‘Endless fees’ forcing drivers off road with ‘confusing’ rules

All drivers have been battling with the expensive cost of motoring over the last few years, with car insurance, petrol and diesel prices, and vehicle tax all increasing. Taxi and private hire drivers are facing battles to stay on the road, with bureaucracy and dwindling income threatening the future of many operators.

David Lawrie, Director of National Private Hire and Taxi Association (NPHTA), commented on the issues affecting taxi drivers and how they operate.

He told Express.co.uk: “One of the big problems with the current licensing arrangement is that too often it puts local authorities and operators into conflict. 

“This all stems from the 1976 LGMPA Act which allows local authorities to attach conditions to licensing, which includes devising rules on the design and appearance of vehicles. 

“Too often the authorities focus more on those conditions rather than their obligation to operators, which under the Regulators’ Code 2014, compels councils to promote and encourage the growth of the operators they regulate.”

He added that councils were “charging endless fees” to operators and taxi drivers so they can meet certain conditions.

One UK council was charging £186 to decide whether a driver would be given the allowances needed to operate on the roads.

This is in addition to charging drivers an annual fee of £40. This covers certain requirements like medical checks and DBS checks.

For all drivers, these charges add up, especially with the ever-changing cost of petrol and diesel and more cities bringing in Low Emission Zones.

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Because of the strains on drivers’ finances, the NPHTA is often called in to help resolve disputes between councils, operators and individual motorists.

Mr Lawrie continued, saying: “At the same time, other licensing authorities, such as Wolverhampton, have managed to create a more streamlined, efficient and cheaper licensing process for operators and drivers – proving what can be done. 

“To say the national picture is chaotic and confused would be an understatement.”

Many taxi and private hire drivers have spoken of the pressure they face as a result of cities implementing Clean Air Zones.

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With the Glasgow Low Emission Zone set to begin charging in June and London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expanding again in August, many are concerned.

Taxi operators in Glasgow who are ineligible for a grant-funded vehicle retrofit to achieve emissions compliance may apply for a “time limited” exemption of one year.

Despite this, thousands of private hire vehicle drivers will be faced with daily costs, taking a massive toll on their own finances.

David Lawrie also highlighted the problems with a lack of a national framework for all operators to abide by.

Since all local authorities and councils can have their own rules and regulations for licensing, it can make life very difficult for operators.

He added: “For example, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said he wants to ban drivers from operating in the city who are not licensed in Greater Manchester. But, there are ten different licensing authorities in Greater Manchester with ten sets of rules, so which one applies?”

Mr Lawrie said this had become a “serious problem”, especially in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 50 percent of drivers in the taxi and private hire industry lost their jobs since March 2020 with so few jobs available, often making it unsustainable for them to continue operating.

“With barriers to becoming a licensed driver, it means that there are fewer taxis available and therefore more people who are walking home, alone, at night,” David concluded.

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