As the driver of a taxi you’re under some heavy responsibilities when it comes to the safety of your passengers and other road users. And whether you’re working in a 24-hour urban metropolis like London or a calm rural idyll, there are many laws that you need to be aware of. Read our Taxi Insurer guide to some of the laws you need to follow to stay safe and legal on the road.

From driver licensing laws and having the right taxi insurance to helping passengers and following the Highway Code, there’s lots here to keep you in business.

 

Covid taxi driver

 

Driver licensing laws

 

The legal hurdles you’ll need to get over before even getting behind the wheel of a taxi or PHV are substantial. After all, drivers have a big impact on public safety, so not just anyone can get a taxi or PHV licence. According to the government, in order to be granted a licence to drive a taxi or PHV outside London you must:

  • Have the legal right to work in the UK. You’ll need to have a right to a licence check in order to prove this.
  • Have had a full GB, Northern Ireland, or EU driving licence for 12 months or more.

You may also need to:

  • Undergo a medical examination to ensure you’re fit to drive. If there’s a change to your health that could affect your fitness to hold a taxi or PHV licence then you’re under a duty to tell the licensing authority.
  • Take a ‘knowledge’ test to ensure you’ve got a good knowledge of the area in which you’ll be driving.
  • Take a taxi driving test. Your local council will give you further details.
  • Agree to a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Licensing authorities will usually require applicants to do this before issuing a licence. This is to ensure that a driver is a suitable person to carry passengers safely.

If you’re applying to drive a taxi or PHV within London then there are slightly different requirements. Check the government website for further details on what you need.

Councils may also require other training to be completed before granting a licence. For example, Bristol City Council requires all new drivers to complete a Taxi Gold Standard training programme to improve skills in customer service. 

Think this sounds like too much hassle? Tempted to ferry passengers without the proper licence? Well think again! It’s a criminal offence to drive a taxi without a proper licence. If you’re caught without one then you could face a fine of up to £2,500. And may well struggle to obtain a licence in the future.

Be aware if you’re asked to produce a valid taxi licence, then you’ll have five days in which to do so. If you don’t, you could receive a fine up to £1,000.

And whatever you do, never be tempted to lie on your application. Falsifying details on a taxi licence application is a criminal offence and is punishable by a fine of up to £250. Again, if you’re caught falsifying information on your application, it’ll create difficulties if you wish to have an application approved in the future.

Finally, if you’re thinking of running a specialist taxi service (perhaps ferrying vulnerable adults or school children) there can be further licensing and regulatory requirements you need to follow. Your first port of call will be to call your local licensing authority to discuss your plans.

 

Health & safety and employment laws

 

If you’re fortunate enough to own a fleet of taxis then alongside the business opportunities you’ll need to balance your legal responsibilities to any staff and drivers. The law says you owe them a duty of care to ensure their safety at all times.

For example, as well as conducting risk assessments on your vehicles and workplace you’ll also need to follow these up with ongoing health and safety measures. Your fleet needs to be safe, roadworthy and well maintained at all times.

Allowing such issues to go unremedied could lead to costly legal claims and even prosecution further down the line. Mistakes like these can easily lead to the end of a business.

Anyone employing staff must also comply with employment laws including those on pay, working hours, holidays, sick leave, discrimination, and redundancies.

For other tips on managing a taxi fleet successfully read this Taxi Insurer article.

If you’re thinking about growing your taxi fleet make sure to consider your taxi insurance cover while you’re at it. It’s no good growing your business if you leave it unprotected.

 

Taxi insurance laws

 

Any driver who takes to the UK’s roads has a legal responsibility to have adequate insurance for themselves, their vehicle and their passengers. However, if you work as a taxi driver, a regular car insurance policy will not adequately protect you, your vehicle, and your passengers from harm if any accident occurs. So, it’s essential for you to have a suitable taxi insurance policy in place.

The penalties for driving without insurance are potentially severe, ranging from points and a hefty fine to disqualification from driving and having your taxi licence revoked. For someone who drives for a living, that would be devastating.

 

Radio laws

 

Using a radio system is an integral part of many large taxi firms, enabling drivers to stay in regular contact with the base office. But to do this you must have a radio licence from Ofcom. There's more information on the Ofcom website.

