Taxi drivers have hit back at ‘unfair’ city council spot checks which saw many issued with penalty notices. Some drivers said the checks were unfair since they were not all checked for the same pointers, while others said their vehicles failed despite having recently passed official maintenance tests. Lancaster City Council licensing enforcement officers issued 86 defect notices and eight suspensions to taxi drivers during the unannounced spot checks, after joining forces with the police and staff from the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency).
The council said the aim of the inspection was “to ensure that the district’s fleet of taxis and private hire vehicles are safe, suitable and roadworthy and maintained to an acceptable standard”.
Over the two days, police officers and council licensing officers worked alongside representatives from DVSA and HMRC’s road fuel testing unit to check 160 vehicles which had been signposted to the test site by the police and taxi operators. “The majority of defects were in relation to fire extinguishers and first aid kits.The items were either insufficient, out of date or not fit for purpose. A handful of vehicles were required to be fully valeted, and a small number had more serious defects including bald tyres, faulty doors, illegally tinted windows and mechanical faults. However, taxi drivers have said the checks were unfair and that not all were tested in the same way. One said not all vehicles were checked for fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
“Some still have so-called “out of date” extinguishers and first aid kits in the vehicles,” one driver said. “Not only that, most of us as drivers, which is our job title, are not trained up to use this equipment correctly!” One driver said many of the cars had passed their MOTs, which are carried out at the council’s own testing station, in the days and weeks leading up to the spot checks. One said: “My first aid kit got cleared 23 hours before that spot check yet failed the day after, the council couldn’t tell me why. If standards were the same across the board then this wouldn’t be happening. “One car got pulled because of a dodgy handbrake yet this handbrake had been tested and cleared two weeks before that spot check...again, why are standards different?”
Another driver said he had taken his vehicle for its compulsory six-monthly test at the city council’s maintenance unit just 10 days before the spot checks, with no issues found, yet was later issued with a defect notice. “After speaking to quite a few drivers after the checks, it seems not all vehicles were checked the same way as others,” he said. “If the council continue to make these checks, at least do each vehicle the same.”
A council spokesman said: “The council’s unannounced one-off taxi inspection is not intended to replicate the rigorous taxi MOT test carried out by our Vehicle Maintenance Unit at White Lund which is to ensure vehicles travelling significant miles each week for the purpose of transporting members of the public are safe and mechanically roadworthy. “These MOTs are undertaken either yearly or six or four monthly dependant on the age of the vehicle.
The main focus of the annual taxi inspection carried out by the council’s licensing enforcement team is to investigate taxi type compliance, including the enforcing of conditions of licence.
“As part of the conditions of licence, all licensed vehicles are required to fulfil strict criteria in relation to safety equipment. “This includes the availability and positioning of a suitable and efficient fire extinguisher and first aid kit containing appropriate first aid dressings and appliances (to comply with Health and Safety (First Aid) Regs 1981), and the driver’s ability to use it. “Since the inspection took place, all suspensions have been lifted and out of the 86 defect notices issued only 10 remain.
“It should be noted that in either case, Licensing Enforcement Officers and the council’s MOT testing station can only inspect the vehicle in the condition it was presented on the day.”