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Update Taxi And Private Hire Laws For Public Safety

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Legislation Has Not Kept Up For Electronic Hiring Of Taxis And Private Hire Services GMB Drivers Tell London Assembly Transport Committee

Fares for some operators are too low leading to a churn of drivers who cannot make ends meet so a minimum living fare for London needs to be part of new legislation GMB tells committee.

GMB Professional Driver’s Branch on 17th September submitted at presentation to the London Assembly Transport Committee which is investigating how taxi and private hire services help moving passengers around the capital, how they mesh with other forms of transport, and how they might change to provide a better service in the future. See notes to editors for copy of full GMB written presentation.

Some of the points Steve Garelick, Branch Secretary Professional Driver’s branch, will cover at the Committee hearing are as follows: “On technology legislation has not really kept up and as a result the law is unclear for hiring and provision of passenger transportation electronically.

As things now stand it is possible to sign up as a driver without any real checks. This is not only dangerous it is disastrous.

We believe that all legitimate London licensees should be provided with an annual licence logo for their website or app to not only endorse that they are legitimate but to help the public make an informed decision.

We propose that all Operators are able to show clear proof of contributing to or paying appropriate UK taxes.

On fares those of some operators are ridiculously low. This leads to a churn of drivers as many cannot make ends meet.  A minimum living fare for London needs to be implemented and be part of legislation.”

End

Contact: Steve Garelick 07565 456776 or Michelle Bacon 07961 709680 or GMB press office 07921 289880

Notes to editors

GMB Professional Driver’s Branch Presentation to the London Assembly Transport Committee on 17th September.

Apps and Websites

It is our belief that legislation has not really kept up with technology and as a result the law is unclear for hiring and provision of passenger transportation electronically.

This needs improvement.

We need strong legislation and guidelines for protection of all parties traveling to or from London.

Without clear licensing those who wish to take advantage for fiscal or Physical reasons cannot necessarily be detected, organised or policed.

As a group we have demonstrated that anyone can create an application or website without any licensing in place.

It is just as possible to sign up as a driver without any real checks this is not only dangerous it is disastrous.

As a result companies can be use drivers who are both licenced and unlicensed but evade London legislation themselves.

We believe that all legitimate London licensees should be provided with an annual licence logo for their website or app to not only endorse that they are legitimate but to help the public make an informed decision.

This will not only create a standard but will offer safety to those who book transportation.

It may become more of reason for operators to wish to be licenced in London.

For practical reasons an annual logo must be issued to prevent those from using who then cease trading or as is proven by TFL they cannot be proved to be trading correctly on further inspections.

A simple roundel with Electronic Watermark would create a clear message to Londoners and Visitors that the company chosen is legitimate.

It would also help act against those who choose to take advantage of travellers on a daily basis where they are not licenced.

Whilst on this point I would add that we need to work out precisely who licenced drivers are working for and a database should be in place.

Congestion charge Revenues will continue to be stolen by those who rent or use licenced vehicles without appropriate personal licences.

Further checks must be in place.

We propose that all Operators are able to show clear proof of contributing to or paying appropriate UK taxes.

To make online and offline hire accessible additional payment options including text, PayPal and Oyster need to be on offer from Taxi and Private hire.

Pricing

Passengers have commented on pricing being excessive however Licenced Hires fares in our view are artificially low and do not reflect the costs that drivers face.

A Standard Family Car costs Fifty Five pence per mile to run.

Based on licenced drivers expenses the cost is higher to carry out their work.

Where most drivers are self-employed you can find there is a major disparity over the hour’s driver’s work and the income they receive.

Fares from some operators are ridiculously low.

We have already identified two companies where the drivers are earning below what would be legal if they were employed.

A social and ethical guideline must be brought in to licensing to prevent occurrences like this.

Part of the reason drivers are forced from the profession are low rates and the inability to keep well maintained modern vehicles on the road.

There is an ongoing churn of drivers as many cannot make ends meet.

A minimum living fare for London needs to be implemented and be part of legislation.

Issues facing Professional Drivers

It is always on the drivers mind that whilst they wait for their pre-booked fares enforcement officers often attempt to ticket them.

Instances where drivers are moved have multiple ramifications to customers and drivers additionally it has an ecological effect.

The effect of drivers constantly circling not only creates further gases but also creates further congestion.

In many locations this adversely effects the Mayors goal to reduce emissions.

This is also an issue for those with Disabilities in such situations.

A minimum grace period for drivers waiting to collect passengers needs to be in place.

Clearly both Private hire and Taxi are licensed by TFL London however when authorities give consideration to Private Hire this is often ignored.

A prime example is Camden Council who when considering plans for Tottenham Court Road, made arrangements for taxis but none for private hire.

