I attended the recent TFL taxi licensing and compliance meeting for the first time at the end of January. Ostensibly, I was there to help deal with a couple of specific agenda items but also to give a flavour of the meeting so I could write this.
For starters, there was a huge agenda for a three hour meeting and it wasn’t helped by having close to 20 people sat around the table, including 7 driver reps all wanting a say. Added to that, both TFL and the police brought reports to the meeting for discussion that the driver reps had no previous sight of and it seemed obvious to me that there was no way they were going to get through this agenda – and they didn’t.
Our usual reps were Danny and Mark. Danny is the “straight man” and its fair to say that Mark kept things lively. Mark just will not allow the meeting to pass over important points, as much as many around the table would like him to.
Anyway, let’s get down to the points raised. The problems with the DBS holding up driver renewals appear to be coming to an end but in the meantime, TFL are issuing temporary licences.
In future, when you complete your DBS, you will have a couple of weeks to sign up for an annual disclosure update. It costs £12 a year (bit cheaper than doing it every three years) but it means TFL will be able to bang out your future renewals without delay so it’s recommended to sign up for this.
The new reporting system for PH complaints goes live in March.
Mark kicked off a bit about PH driving standards and drivers using an array of apps on their windscreens while driving into bollards, lamp-posts and other vehicles. Apparently though, TFL and police appear to think these drivers can use these while remaining in full control of their vehicle.
Mark wanted collision data to be separated between taxis and PHVs because bad PH drivers are making us look bad. TFL explained why it couldn’t be done but they are using injury data to try estimate and separate the damage cause by each side.
With regard to licence renewals, TFL have now got the phone calling under control but NSL are still having problems with the vehicle test bookings.
We suggested that Boris hike up PH driver licence fees to try and slow down their growth . There were 96,890 of the little people last Monday with more in the pipe. They said they’d look into it but for the moment they are concentrating on increasing operator licence fees, appropriate to the number of drivers on their books.
Compliance was dominated by RD2 and the recent “Shine” event at Old Billingsgate and this was a real bunfight as the trade reps got stuck in. According to TFL, everything there was hunkydory. RD2 didn’t create PHV ranks on red routes; they didn’t physically prevent people from leaving the event to find taxis; they didn’t marry up four or five strangers to share a ride with multiple destinations.
No, what TFL found was that cancer research made a “block booking” for cars and “as directed” counts as a destination. So long as the RD2 marshals took passengers’personal details and destination before the actual journey commenced, everything was ticketyboo. The COL police agreed that everything went swimmingly.
We disagreed and the LTDA trade rep informed the meeting that they had taken legal advice and TFLs view of the booking arrangements being kosher was – how can I put this – spherical objects!
The LTDA did not take legal action on this occasion due to the good cause that the event was organised to raise money for. However, they warned that if changes are not made for the travel arrangements this year, the LTDA would seek legal action to prevent the same free for all happening.
There the usual arguments about Heathrow, with the trade arguing that it is still like the Wild West, with PHVs blocking the outside of the terminals with drivers quietly snoozing in their cars, etc while waiting to be allocated a job, while the touts are running about inside the terminals and having a field day.
On the other side, TFL are saying they are doing all they can and denying some of the claims made by driver reps.
Was anything achieved in this meeting? As a newcomer, it looked a bit like a runaway train. The agenda was all over the place and the fault for this lay on both sides. There were what seemed like personal battles being fought but at the end of it all, it looked like work got done and some progress was made.
Next time, I’m taking popcorn!