DEFRA has finally issued its statutory guidance on plans to setup a national taxi/PH emissions database to enforce Clean Air Zones. 

 In April the Air Quality (Taxi and Private Hire Vehicles Database) (England and Wales) Regulations 2019 came into force with a commencement date of May 2019.  There have since been delays in implementing the requirements set out in the regulations due to technical issues with setting up the database and information sharing. 

The Government has now confirmed that the regulations will come into force in October.  This is when all licensing authorities will be required to submit the following data on a weekly basis: 

  • the vehicle registration mark
  • the date from which the licence has effect
  • the date on which the licence is due to expire
  • a statement as to whether the vehicle is a taxi or a private hire vehicle

The information on the national database will be used by towns and cities with Clean Air Zones.  To implement Clean Air Zones, local authorities may need to differentiate between taxis/PHVs and private vehicles. This is because in some cases local authorities will implement Clean Air Zones that apply charges to taxis and PHVs and not to private vehicles, or they may wish to set a different level of charge for these vehicles. 

Whilst in theory it all seems easy and straight forward, on a practical level there are many potential difficulties for the trade which is outside of their control. 

  1. Data entry errors – Unfortunately licensing authority data is not always up to date and prone to data entry errors. In these cases, wrong information may be uploaded to the national database which will result in a penalty charge notice issued to the taxi/PH driver.
  1. Manual uploads – The guidance makes provision for both automatic and manual data uploads. There will almost certainly be times when licensing authorities will fall behind on the requirement to do weekly upload of data to the national database.  This too may result in penalty charge notice issued but not as a result of the taxi/PH driver’s fault.
  1. Suspensions – The requirement to do a weekly upload of the data is the minimum requirement and it is therefore open to licensing authorities to do more frequent uploads. This is certainly the Government’s expectation when it relates to vehicle suspensions.  The guidance states: “Where a taxi or PHV licence is suspended, licensing authorities must ensure that data provided to the database is accurate, legitimate and up to date. This includes removing records of those vehicles which have been suspended or revoked by the licensing authority as soon as is practically possible.”

Appeals

In cases where a taxi/PH driver has been issued with a penalty charge notice for either not paying Clean Air Zones charges or entering a Clean Air Zone all together, the onus will be on the driver of that taxi/PHV to appeal the charge notice.  The guidance makes this clear: “In the case of appeal of a PCN the onus is on the registered keeper to provide proof of the suspension, using the locally issued ‘suspension notice’.”

The charge notice appeal process is onerous and unnecessary in cases where the fault lies with the licensing authority not the driver. 

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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