Review of Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policies and procedures

Local residents, businesses and visitors to Darlington were invited to share their views on policies and procedures relating to taxis in the borough and following this consultation the Licensing Committee have recommended changes to the policy, which will be decided by Full Council on the 26th November 2020. If approved, these changes will be implemented on the 1st January 2021. The key aim is to ensure the safety and welfare of the public, encourage environmental sustainability, and ensure efficient taxi and private hire services in the borough. This policy has been revised in line with the Department for Transports recently published ‘Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards’. The department expects their recommendations to be implemented unless there is a compelling local reason not to do so.

Summary of proposed key changes to taxi policy

Subscribe to DBS update service

This has been included in the new ‘Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards’ for public safety. It will also be an essential requirement when a new online application process is introduced. All drivers to be routinely checked for new information every 6 months as required in the new standards.

NR3 register

This is a national register of all drivers who have had their license revoked or refused to ensure that a further application to a different local authority can be scrutinised.

Disability awareness training

Proposal that this becomes mandatory for all drivers when a course is developed by Tees Valley Licensing Authorities. It will be an online awareness course provided free or at a small cost. When introduced it will be a rolling programme, beginning with all new applications.

Insurance write offs

Current policy will not allow any vehicle that has been an insurance write off to be licensed. Advances in technology and improved safety of vehicles over the years has led us to conclude that non-structural damage write offs could be considered. This would be on the provision that an engineer’s report certifies it is safe and it has been declared suitable to be licensed by Darlington Borough Council mechanics.

Age restriction and emissions

Current policy only allows a vehicle to be licensed if it is initially under 3 years old and can longer remain on the fleet after it is six years old unless it is exceptionally well maintained. It is proposed that vehicles are allowed to be licensed under 4 years old and be removed when they reach 8 years. This age policy would be applied from 1st April 2023, which would mean that all vehicles will comply with Euro 6 engine emissions standards by that time. Once applied, there will be no longer be an exceptionally well maintained element to the policy. Drivers will have over 2 years notice to plan ahead should they need to change their vehicle. There will be no age restrictions for emission free vehicles. Concessions to the age will be available for wheelchair accessible vehicles to encourage their uptake.

Online application and payments

When a new online system is introduced, all applications will be made using this system and payments will be made electronically. This will be essential if the new system is to work efficiently.

Tinted windows

The current policy requires rear windows to allow 70% light transmission (front windows have statutory requirements 75% and 70%). Many vehicles are now manufactured with rear window tints less than 70% as standard, meaning drivers are having to replace windows at great expense before they can be licensed. It is proposed that this window tint be reduced to 30%, which will represent a cost saving to the trade.

Previous convictions

This is for a minimum time to have elapsed before considering whether to grant or renew a license. The conviction rates proposed are in line with the Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards.

Advertising

Vehicles are now applying wrapped advertising to panels and doors that have a different background colour to the vehicle. This enhances the advert but can make the vehicle look unsightly. It is proposed that the advert be limited in to the rear quarter panel only and must not change the underlying colour of the vehicle.

Spare wheels

In the current policy a spare wheel is a requirement, however some vehicles are now manufactured without a spare wheel and use a pressurised tyre sealant for emergencies or have. It is proposed that where a vehicle has been manufactured without a spare wheel, tyre sealants may be used in an emergency situation.