Suffolk drivers fear for their future as councils tighten rules on cars and training

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New taxi regulations in parts of Suffolk are leaving some drivers fearing they could be driven out of business.

Changes to regulations in Babergh and Mid-Suffolk from the start of March include the introduction of a two-day college course and restrictions on the age of vehicles for new licence holders. Any newly licensed driver must have a car less than eight years old, while existing drivers will have to have older vehicles checked more regularly.

The college course comes at a cost of £150, which adds to the current costs of knowledge tests, DBS and medical checks.

Stowmarket Cars director Julie Row said the new regulations would severely impact the business, and would make driver recruitment more difficult.

She said: “It’s going to close down my business. I was working during the first wave of Covid, and I was lucky if I was taking £100 over seven days. This isn’t the right time to be hitting us with regulations that we can’t afford or sustain.

“Why would anyone want to set themselves up as a taxi driver? I’ve done my job for over 30 years and I’ve got to go to college and do a course which is £150 over two days.

“You’ve got to buy a less than an eight-year-old car, do a two-day course, a medical and sight test and other checks. There’re so many expenses involved. There’s no incentive to do the job.”

She continued: “It’s been a really difficult two years, for the majority of the last two years there’s been very little work, but for the few of us that are left and stuck it out as best we can, it feels like they’re putting the boot in and saying ‘cheers for what you’ve done but we’re going to make it harder for you now introducing these new regulations that you can’t afford.’”

Patrick Crew, managing director of Sudbury Cars, said he would financially support new drivers through the course: “Making the industry more professional can only be a good thing in the long term, we want to show initiative and help bring people into the private hire and taxi driving industry.”

He added: “It gives people more comfort when it comes to making bookings, knowing that their drivers have a qualification and are by definition ‘professional drivers’, and can get you from A to B as safely as possible.”

A spokesperson for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils said they recognised the challenges that the industry has faced as a result of the pandemic.

The spokesperson said the changes were “a reasonable balance between our need to protect the public and the needs of the trade”, adding that representatives from the councils would meet members of the taxi industry in April to discuss the new regulations.