For the fees paid there must be parity.

GMB also believe there needs to be a zero tolerance position on failure to pay a driver the fare they are due.

Consistently drivers are ignored by the police when making a request for assistance in such matters.

We are now discussing the high level of reported and unreported attacks and Bilking with TFL to find a solution and enforcement.

Where the police are called to situations such as petty theft they seem to act with alacrity.

However when called by licensed drivers they do not show the same commitment.

Stricter laws need to be brought in for the protection of private hire and taxi drivers.

Until the general public are educated to know that drivers are professionals and deserve the same dignity as other workers there will be a continued stigma and ignorance to our needs.

Relationship between taxis and private hire

We are concerned about the high level of adverse comments on Social media by Taxi and Private Hire.

We believe a code of conduct needs to be created to stop such activity and would request the assembly give this their consideration.

Parking for private hire.

Taxis have facilities to park when off duty in London.

There is no easy way for PHV Drivers to stop in London if they need a break or to use toilet facilities. This must be improved.

In Private hires case no facilities exist.

To enable some parity spaces need to and must be made available for private hire drivers.

At all major London airports parking fees are extortionate.

We believe parking costs at Heathrow are disproportionate to its location.

Minimum parking costs at city airport are just as exorbitant and a One minute stay costs six pounds minimum.

Stansted claims to be a London airport however it levies’ no fee to local Licensees to drop, whereas London drivers are charged to drop passengers.

In our view if airports are choosing to prefix their name with London they should exempt London Licenced Drivers from these fees.

Clearly these airports should forfeit the right to call themselves London airports if they cannot support London’s licensed drivers.

Weekend Bookings

One of the biggest issues in relation to availability for weekend work is the cost of insurance.

Prior to legislation many saw Private Hire as a second income for weekends.

Drivers have multiple costs that make trying to obtain this type of income pointless which is why many choose to tout.

Theoretically insurers would need to be asked in to the market to offer weekend private hire cover.

This may assist in adding numbers.

A haggling culture exists due to availability of touts.

The perception of illegality provokes the public in to believing rates should be lower.

The issue is further exasperated by the fact that once a potential client leaves premises the company who may have a license cannot approach them on the street.

This then leaves them prey to the touts who almost certainly operate in these areas.

An improved solution must be found.

Touting

Private hire and licensing enforcement should have greater police involvement including bringing this back on to the syllabus at Hendon.

Unless the Police understand what is illegal they will miss what is often under their nose.

This has an economic effect on local legitimate business it also means those uninsured and unlicensed individuals avoid tax and are normally involved in other criminality.

There appears to be very little tout prevention at most London airports.

Often specific groups target specific geographical arrivals.

There is also an issue with film unit drivers not being licensed.

We would request that a condition of permits to film in London that only licensed London operators are used and comply with the suggestions within our report.

We would also suggest encouragement of taxi drivers to ply for hire in known tout black spots.

Additionally Instant ranks for evenings or special events may stop touts gaining a foothold.

We need to ensure that passengers are transported in a safe way especially those who are vulnerable.

Efforts on touting must be increased dramatically to avoid unprovoked attacks of both a sexual and a financial nature.

GMB have suggested a plate system to TFL which would assist in detecting unlicensed vehicles and we would encourage you to look at our report as this would assist greatly in enforcement.

Our plan would stop those who rent licensed vehicles without personal licenses from the deception of appearing to be licensed.

We believe criminal record checks should be carried out on licensed operators and their staff.

In our opinion enforcement and licensing team numbers need to increase to make a real dent on illegal activity and best practice.

Road Space issues and delays in London

Physical road space has decreased in the last 5 years and is now strangling traffic flow.

Adding an ill-conceived cycle superhighway to London will not only create further congestion just as the similarly eccentric Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden Scheme does but will increase environmental hotspots and delays.

Green Fleet

To reach ULEZ nirvana the profession faces several hurdles.

Green vehicles cost more but higher fares cannot be attained.

Clean oil and Organic Carbon Cotton Batteries must be considered.

There is of course a clear issue in the lack of plug points and facilities for Hydrogen.

Disability

More incentives for larger companies to offer facilities for disabled individuals are needed.

Not all need adapted taxis some need a saloon for access.

GMB believe a separate investigation is required for all interested parties.

Recruitment

The profession of Taxi and Private hire is still predominantly a male based trade and it is important that TFL helps to promote recruitment of Female, Gay and transgender drivers.

TFL and their role

In our view a clear set of guidelines and a long term plan needs to be in place for how TFL and the Assembly interface with the Profession.

A schism has occurred due to interest groups forgetting TFL’s first brief is for public protection and its second brief is for finding transport solutions.

London is a complex place and with a radical overhaul we can compete better with other cities.

 

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