not work until she had the correct documents.
When the man tried to complain to the council about his daughter’s treatment, the council refused to deal with him so he took his complaint to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the length of time the council took to process the woman’s application did not amount to good administrative practice. There was no suggestion the delay in issuing the woman’s licence was for any legitimate reason.
In response to the Ombudsman’s enquiries, the council said the backlog was due to a significant increase in the number of new applicants, particularly from outside its area. The council has since allocated more staff to its licensing unit and has also introduced pre-requisite assessments and policies for those not intending to use their licence within the borough’s boundaries.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “While I recognise councils need to go through the proper process and carry out the relevant safety checks before awarding licences, I consider the time taken in this case to be overly long.
“The council should have foreseen that its decision not to place restrictions on drivers from outside the borough applying for licences would have had an effect on the volume of applications it received. It should have allocated sufficient resources to deal with the demand earlier.
“I am pleased to see that the council has now put in place measures to prevent the situation reoccurring, however I would now urge the council to consider and implement the remedy I have recommended.”
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.
In this case, to remedy the situation, the council should pay the daughter £350 in recognition of the uncertainty and time and trouble to which she has been put.
It should also identify and review any other complaints received about de-lays in processing taxi licence applications under its previous policy. It should identify any other applicants in a similar position to this case who are able to show they suffered a significant injustice and consider how it should remedy this.
Mmmm… You know the old saying, “What goes around comes around”…? One wonders how many of the 2,300-plus licence holders having been granted a licence by this council will now queue up for compensation, maintaining that their application was unduly delayed. - Ed.
Liverpool Council will be the first in the country to let taxi and private hire drivers avoid punishments if they agree to go on a special improvement course.
The authority is set to introduce an optional ‘speed-awareness-style’ course to help improve things such as behaviour, driving standards and customer service amongst the city’s hackney and private hire drivers.
It will also address issues relating to the conditions of vehicles being used in Liverpool - which the council said is a concern.
The new Improvement Training Course could also be cost-effective for the cash-strapped authority as it would offer relief for its stretched team of enforcement officers who currently have to monitor the thousands of licensed vehicles in the city.
This would be an optional course, which will be offered to taxi and private hire drivers as a means of avoiding other punishments and enforcement action.
In the same way that regular drivers can take part in a speed awareness course to avoid licence points and fines, the course could take the place of fixed penalty notices for licensed drivers.
Drivers won’t have to take up the offer and won’t be punished further if they refuse - but it could be a way of them avoiding more formal enforcement action.
The new course will cover items such as the legislation surrounding the issue of defective tyres - which the council said is a growing issue. There will also be aspects looking at the customer service, attitude and behaviour of drivers.
Other areas covered will include driving standards and the condition of licensed vehicles. The course will need to be completed within two months of it being offered and accepted. Once a driver has completed the course, they will not be offered it as an option to avoid other action for three years.
Principally, the council said it believes the course will drive up standards and will potentially stop licensed drivers being taken off the road. But there is no doubt that this is a cost-cutting effort from the authority as well.
Earlier this year a Liverpool Echo investigation showed that the city centre is at times overrun with drivers committing offences, including illegally plying for hire, and the council admitted it is struggling to cope.
The offer of an Improvement Training Course would remove the need for costly further enforcement on a particular licence holder and hopefully lead to better long-term behaviour by said driver, which would ease the burden on the council’s licensing and enforcement staff.
Cllr Christine Banks is the chair of the council’s Licensing Committee. She told the Liverpool Echo: “We’re doing a huge amount of work to help raise standards and address concerns about the hackney and private hire trade, but there’s a fine balance to be struck and we don’t want to end up putting drivers out of business unnecessarily.
“The proposal we are consulting on would see us offering an alternative to more serious enforcement action, the equivalent of a speed awareness course for taxi drivers.
“It would be a chance to put their vehicle in order. Clearly, if they don’t we will throw the book at them, but initially we want to give them the opportunity to put things right.”
Mmmmm.... hopefully this course will not be “Mickey Mouse”, as the Speed Awareness Course has been labelled by some – Ed
Have you ever wondered why the majority of taxis you jump into have a male driver? A report by Transport for London revealed that only 2.2 per cent of all registered taxi drivers in the city are female.
Taxi insurer, Clegg Gifford, went for a cup of coffee with some of London’s elusive women cabbies, their aim being to find out what it feels like to be working in such a male dominated industry.
Here’s what they discovered about Shelley:
I became a cab driver after I was made redundant from job at BT. My daughter was three years old and my son was 18 months old at the time.
One day while I was feeding my son I saw a cab pull up and thought: “That’s something I could do, too!”. I decided to do it there and then.
The knowledge took about four and a half years. I spent a minimum of two hours a day studying.
You first make an enquiry in the carriage office. You’re then given a little blue book with about 400 journeys. It’s your job to drive around and familiarise yourself with these routes. You pretty much have to have a detailed map of London in your head.
The carriage office then gives you a map test where you have to fill out the road names. The further out of central London you get, the less important it becomes to know the smaller streets.
I love it. I understand how things such as Uber may affect many other drivers negatively but you have to look at the positive side of things. The job is fun, you get to meet the funniest people; you learn something new every day.
I have some amazing taxi driver friends and we always look out for each other. It’s easy to build good friendships in the trade. I had someone tell me the other day that his daughter was looking to become a cab driver and whether I thought that was dangerous.
