Cross-border hiring has long been a major concern to taxi drivers and Unite has been campaigning for a National Cab Act for many years.
Cross-border hiring is used to describe a situation where private hire vehicles or taxis, work predominantly away from the area in which they are licensed, rarely, if ever, working in their own licensing area. And often this can be many miles from their home authority.
With the advent of App based bookings there has been a substantial increase in the number of cross-border hirings taking place to such an extent that the Police submission to the parliamentary Task and Finish Working Group described cross-border hiring as “the single largest risk to policing nationally”. Cross-border hiring has serious safety implications, as the Police acknowledge, which the government has continually ignored, despite many organisations raising concerns.
Unite National Cab Act proposals
The start and finish requirement
This will require primary legislation from the government to introduce a change that requires private hire journeys to start or finish in the area of licensing for which the driver, vehicle and operator are licensed. The triple lock licence requirement would continue to apply.
Under this proposal private hire drivers will only be allowed to be offered and accept a journey when they are inside their home licensing area. Or for a journey that returns to their home area if they are outside their home licensing area when accepting the booking.
A driver cannot be offered or accept a journey that doesn’t start or finish within the drivers home licensing area.
This proposal would be very easy to enforce as operators keep electronic records, and it would be a simple task to ascertain if operators and drivers were not conforming to the start and finish requirement.
National minimum standards
This will require new primary legislation and Unite has long called for national minimum standards for taxi and private hire drivers, vehicles and operators. Passengers have the right to expect a minimum level of safety when they travel in any taxi or private hire vehicle. By equalising minimum standards across the country this would help to remove one of the major reasons for cross-border hiring as operators and drivers seek areas with the cheapest and least stringent licensing requirements.
National minimum standards, would be a minimum standard, that local authorities could enhance if they desired to in order to meet local requirements. So in London, TfL would be able to retain the Knowledge of London, a level of topographical testing that would be superfluous in many other licensing areas. Vehicle emission standards are another standard that will vary according to the local licensing authority, but it is vital that these standards can be enforced.
This would keep licensing local and simple. Local authorities would retain control over the operators, vehicles, and drivers that operate within their authority. This is important in allowing democratically elected authorities to reflect the local needs of the population.
Licensing authorities would retain the ability to impose additional or higher requirements, where necessary.
Repeal of the Deregulation Act of 2015
Unite warned that this ill-thought out legislation would lead to many problems and reductions in safety. This Act has been seen by many operators as a way to operate cross-border blatantly ignoring licensing requirements in the area they are operating in. They are many operators setting up elaborate operations that use the Deregulation Act to bogusly sub contract bookings. The Deregulation Act has brought nothing but confusion and compromised safety since it was passed in 2015. Unite is calling for the repeal of the Deregulation Act of 2015.
National enforcement powers
This will require new primary legislation to introduce national enforcement powers that are urgently required to counter the growth of cross-border hiring.
At the moment a driver, vehicle or operator working outside of their home area are very unlikely to face any enforcement at all. The solution is to give enforcement officers national enforcement powers to be able to enforce any licensed driver, vehicle or operator that is in their area. These national enforcement powers would operate alongside the other legislative changes being called for in this document.
These enforcement powers should be backed up by a national database of drivers and operators that would allow licensing authorities to populate and then check if an applicant or licensed driver has been refused a licence or suspended or revoked by another licensing authority.
National enforcement power on their own are not the solution to cross-border hiring. There needs to be a holistic solution part of which are national enforcement powers.
Capping private hire numbers
This will require primary legislation but Unite believes that it is essential in allowing local authorities to manage the growth of the private hire industry. As mentioned previously London has seen a 100% growth in private hire numbers over a six-year period. This has lead to increasing congestion, slower journey times and increasing pollution. Local authorities require the ability to cap private hire numbers in order to retain control over the area they represent.
The gig economy
Unite has long called for primary legislation regulations to protect worker’s rights and employment conditions that are being exploited within the so-called gig economy. Operators are using bogus self-employment to deny private hire divers the minimum wage, holidays and sick pay. Unite will support all measures to regulate the gig economy and ensure that all private hire drivers are properly classified as employees and entitled to full employment and worker’s rights.
A National Cab Act encompassing all of the above requirements would ensure that passengers can travel in any taxi or private hire vehicle knowing that the best safety arrangements have been put in place. Wherever the passenger is travelling from these requirements will ensure that the passenger has a minimum safety standard that the driver, vehicle and operator have been required to fulfil. This will be backed up by new enforcement powers that the local authority can use to enforce those minimum safety requirements.
Much of the current licensing legislation provides a solid structure for any future legislation. By combining the best parts of current taxi and private hire legislation with the suggested new legislation to stop cross-border hiring Unite believes that this will give a robust licensing regime that puts safety first and will ensure a national minimum level of licensing fit for the new technological challenges facing the industry in the coming decade.