Licensed taxi drivers in Liverpool are set to face drug tests as the city council attempts to deal with a surge of drivers operating in the city with illegal drugs in their system.
Under the new crackdown, private hire and hackney drivers licensed by Liverpool City Council will face 'random and intelligence led' drug testing in the form of urine sample analysis.
A report to be discussed at a meeting of the council's licensing committee next week suggests that new testing for drivers is required because 'a small number of the city council's 4,500 licensed taxicab and private hire drivers are prepared to take illegal drugs and drive their vehicles whilst drugs are still present in their bloodstream."
This fact has been highlighted in recent months by roadside operations by Merseyside Police which has identified that in the last 18 months, 54 private hire drivers licensed by the city council have been arrested at the roadside on suspicion of driving with illegal drugs - typically cannabis or cocaine - above the prescribed legal limit.
Across the whole of Merseyside, police arrested 114 licensed drivers on suspicion of drug driving in the 12 months from May 1 2018 to May 1, 2019.
The council says that while the number of arrests is relatively small compared to the number of drivers overall, it is considered inevitable that there are many others who are driving under the influence of drugs and have not been detected.
The report states: "The City Manager is of the firm view that it is now necessary to put in place an appropriate and proportionate procedure which, so far as reasonably practicable, firstly prevents drug users from being granted licences in the first place or having them renewed and, secondly detects those drivers who are currently licensed but who use drugs."
It explains that after having discussions with testing laboratories, the council's city manager has decided that the most appropriate and feasible testing process to introduce would be by way of urine analysis.
The cost of each test is predicted to be around £100 and will be met from existing council budgets.
The proposed new drug testing plans would have a number of strands.
If approved, there would be a system of random drug testing - with a number of licensed city drivers selected for testing from the council's database.
Any driver would be required to undergo a urine analysis test at a laboratory on a certain date or within a certain period of time.
Failure to comply with such a requirement could result in the driver committing an offence.
As well as the random testing, the council also plans to introduce 'intelligence-led' testing.
This would be based on the city manager being satisfied that there are credible reasons to suspect that a driver may be using illegal drugs and would order a urine test of said driver.
The new policy will also mean testing for drivers who have drug-related criminal convictions.
If a driver is applying for a new licence and has a drug-related conviction or caution from the last 10 years, the city manager will be able to order them to take a drug test as part of the application process.
For existing drivers wanting to renew their licences those with existing drug-related convictions or cautions from the previous three years could be ordered to take a drug test at their own expense.
If the licensing committee agrees the proposals, a consultation will begin with drivers with the results brought back at the end of the year.