The only thing I was able to say was, “Let her – she’s going to have a ball and experience something new every day. She will always come home after work with the most fascinating stories!”
Of course the situation is not ideal. What amazes me the most is that it doesn’t even pay off. The temptation to start is because it’s so easy to become an Uber driver.
Without the necessary training many Uber drivers over-rely on their sat navs but can’t think of solutions when suddenly there is a road closure. If you don’t know alternative routes, you’re stuck.
I have a sat nav installed too but quite often I look at the suggested route and just think “What? I wouldn’t go that way!” But there is no point in getting worked up about it. Cyclists annoy me more.
I was once in Haymarket and there was a cyclist riding slowly in the middle of the road. A bus and a taxi have driven around him on the outside lane, so I proceeded to do the same thing.
The cyclist came up to my window and decided scream at me while not saying a word to the bus driver and the male taxi driver who did the same in front of me. I just shouted “F*ck off!” which he wasn’t expecting to come out of my mouth. He didn’t say another word and rode off. He clearly thought he was choosing an easy target there.
The stories so far would make you think men would have it easier but there are a ton of benefits in being a woman. I think some men feel a sense of relief when they get into my taxi.
I literally had someone thank me for the nice journey and how happy he was that he didn’t have to talk about football and politics for once.
Joss Stone was once in my taxi with her dog who was just a puppy. She asked to be taken to a recording studio and I was tempted to find out if she was a backing singer because I did not recognise her.
She was telling me about her dog not being used to car journeys and she apologised in advance if he got sick. I just told her I had some cleaning stuff in the back. But I kept on thinking to myself that I recognise her from somewhere. That evening I realised it was Joss Stone.
I met up with my friends and told them her dog threw up in my cab. They asked “What did you do?” I said “I made her clean it up!” Everyone was in disbelief! [Laughing]
I once had a couple who were having sex in the back of my cab! I was quite new in the trade at the time and just didn’t know how to handle a situation like that.
The woman was sitting on top of the guy while he was facing forward. I took the cab around the corner and slammed on the brakes, the couple got out and the girl said “Lovely ride, driver. Thanks!” which I thought was pretty cheeky.
Later that evening I was out for dinner with my friends from the trade and told them the story and how I didn’t know what to do. They looked at me and said “First thing you do is lower the mirror so you can have a good look at the couple. The next thing you do is keep slamming on the brakes.”, “Why? To stop them?”, “No, because they’ll give you a good tip!”
In association with taxi insurer Clegg Gifford, the Female Taxi Drivers’ website has been created to share the experiences of a minority. Meet the amazing ladies who shared their hilarious, shocking, emotional and interesting stories with us.
Are you a female cab driver with experiences you’d like to share? Wherever in the world you may be, we’d love to hear from you at www.femaletaxidrivers.co.uk
Clegg Gifford offers a variety of insurance products including motor, household, travel, fleet, taxi and many more.
Belfast private hire drivers have claimed government officials have used excuses such as rushing to the birth of a child, being drunk and even that they have an appointment at the cancer centre, to see if they can get a taxi outside of the rules.
The Department for Infrastructure, however, said it was “very unlikely” the undercover enforcement officers used such tactics and that they do not set out to appear vulnerable as part of their work.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that under taxi regulations Class A licensed taxis - that is, those that are the private hire saloon cars - can only pick up passengers off the street at restricted times over the weekend, otherwise a booking is needed. Black hackney cabs, which have a B licence, can ply for trade off the street throughout the week.
One man, speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan show, said he offered a drunk man a taxi, but as it was against regulations to allow him into his taxi, he called a friend who was sitting down the road to come and collect him, resulting in the two drivers getting hefty fines.
Various drivers called the show alleging other tactics had been used in the operations. Among the claims were that an agent said he was rushing to hospital for the birth of his first child, while another said they had an appointment at the Belfast Cancer Centre.
The taxi driver who offered the lift to the drunk man said he felt he was acting in the “public interest” to help a “vulnerable man” and was shocked to realise it was a sting operation.
Gerry Maxwell of Belfast Public Hire Taxis, which represents the black hackney cab drivers, told the Belfast Telegraph: “You have to feel for the enforcement agents because they cannot come on to the radio to give their side of the story. No one is above the law.
“They are looking to see you have the right licence, are using your meter so you are not ripping people off and giving receipts, that type of thing. Safety is paramount, we pay for it so I am glad to see it.”
Gerry, who has carried the undercover passengers himself and never found to be acting wrongly, said there was a need for more officers. “It’s the only way to catch them,” he said. “I can’t commend them enough for the job they do - it’s our part of the industry that’s affected. If it goes on and these drivers who have not got the right licence are allowed to continue, then we will be out of business.”
A Department for Infrastructure spokesman said staff did not seek to appear vulnerable, adding: “The DVA has been responding to an increase in complaints from licensed taxi drivers that their livelihood is being undermined by taxi drivers operating illegally. The DVA’s role is to ensure vehicles are roadworthy and safe, and drivers have the appropriate licence.
“At no time will DVA enforcement officers seek to appear vulnerable. They will use surveillance, for which provision is made in legislation, to prevent or detect crime associated with the use of illegal taxis. The focus of the surveillance is to target locations where illegal taxi operations are more likely and have been either detected or reported previously.”