Currently, there are around 280 local authorities setting distinct rules, processes and fees for motorists wanting to obtain a taxi licence in the UK. But industry experts are now calling for plans to harmonise the procedures in line with the principles of ‘fill it out once’.
Recent data from the Department for Transport found that there are currently 330,300 taxi and private hire vehicle driving licences, as of July 2022. From region to region, new recruits will face different levels of checks and testing – this can include geography tests, CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks and language tests.
They will also incur varying costs and can include significant upfront investments due to rules requiring cars to be painted a specific colour, and to operate in more than one region, taxi drivers may need more than one licence.
In recent times, some local authorities have provided licences at lower fees than others, often removing the geographic restrictions being placed on drivers. Meanwhile, other authorities are imposing even tighter restrictions and keeping out drivers who have not taken local tests or paid local licence fees.
Safa Alkateb, CEO at private hire company Autocab, said major changes need to be brought in to protect drivers and the industry as a whole. ‘UK taxi licencing regulation is a chaotic, outdated system, and it’s in need of an overhaul.’ The different local authorities across the country each have their own distinct rules, processes and fees for new drivers who want a taxi licence. That ends up with new drivers having different levels of checks and testing that depend on the region they’re in.
‘On average, the process of obtaining a license takes 14 weeks, but can often take longer.’
Interestingly, Uber drivers make up 48% of all taxi drivers in the UK – with a surge of 54% since the start of the year.
Mr Alkateb continued, saying: ‘to pick up jobs in more than one region, both operators and drivers will need to have more than one licence, which means they have to go through the whole process multiple times. Some regions have different rules over such things as the colour of the car, whether they can have tinted windows, etc.’
‘This can create hefty upfront costs which can act as a barrier to new entrants to the industry, making it a lot harder for local operators to recruit. All this now means that we have a minefield of disjointed rules and regulations for drivers and taxi firms.’ It is feared that if changes are not made to the licencing system, new drivers will be put off from the profession.