Following the publication of the Jay and Casey reports into CSE in Rotherham where the use of taxi’s to ferry young girls from Rotherham to other parts of the country was highlighted Commissioner Mary Ney oversaw the introduction of new rules and regulations for operators and vehicles. (These apply to Private Hire Vehicles not the familiar TX4 ‘London Taxi/Black Cab’) All PHV’s in Rotherham must be painted white.
The changes cover a broad range of issues and include:
- Introduction of a ‘fit and proper’person test which will include non-conviction and any other relevant information
- Enhanced knowledge test, and assessment of English Language and Maths ability
- Taxi cameras and audio recordings in all licensed vehicles
- ID badges clearly on display showing the driver’s photograph and licence details
- Child and adult safeguarding awareness training for all drivers and operators
- A nationally recognised qualification that includes customer care, meeting the needs of people with disabilities, road safety, the handling of emergencies and how to defuse difficult situations and manage conflict
- A specific Code of Conduct for working with vulnerable passengers
- Documentary evidence to confirm drivers may legally work in the UK
- Minimum emission standards for vehicles, plus all taxis must be less than 10-years-old (exceptions for wheelchair accessible vehicles and vehicles in exceptional condition)
- No children in the front seat of vehicles (with certain exceptions)
- Vehicles which clearly indicate they are licensed including clear signage
- A fire extinguisher in every vehicle
- Stricter regulations in relation to tyres, including that they must be new rather than part-worn, fitted by a reputable vehicle maintenance company, with at least a 2.0mm tread depth
- No taxi firms using vehicles or drivers licensed by other councils (all drivers and vehicles working for Rotherham taxi firms will meet the new standards)
- Most Rotherham licensed taxis will need to have a camera installed by 6th July, 2016, or be able to demonstrate they are in the process of arranging for a camera to be fitted.*
- *Where a taxi is less than five-years-old and the 2016 renewal date falls after this date, a camera will need to be installed when the driver next submits his or her vehicle renewal application. Vehicles over nine-years-old will also be exempt but will not have their licenses renewed due to age limit requirements on vehicles.
- The systems are designed to protect customers and drivers. Whilst the cameras must be activated each time there is a passenger in the vehicle, the audio recording can be activated by either the driver or the passenger at any time. The Council requires drivers to do this whenever they are involved in any kind of dispute with a passenger and whenever an unaccompanied child or vulnerable adult is being carried in the vehicle. Drivers will not be able to access the footage or audio and Rotherham Council will only download these in certain circumstances, such as if there is a complaint or incident involving a taxi, or if the Council wants to check that the system is being used properly.
Video recording must be active at all times. Audio recording must be active in any of the following circumstances: An unaccompanied child (i.e. under 18) or vulnerable adult is being carried in the vehicle, or between the hours of 2200hrs and 0600hrs.
A small indicator light will show when audio is being recorded, and stickers and notices will give people information about the systems and how they are used. Customers can also ask the driver how the system operates and where the audio activation buttons are situated.
If you feel your driver is not abiding by the new rules you can report your concern or make a complaint: http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/taxi
- You will probably agree the new standards are welcome and will help to improve the reputation of Rotherham taxi drivers however there is a fly in the ointment: 40 Rotherham taxi drivers lost their taxi licences prior to the new standards being introduced and quite a few of them went to Rossendale in Lancashire and applied for a taxi licence there. This means some taxis which are being driven and used in the Rotherham borough do not meet the new standards necessary to protect passengers and drivers.
- What should you do? If you need a private hire taxi insist the driver is registered with RMBC, this will guarantee the driver and the vehicle complies with the new standards.