What Are The New Taxi Law Proposals?
In the past few years, it seems that the taxi and private hire industry as we know it has been in a state of flux, with the sense that once again change is coming to this centuries old industry.
It's not just technology that's introducing change, and a number of factors could all potentially alter the way the industry will move in the future. Perhaps one of the most important of these is the recent suggestion of new regulations, rules, and laws that would directly affect how drivers operate. We’ve outlined some of the proposed new taxi regulations below.
Drivers to only work for one operator
In September a number of leaked consultation documents from Transport for London came into the public eye, outlining potential regulations that could be enforced within the city.
Perhaps one of the most striking of these is the suggestion that drivers would only legally be allowed to work for one operator at a time. It's thought that the reasoning behind this is to crack down on rideshare operators, who have repeatedly come under pressure from black cab and private hire drivers in the city for a number of reasons.
Currently, it's estimated that a large number of drivers working on behalf of rideshare companies do so only on a part-time basis, with many also working full time for minicab and private hire firms. If the law was to come into place, it would mean that those "moonlighting" for rideshare companies would have to choose between doing so full time, or simply driving for private hire firms.
Whereas this law is at the moment just a proposal that would affect drivers in London, previous consultation documents have outlined a willingness to roll out any initially London based regulations across the country.
Passenger waiting time
Another proposal within the leaked documents stipulates changes to the amount of time that passengers must wait before entering a pre-booked vehicle.
At the time of writing, there is no blanket minimum time that pre-booked vehicles – whether rideshare or minicab – must wait before allowing a passenger to enter. In contrast, the proposals suggest an introduction of a minimum 5 minute waiting time for pre-booked vehicles.
As the average waiting time for an Uber vehicle is around 3 minutes, this proposed regulation has been viewed as a direct action to restrict how rideshare firms operate. However, if introduced the regulations would affect any pre-booked vehicle, meaning that minicab and private hire firms would also feel the impact. Some also fear that customers forced to endure artificial pre-booking times could be placed at risk or in vulnerable situations when waiting for a vehicle to arrive.
Mandatory fare estimates
A further suggestion states that private hire operators would need to be able to provide a fixed and accurate fare estimate to potential passengers.
Whilst providing this is something that many firms are already happy to do, the proposals suggest that this estimate must be accurate, not simply a ballpark figure, and must be provided upfront when booking a vehicle. As such, this proposal has again been seen as primarily targeting taxi firms who operate through apps, where the nature of the app means that a fare estimate might not be a possibility. Whereas some of the newer rideshare apps do have a facility to check a fare before booking a ride, this is optional, and the figure isn’t a fixed number.
Subcontracting within private hire firms
Last year, a vote in the House of Commons approved a proposed "Deregulation Bill', designed to lower the level of bureaucracy across a number of industries, including the private hire industry.
After much discussion and scrutiny, a number of proposals within the bill were eventually dropped, including allowing private hire drivers to let family or friends use their taxi when of duty. However, the bill did result in two significant changes that affect how operators and drivers work. One of these is that private hire operators can now subcontract work out to other firms, which can be located anywhere in the country.
This means that a customer ordering a taxi from one firm may receive a driver and vehicle from another firm. It's argued that some customers may feel that if firm they are familiar with starts to use drivers from firms they are less aware of, a level of trust may be lost. However, others argue that the measures are simply a way to reduce red tape within the industry, and that the ability to subcontract will allow private hire companies to offer a more consistent and efficient service.
Although the majority of these proposals are London based, there is a history of new regulations being trialled in the capital and then rolled out across the country. It's also unlikely that any new laws will be introduced quickly or without proper consideration, so whether you're a minicab driver, the owner of a private hire firm, someone who gets a bit of extra cash from rideshare apps or a frequent taxi customer, don't expect any huge changes any time soon.