Advice for hackney carriage and private hire drivers

28 May 2020

Following the Department for Transport's latest publication and reiterating the steps needed for the taxi and private hire industry to continue to work in a safe manner during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have updated our guidance as below.

The Prime Minister announced the roadmap to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions.  The guidance can be found here

Gov.uk - COVID-19 recovery strategy

On 12 May the Government published guidance for those operating transport services (this is relevant to all taxi and PHV licensees)

Gov.uk - COVID-19 safer transport guidance for operators

There is also specific guidance for taxi and private hire services, set out here: 

Gov.uk - COVID-19 safer travel guidance for passengers, taxis and private hire vehicles

It is important that you review and implement these guidance documents if you are operating a taxi or private hire vehicle business, or are a self-employed driver.

Please also see the Q & A below – with regard to the installation of protective barriers, Brentwood Borough Council licensing would support the installation of a safety screen between the driver and rear passenger seats, but would require that as we can’t currently see the  screen and vehicle together, it is the proprietors responsibility to ensure that upon installation the screen must not interfere with the deployment of any airbag or curtain; or compromise or interfere with any safety feature of the vehicle. We also require, in writing, confirmation that you have informed your insurance company of the fitting of the screen. Permission to fit this screen will be reviewed at such a time that the risk of Covid-19 infection is reduced.

We hope that you are staying safe during this time and can only thank you in advance for your co-operation with the changes we are having to make to keep the licensing service running and to support you being able to continue to work if you choose to do so. All applications and any questions or concerns can be emailed to licensing@brentwood.gov.uk.

The Department for Transport have published some answers to frequently asked questions below:

What guidance has been published for the taxi and private hire vehicle sector?

The Government has published transport guidance on the safe provision of transport services during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are separate guidance documents for transport providers and for passengers. Both guidance documents cover all modes.

The guidance sets out government recommendations on who should be travelling and under what circumstances, and how social distancing rules should be interpreted. It also includes information about cleaning practices.

  • Guidance for passengers
  • Guidance for operators
  • Guidance on clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Guidance for households with a possible coronavirus infection

Should taxi and private hire vehicle drivers or passengers wear PPE such as a mask?

There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas.

We are advising passengers if they can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet - such as when travelling in a taxi or private hire vehicle.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by the law. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off. Use the guidance on face coverings to understand how to wear and make a face coverings.

Other measures such as changing habits, social distancing, screens, cleaning and hygiene are also suggested in the guidance.

Should protective barriers be installed between drivers and passengers?

The installation of protective barriers is a decision for licensing authorities, PHV operators and firm/individual operating the vehicle to make based on their own assessment of risk.

They may also wish to consider:

  • Eliminating the use of face-to-face passenger seating
  • Use of ventilation
  • Reducing occupancy to individual passengers in the back left-hand seat for vehicles that do not enable 2 metre separation; considering reducing occupancy in a larger vehicle

Can a taxi or PHV driver refuse to admit a passenger who is not wearing a face covering?

Taxi and PHV drivers are advised to make an assessment of risk as outlined in the transport operator guidance published on 12 May. The acceptance of a booking request by a PHV operator is a decision made based on the operator’s own assessment of risk. Any requirements for face coverings should be made clear to the passenger before the operator accepts the booking. Taxi drivers can use this assessment to determine whether or not it is reasonable to admit a passenger who is not wearing a face covering, considering other mitigations they put in place from their risk assessment. This does not however absolve them of their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

What support is the Government providing to the taxi and PHV sector?

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will allow taxi and PHV drivers to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

Why are taxi and PHV drivers not considered critical workers?

Taxi and private hire drivers should not generally be considered critical workers.  Those undertaking Home to School transport or the transport of “extremely vulnerable” people may be considered critical workers on a case-by-case basis.  Critical workers should make suitable arrangements for their children to stay at home where it is safe for them to do so; the need for children to attend school should be discussed with the school.

Licensing changes

In order to comply with Government guidance we are having to change the way we are processing licence applications and want to advise you of the current procedures, that will be subject to change as everything develops.

The Council have now closed all offices to the public, so we are unable to receive applications in person.

All application paperwork can be submitted electronically by email, including the submission of documents for an Enhanced DBS check if required.

Medical providers are unable to carry out Group 2 medicals at the moment, so we have relaxed the requirement for these to be provided for existing drivers.

We will email you and explain what you will need to do when you are required to make an application or submit documentation.

We will only be issuing the paper licence by email for drivers, we will not be issuing badges during this period but will provide an exemption letter and will require you still to wear your old badge.

We have temporally suspended vehicle inspections, with the exception of new and replacement vehicles, and will only be issuing the paper licence by email for vehicles.

Renewal applications will still need to be submitted online. We will be issuing plates during this period but they will be posted out to you. In the event your plate is delayed a waiver letter will be emailed to you and you should ensure that the old plate is still displayed.

You will still need to comply with the Governments requirements for MOT's and vehicle tax. The Government has advised it will extend any MOTs that were due from 30/03/2020 by 6 months - vehicles need to be kept in a roadworthy condition and drivers can be prosecuted if they drive an unsafe vehicle. Guidance on MOTs can be found at Gov.uk.

All enquiries should be sent to licensing@brentwood.gov.uk and applications submitted online.

If you have any questions or concerns please email us at licensing@brentwood.gov.uk.

 

Safety tips for drivers

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers

Be alert and assess the risks

  • Think about your vehicle and your customers and how you can reduce the risks
  • Consider installing a screen as these may be beneficial (check with your local licensing team)

Maintain hygiene

  • Regularly apply hand sanitiser or wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water
  • Keep your vehicle clean and clean your driving area regularly including your steering wheel
  • Clean surfaces you or others touch after every fare
  • Wear a face covering - the kind you can easily make at home

Waiting for fares

  • Remain in your car wherever possible
  • (Out of your vehicle) keep your distance from people outside your household

Get tested

  • As an essential worker you can get tested for COVID-19
  • See government guidance on how to self refer for a test

Stay healthy

  • Your health matters
  • Follow the five steps to mental wellbeing - www.nhs.uk

For more information: www.gov.uk

Safety tips for passengers

Your taxi drivers are ready whenever you need them. They are taking measures to keep you safe. Please follow these tips to keep them safe too (tips based on the latest government guidance on safer travel)

Follow the driver's advice

  • You may be asked to sit in the back left-hand seat if travelling alone
  • Face away from other passengers where possible

Keep your distance

  • When waiting for a taxi, stay two metres (six feet) from people outside of your household
  • Don't travel if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, self-isolating or clinically extremely vulnerable

Avoid physical contact

  • Be aware of the surfaces you touch

Maintain hygiene

  • At the end of your journey wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or apply hand sanitiser
  • Wear a face covering - the kind you can easily make at home

Make contactless payments

  • Pay in advance or use a contactless card where you can
  • If you can only use cash do not place it in the driver's hand: wash or wipe your hands before and after you've handled it

For more information: www.gov.uk/coronavirus search 'safer travel'