The taxi industry has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and taxi drivers are still counting the cost with rising fuel prices and the drive for greener vehicles.
This combination of factors means that many taxi drivers cannot afford to replace their vehicles in accordance with the terms of their license. This means they must either replace it with a newer vehicle or are unable to continue their vital roles as taxi drivers.
The shortage and higher initial cost of electric vehicles means that many are unable to make the switch to EVs ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new and electric vehicles in the UK.
To maintain safety and standards in the industry, licensing authorities require public hire taxi drivers and private hire taxi drivers to change their vehicles after certain lengths of time, which vary between councils. There are also limits on the age of a vehicle when it is first licensed as a taxi.
Taxi drivers in parts of Shropshire are asking their licensing authority to allow them to use vehicles for longer to help maintain taxi driver numbers and strengthen the fleet.
Current licensing regulations imposed by Telford and Wrekin Council mean that vehicles with public hire insurance and private hire insurance must be replaced after 12 years. The council can grant extensions if a vehicle is in exceptionally good condition and this is reviewed annually.
Under the current system, drivers whose vehicles reached the maximum age had three options.
A report to be considered by the council stated: “Under the current policy, once a vehicle reaches its age limit then the proprietor has three options: Prepare a business case to be heard by a licensing sub-committee to request an extension for the vehicle to be licensed for another 12 months; replace the vehicle to meet the council’s age limits; or to licence the vehicle with another local authority whose policy allows vehicles over the current age limits.”
The report added that if the council keeps its current policy, private hire vehicles older than 10 years will be able to be licensed by neighbouring authorities and still work within the borough “without any direct control from the council”.
Following the pandemic and ongoing cost-of-living crisis, taxi drivers that are licensed by the authority are asking for an extension so that vehicles have to be replaced after 15 years.
They will still face the same rigorous checks to ensure they are safe for passengers and taxi drivers, and will be subjected to six-monthly inspections to ensure safety standards are met.
But the extra three years will give cab and fleet owners time to bounce back and be in a healthier financial position before they need to replace their cabs.
It is a sensible approach that will help the taxi fleet maintain numbers and could be mirrored in other parts of the country as the industry aims to return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond.
The issue was to have been discussed by the council early last month, but was postponed following the death of the Queen.
It is hoped that if the extension is granted, the changes will only take a few weeks to bring in.
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