Private Hire News polled readers and found 55% believed the new regulations surrounding route planning would be more useful over the traditional, more localised, ‘knowledge’ testing.
Sam Butterworth focuses on the changes occurring across the UK to better understand the consequences of this specific government regulatory modification.
The 2015 Deregulation Act acted as a catalyst for change within the private hire sector. The Act allowed drivers to work cross-local authority borders without licensing changes. This resulted, according to local authorities, in large taxi companies flooding local areas.
Birmingham City Council and London’s Transport for London are among the first to respond to these changes through regulatory change at a local authority level.
Birmingham City Council have voted to replace the ‘Knowledge Test’ with a new ‘Navigation Test’. The move is intended to educate drivers in a spate of underperforming areas – including map reading, awareness of child protection and disability discrimination rules and guidelines. These changes are designed to improve the conditionality of Birmingham and to a lesser extent, London’s private hire driving experience.
Private Hire News ran a poll in September/October 2016 which found a staggering 55% of private hire drivers want local authorities to move away from the aged ‘Knowledge Test’ in favour of a more modern and useful testing regime. The magazine argues this move could help reduce the burden of red tape on drivers whilst making the private hire sector safer for customers and road users alike. However, the roll-out across the UK has seen costs vary.
However, the roll-out is patchy. Cambridge to Lincoln, via Derby to Cardiff have seen the same change from a ‘Knowledge Test’ to a ‘Navigation Test’. However, many are still consulting their local areas. This lack of national clarity in the short-term will create problems for drivers in differing areas. It is important that all drivers have the right and ability to access government, both national and local, regulatory compliance in a fair and principled way.
The shocking paucity of rollout is a clear indictment that the consultation and wider national government support for local authorities, who themselves are working with budget cuts and reduced staffing, has failed private hire customers, private hire drivers and private hire companies.
More support is needed, more awareness is required and a more informative national strategy is a central tenet in the drive towards improving standards within the private hire sector in the UK.
By Sam Butterworth, blog editor at Crown Executive Cars.