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Uber Challenge TfL Right to Regulate Private Hire in Court

Uber and TfL are in Court this week over TfL’s plans to introduce english language tests for private hire drivers.

Although The Department for Business Innovation and Skills say that only *seven per cent of the UK population would fail the test, Uber is claiming that the test will threaten the livelihoods of its drivers and the viability of the company, telling BBC news:

“TfL’s plans threaten the livelihoods of thousands of drivers in London, while also stifling tech companies like Uber.”

Uber had originally supported the test, which costs under £200, but is now arguing that the requirement that drivers produce a certificate showing they have a required level of english language skills is costly and unnecessary.

The GMB, the union representing private hire drivers – which last year won a court case to have Uber drivers designated as ‘workers’ – has also said it is a against the requirement, calling it “Ridiculous” in a press release.

Uber has more than 30,000 drivers licensed in London and estimates thousands would be affected by the change.

Helen Chapman, TfL’s General Manager for Taxi and Private Hire said of the requirement:

“It is essential for public safety that all licensed drivers can communicate in English at an appropriate level. The ability of drivers to receive, understand and respond to written communications contributes to public safety and customer care. We are clear that this is crucial to a driver’s role in transporting the public.”

To support its policy TfL have supplied examples where other UK licensing authorities have English language requirements.

English Language Requirements – examples from other Licensing Authorities

  • Bedford Borough Council – A basic English language assessment, delivered by a Council officer, to determine that applicants have a basic level of proficiency in oral and written English and the ability to accurately give change in sterling. All new applicants have to take the assessment.
    The assessment includes questions about the applicant, charging fares and change to be given, identifying street names and understanding of licensing conditions.
  • Bournemouth Borough Council – Provide evidence of an acceptable NQF Level 2 English literacy qualification or to have completed a BTEC/NVQ qualification in Transporting Passengers by Taxi and Private Hire.
  • Leeds City Council – All applicants must undertake an English comprehension test. The test is set and run by a recognised training organisation and covers the following key areas:
    • Speaking clearly: giving information
    • Reading signs and documents
    • Writing: transferring information
    • Dealing with fares
  • Leicester City Council – Applicants not born in the UK have to undertake an English assessment that meets the requirement of NQF Entry Level 3. The assessment is delivered by a college of further education independent of the licensing authority.
  • Manchester City Council – Assessment of basic English and maths including verbal questions and responses; reading and comprehending written English; and mental arithmetic. Currently delivered in-house but MCC are looking to find an external partner to deliver it.

Best Practice…

TfL’s requirement is also in line with best practice recommendations suggested by the Dept for Transport…

Language proficiency

Paragraph 71. Authorities may also wish to consider whether an applicant would have any problems in communicating with customers because of language difficulties.

Unite the union Cab Section…

Unite Cab Section supports this and other proposals for the taxi and private hire trades put forward by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan in his Taxi & Private Hire Action Plan. Unite Cab Section would also urge Uber and the private hire trade in general to drop its opposition to TfL’s English language requirement.

Unite responses to questions put forward in TfL’s Private Hire Consultation

TfL ProposalWe will make regulations that will require drivers to be able to demonstrate they have sufficient knowledge of English language at an intermediate level. The requirement will be applied to all new driver applicants and renewals. In the interim, as part of our review of the topographical test, we will ensure that the test centres are properly assessing the ability of candidates to communicate in English.

 Question 18 – Do you agree with our proposal? If you don’t agree, please say why.

  • Yes a requirement should be introduced for private hire driver applicants to be able to speak English to a certain standard.
  •  Unite is concerned that the proposal for the interim period is not satisfactory. Testing should be carried out independently in order to make sure the necessary standards are reached.

 Question 19 – What standard do you think it would be appropriate for applicants to demonstrate?

  •  The training should be to at least NQF Level 3.

Unite also proposed – Additional Measures:

  •  Disability awareness training and Driver training
  • Yes Unite does consider it appropriate for TfL to introduce new training for private hire drivers and it should definitely contain an enhanced driving test in the same way as the Hackney Carriage trade does in order to assure the standards we should expect on London’s streets.
  • Unite believes that all new private hire drivers should pass a Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ) before they are issued with a private hire licence as is best practice in many authorities outside London.

 The VRQ should consist of

  • An enhanced driving test to the same standard as taxi drivers.
  • English Test to NQF Level 3.
  • Numeracy Test to NQF Level 3.
  • An overview of private hire legislation.
  • Disability needs of passengers.
  • Health and Safety and First Aid.
  • Customer Care.
  • Network developments.
  • Forthcoming consultations.
  • Running a small business.
  • Developments in the industry.

There should also be a requirement for further ongoing training with the requirement that all new drivers complete a NVQ Level 2 within three years of being licensed. This is standard practice outside of London in many authorities

The NVQ level 2 should be made up from 11 different modules that are delivered through tutorials and practical observations.

  • Unit 1 Ensure Health and Safety of Private Hire Driver and Passengers.
  • Unit 2 Drive a Private Hire Vehicle in a Professional Manner.
  • Unit 3 Provide Professional Customer Service in the Private Hire Industry.
  • Unit 4 Provide a Safe and Legal Vehicle for Transporting Passengers by Private Hire.
  • Unit 5 Provide a Transport Service in the Private Hire Vehicle Industry for Customers who Require Assistance.
  • Unit 6 Provide a Service to Customers Using a Wheelchair in an Accessible Private Hire Vehicle.
  • Unit 7 Transport Parcels, Luggage and Other Items in the Private Hire Industry.
  • Unit 8 Transport Children and Young Persons by Private Hire or Chauffeuring.
  • Unit 9 /10 Carry Fare Paying Passengers within the Regulatory Framework of the Private Hire Industry.
  • Unit 11/12 Process Fares and Charges for Private Hire passengers.
  • Unit 13 Plan routes in the Private Hire Industry.

The training should be done on a face to face basis.

  • It should be an accredited provider. Unite believes that the VRQ and NVQ can be delivered fairly and responsibly at approved TfL training centres with providers vetted and licensed by TfL

TfL’s English language requirements can be found here. 

*1Figure according to City AM

Posted by Peter J Rose @peterjrose1


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