 

Laws on taxi touting and plying for hire

 

If you’re driving a PHV, the law says you cannot pick up from a taxi rank, cannot be hailed in the street, and can only accept pre-booked fares. PHV drivers who are caught ignoring those laws could be found guilty of ‘taxi touting’ or illegally plying for hire. You could receive a fine of up to £100, have your licence revoked, and it may even invalidate your taxi insurance.

 

Vehicle licensing laws

 

As well as you the driver, the vehicle you’re using as a taxi or PHV also needs to be licensed.

According to the government website, in order to apply for a licence outside of London, the vehicle must have no more than 8 passenger seats and must be checked by the council to make sure:

  • It’s roadworthy.
  • It’s comfortable and clean.
  • The taximeter works properly.
  • The doors are safe and secure.
  • You have appropriate taxi insurance that covers you for hire and reward and includes you as a named driver.

The council can also attach strict conditions to vehicle licences. These might include:

  • The colour scheme of your vehicle.
  • The use of roof signs.
  • Use of a taximeter.

To apply for a taxi vehicle licence within London there are slightly different criteria on the TfL website.

And remember, if you let another driver use your taxi for some shifts they must also be licensed. If they’re not, you’ll both be committing an offence.

 

Air quality laws

 

Air pollution is a hot political topic throughout the UK at the moment. And there are now air quality laws that require all councils responsible for licensing taxis to provide certain information about them to a national database.

So-called Clean Air Zones (CAZs) are already popping up all over the country in a bid to improve air quality and discourage the use of older, more polluting vehicles. Read this Taxi Insurer guide to the UK’s new CAZs and stay ahead of the changes.

 

Tyre safety laws

 

Performing a regular car safety check is vital for anyone who drives for a living. But one of the most important checks to make is whether your tyre tread depth is legal. The legal tyre tread depth for cars in the UK is 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre.

However, according to road safety charity RoSPA and other car manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz, you should replace your tyres when they reach a tread depth of 3mm, as braking distances are significantly increased after that.

Driving with tyres which don't meet the minimum safety tread depth could leave you with fines of up to £2,500 and 3 penalty points on your licence.

 

Seatbelt laws

 

While children up to 12 years old must use car seats, this isn’t the case in taxis if you’re unable to provide a car seat. However, children aged three and above must travel in the rear of the vehicle and use an adult seat belt. While those under three years old must sit in their own seat next to an adult, rather than being carried.

When carrying passengers, taxi drivers are exempt from wearing seatbelts as it’s believed to help prevent them from being attacked.

 

Seatbelt law

 

Highway Code changes

 

As a professional driver you’ll no doubt be aware of recent important changes to the Highway Code. If you aren’t then getting informed has to be your number one priority, before you find yourself in hot water with the authorities.

 

Laws on drivers’ hours

 

Drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles are required by law to take a break of at least half an hour after five and a half hours of driving. Alternatively, you must take at least 45 minutes in breaks within any period of eight hours and 30 minutes. Every two weeks you must also take 24 hours off duty. Driver tiredness can kill, don’t take chances when it comes to rest periods.

 

Passenger care

 

Customer care is a big part of any taxi driver’s business. Keeping passengers happy and respecting their rights is vital. As a taxi driver, you really should know the rights of your passengers. If you don’t, you could find yourself in trouble with the law or having your taxi licence revoked. What are the rights of a passenger in a taxi? Read our Taxi Insurer guide if you’re unsure.

Of course, if passengers breach your rights, then you’re protected by the law, too. But it always pays to have taxi insurance covering you in case any problems arise, such as a passenger damaging your valuable vehicle.

 

Accessibility laws

 

We should all know by now that having valid taxi insurance is a legal requirement for any driver. But did you know there are also strict accessibility laws to tackle the discrimination some wheelchair users experience? If you breach these laws, you could find yourself facing a hefty fine of up to £1,000, which could put a serious dent in your bank account. Your local licensing authority may even decide to suspend or revoke your licence.

All drivers of wheelchair-accessible taxis and PHVs in Britain are now required by law to:

  • Transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair.
  • Provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance.
  • Charge wheelchair users the same fare as those who don’t use wheelchairs.

You can get an exemption from this if you have a medical condition that would make it difficult to offer physical assistance. Contact your licensing authority for more information.

Likewise, licensed drivers of taxis are required by law to carry passengers and their assistance dogs. Again, medical exemptions can be applied for.

