As the use of protective screens, separating drivers from passengers, are likely to increase in taxis and PHVs, we look at some of the legal considerations for drivers.
Why protective screens?
Social distancing requirements will be part of everyday life for a considerable time to come. If licensed taxis and PHVs want to trade, steps to adhere to Government guidance will be critical.
However, there has to date not been any formal guidance from the Government on the requirement to provide a physical barrier of this type in licensed vehicles. Notwithstanding however, these screens would give the travelling public confidence using taxis and PHVs and perhaps more importantly, protect licensed drivers.
The last point is particularly important because ONS statistics has shown that taxi and PH drives are at particularly high risk of contracting the coronavirus and unfortunately at particularly high risk of succumbing to the virus.
Do you need permission to install a protective screen in your licensed vehicle?
As with everything in taxi and private hire licensing, each licensing authority will have its own rules. However, it is very likely that every local authority will have some provisions in place to require proprietors of licensed hackney carriage of private hire vehicles to seek permission for material changes to a licensed vehicle.
There is no explicit legislation relating to the need for a proprietor of a licensed hackney carriage of private hire vehicle to seek permission for alternations of this nature.
However, there are wider powers for licensing authorities to suspend, refuse of revoke vehicle licences on the basis of fitness. In particular, sections 60 (Suspension and revocation of vehicle licences) and 68 (68. Fitness of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
There is no legal precedence on the specific issue but the courts have previously ruled that the section 68 power is broad and could include the installation of protective screen without permission or poorly fitted screens, for example.
Aside from specifically licensing legislation, there will be other legal considerations. Any protective screen will need to comply with Construction and Use Regulations and general vehicle roadworthy rules.
Policy and conditions
Although there might not be any specific legal provisions in place, the requirement to seek permission from your licensing authority for material changes is likely to be contained in licensing policy and/or licence conditions.
In addition to specific licensing conditions, there will also be similar, but more general, provisions and requirements contained in licensing policies requiring proprietors to seek permission for the installation of protective screens.
Model Byelaws for Hackney Carriages
It is also worth mentioning the relevance of the Model Byelaws for Hackney Carriages. The byelaws do not place any specific duty on a proprietor in respect of seeking permission it does however contain a number of relevant considerations:
- Section 3(a): The proprietor of a hackney carriage shall provide sufficient means by which any person in the carriage may communicate with the driver.
- Section 3(f): The proprietor of a hackney carriage shall cause the fittings and furniture generally to be kept in a clean condition, well maintained and in every way fit for public service.
- Section 4(e): the taximeter shall be so placed that all letters and figures on the face thereof are at all times plainly visible to any person being conveyed in the carriage, and for that purpose the letters and figures shall be capable of being suitably illuminated during any period of hiring
Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.
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