26 Sep Zoom.Taxi response to DfT Advisory on Taxi and Private Hire
Zoom.taxi has welcomed the report published by the Department of Transport whose chief recommendation was the legislation for national minimum standards for taxi and PHV licensing for drivers, vehicles and operators.
We believe the report addresses the concerns that we amongst others have been making for at least 18 months, including much stricter guidelines for licensing and attempts to end ‘license tourism’ whereby drivers, particularly those only using an app, shop around for licensing authorities with the lowest costs and lowest requirements.
The impact of CCTV in all vehicles would be prohibitively expensive for smaller firms and driver-owners and if this does go ahead then there must be processes whereby there are funds available. However, it could be considered that instead of including CCTV as a requirement straight away, tighter regulations on licensing and better training for both issuers and drivers may improve safety for drivers and passengers to an extent that it is not necessary.
We believe that it will be very difficult to impose bans on journeys between licensing areas, as set out in recommendation 11, to ensure they start and finish in an area in which they are licensed and it could mean that larger companies have an unfair advantage, particularly in areas – urban areas in particular – where there are many licensing authority boundaries in a smaller geographic area. Whilst this is covered by TfL in London and there are recommendations for areas with metro mayors like Manchester, other areas would be caught up in this and it could mean that certain journeys are unable to be carried out by local firms unless there are agreements between licensing authorities to have an ‘area license’. This would also be hard to police.
We fully support the plans for a national database and for the mandatory enhanced checks.
We also welcome the recognition, as mentioned in Recommendation 33, that the oversupply of drivers which has predominantly happened because of Uber, has caused serious hardship to many drivers and the closure of smaller companies. We note the press reports that some drivers using the Uber app have collaborated to increase fares by altering their GPS location and believe this is fraudulent and needs to be stopped. The best way of ending this practice is to make passengers aware of what is going on and impose rules on the companies which provide the software that allows this to happen.
This fall in income has, we believe, directly led to drivers having to work longer hours and from a health and safety point of view we support this. Recommendations 8 and 34 will partially address this. But to resolve the root cause, policies should be introduced to improve the working conditions of drivers as a whole. The situation got worse in recent years when Uber artificially brought down the fares to increase demand and create a monopoly. On the other hand, the commission charged by drivers kept increasing. Local Private Hire companies had to follow suit to stay in the business. Ultimately drivers suffered. They now have to work longer hours to bridge the income gap.
We also welcome the awareness campaign for drivers to ensure they understand their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and would point out that we have created specific features in our software to ensure passengers can specifically request wheelchair-adapted cars when they make their booking.