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TfL confirms new London private hire rules

Transport for London has announced that new changes to private hire regulations are being introduced from Monday, June 27.

They affect all private hire drivers, operators and private hire vehicle licence holders, as well as all applicants for a private hire driver, operator or vehicle licence.

Mandatory hire and reward insurance

The most significant change is the mandatory requirement that all private hire vehicles must have hire and reward insurance in place both at the point they are licensed and for the entire time the vehicle is licensed, including when the vehicle is not in use as a private hire vehicle.

Any vehicle will only pass its inspection if hire and reward insurance is in place at the point of licensing. You will also need to have your hire and reward insurance available for inspection when your vehicle attends the vehicle test centre. If you do not have the appropriate hire and reward insurance in place, you will not be issued a new or renewal licence.

If you are an existing licensee, you have until July 11 to ensure hire and reward insurance is in place that is valid until the date your vehicle licence expires. Insurance details must be carried by the driver or displayed in the vehicle at all times.

The private hire vehicle licence of a person whose private hire driver licence has been revoked will be considered for revocation. Where a licensed driver has their private hire driver's licence revoked or suspended, and that driver is the owner of one or more licensed vehicles, then consideration will be given to revoking or suspending their vehicle licence(s), depending on individual circumstances.

Signage restrictions

New rules about signage are also being introduced, which forbids the displaying of signs or advertising material “from, in or on a private hire vehicle” unless they are exempt or approved by TfL.

This is a change from the previous regulation, which did not allow signs or advertising materials to be displayed on a private hire vehicle. The amendment means that you can also no longer display signs or advertising material from or in your private hire vehicle unless it is exempt or approved – though TfL admits its taxi advertising and PHV signage guidelines are “currently under review”.

English language requirement

From October 1, all new applicants and existing private hire drivers renewing their licence who are not from a majority English speaking country will be required to meet a new English language requirement.

Applicants will be required to present a valid English language certificate with a B1 level of English on the Common European Framework (CEFR) as part of their new or renewal licence application. Anyone who does not have the appropriate level of English will not be granted a licence.

You will not need to prove your knowledge of English if you are a UK citizen of or one of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; New Zealand; Republic of Ireland; St Kitts and Nevis; St Lucia; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; USA.

From October 1, all private hire drivers will have to provide TfL with their National Insurance number when applying for or renewing their licence. This information will be shared with relevant government departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs.

Private hire operators must provide a booking confirmation to a passenger before their journey starts. The operator will be expected to request passenger contact information and offer to provide a booking confirmation for all bookings.

Phone contact must be provided

All operators must at a minimum be able to provide a booking confirmation to passengers via email, text (SMS and MMS) message and phone, regardless of what booking channels the operator offers. The booking confirmation must contain, as a minimum:

  • The vehicle registration
  • The first name of the driver
  • The driver's private hire licence number
  • Where the passenger can receive it, a photo of driver.
  • If the customer books in person or by landline phone, a photo must be provided if the customer requests confirmation through a communications channel that can provide an image, such as email or smartphone.

Private hire operators must ensure that passengers are able to speak (verbally) to someone at their operating centre if they want to make a complaint or discuss any other matter about their booking. That service must be available at all times during the operator’s hours of business and at all times during a passenger’s journey.

As part of the booking process customers must be provided with information on how they can speak to the operator during the journey. As part of the pre-licensing inspection of operating centre, the compliance team will need to ensure that a mechanism is in place for passengers to speak to the operator.

The person the customer can speak to must be someone other than the driver carrying out the booking, and must be situated in a licensed London operating centre.

Operators are expected to answer and resolve passenger queries in a timely manner and provide details of how to escalate a complaint to us, should the passenger be dissatisfied with the way the query has been resolved. Serious and urgent issues - such as those that have an immediate risk to public safety, should be immediately reported to the police.

Changes to private hire operating model

From 27 June 2016, private hire operators must inform us of any changes to the operating model of their business before they are made. This will help ensure that the changes are compliant with private hire legislation and are in the interests of passenger safety.

Operators are already required to inform us of a number of changes to their operating model which relate to the size or location of their business. This is an enhancement to these requirements, to ensure that TfL is aware of any material changes regarding the way in which the organisation is run that will impact the general public and their legal obligations. Examples include the introduction or removal of an app based booking service, introduction or removal of a payment channel or booking method, or introduction of ride sharing.

Basic disclosure check for some staff

Operators must ensure that all staff who have face-to-face contact with the public (for example, in a minicab office with public access) have - or have proof they have applied for - a Basic Disclosure check, which is available through Disclosure Scotland. This is in addition to the requirement for private hire drivers to have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check.

Other changes

A number of other changes include a requirement for all operators to email TfL details of the drivers and vehicles they have used to fulfil bookings, or have had available to them to fulfil bookings.

Operators must also provide their customer with an accurate fare estimate before the journey starts (unless the fare has been pre-agreed); the main destination of the customer's journey must be recorded before the journey starts. Where a journey has multiple drop-off points, a main destination must still be provided; and operators will be limited to having no more than five business names attached to their operator's licence.

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