 

Smoking laws

 

With UK-wide workplace smoking bans in place throughout the country, the same also applies to taxis and PHVs. You must never smoke in your vehicle, even when you're using it in your own time or the vehicle is not for hire. Drivers caught smoking, including E-cigarettes and vapes, in a licensed taxi or PHV could find themselves facing a fixed penalty of £50. If prosecuted and convicted by a court, that fine could increase to £200. You also must display an appropriate 'No Smoking' sign in your vehicle.

 

Littering laws

 

The vast quantities of roadside litter accumulating all over the UK really are an eyesore. However, while littering has always been a criminal offence it has also been very difficult to enforce the law against motorists. That recently changed under new littering regulations that means councils no longer need to prove who has done the littering.

Now, if litter is seen being dumped from your vehicle, then you could end up being served with a £75 penalty notice or even a larger fine! For more on this, read this helpful article.

 

Taxi fare disputes

 

Getting into a dispute with a passenger over a fare can be an upsetting experience indeed. But if they accuse you of over-charging then things can get even more serious. Taxi drivers can be prosecuted for charging fares over and above those specified by the local authority.

Indeed, if found guilty of this offence, you could face a £1,000 fine and be ordered to repay the difference to the customer.

On the other hand, sometimes passengers get into your taxi with no intention of paying the fare and instead make off without paying. The offence of bilking is one of the most common problems for a taxi driver to have to deal with. However, while it’s very frustrating, don’t let anger get the better of you. Remember, it’s much more important for you to get home safe and sound. 

 

CCTV laws

 

Staying safe is a big part of any professional driver’s responsibilities. And installing a CCTV system in your taxis or PHV is something that’s becoming increasingly common. Indeed, many local authorities are now asking drivers to install them as a way to fight crime and protect both drivers and passengers.

However, as if you didn’t have enough to worry about, all is not quite so straightforward when it comes to the legality of CCTV. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has stated that CCTV systems that continuously record, even when you’re not carrying passengers or you’re off duty, are unlawful.

It’s therefore important for taxi and PHV drivers to protect themselves against complaints about the overuse of CCTV. Generally, the use of CCTV should only be when it’s necessary, for example when carrying passengers, and it should be switched off when you’re off duty.

You can find out more on the ICO website, while TfL also has some specific guidance on CCTV use in taxis and PHVs.

For more top tips on keeping safe as a taxi driver read our handy guide.

 

​​Accused of committing an offence?

 

Being accused of committing an offence when working as a taxi or PHV driver is a very serious matter. Depending on the offence it could mean losing your licence and putting your earnings and your livelihood at risk.

Just because you’re accused of committing an offence it doesn’t mean you’re automatically guilty. But it does mean you’ll want to consider getting legal advice as soon as possible. Doing nothing and hoping it will just go away is not an option. Acting quickly could stop things going further and could save your licence, your job and many sleepless nights.

Even if you can't afford legal advice or support, you might be able to get free or cheaper help.

You might get:

  • Legal aid for a serious problem.
  • Free or reduced cost legal advice from legal professionals or charities.
  • Free legal help from a membership organisation or trade union.
  • Legal advice included with your insurance policy.
  • Help to pay court fees.

Some legal professionals may offer to work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. Or perhaps offer a short appointment for free or a fixed fee so you can find out where you stand legally.

Remember, getting in touch early is key. The Citizens Advice has lots of useful information on finding free or affordable legal help with any problems.

 

Protecting your business with taxi insurance

 

Working as a taxi or PHV driver is a great business to get into but as you can see, there’s a lot that could go wrong if you don’t stay ahead of any legal problems.

The specialist team at Taxi Insurer knows how hard it is to juggle your business and legal responsibilities, so has come up with several ways to help. For example, interest-free payment plans are available to make your taxi insurance more manageable alongside your other expenses.

Taxi Insurer has spent many years working alongside our trusted panel of insurers, so you’ll be in safe hands – whatever the legal hurdles you encounter along your journey.

Taxi cover arranged through Taxi Insurer could include:

  • Protected No Claims Bonus available (subject to acceptable criteria)
  • Cover for Minibus, MPVs and Car
  • Cover for private and public hire
  • 24hr claims management service
  • Pay in instalments
  • UK Based call centre

Don’t put it off, get a quote for taxi insurance today and protect your business.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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