Taxi and private hire drivers may soon have to pass enhanced criminal record checks, as the government calls for better protection of vulnerable customers.
There’s currently no nationwide requirement for drivers to pass these safety checks in order to get their license – and there’s no national database of license holders, either.
Some local areas do require drivers to have checks, but the system is flawed because they can still move between locations, even during one shift. Not only that, but in England and Wales the system allows someone who is denied a taxi licence by one local authority to go and work in another one.
Under the new scheme, every council in England would have to carry out checks on all applicants, and there would be a database to avoid the issue of drivers applying to councils after being refused elsewhere.
A spokesperson from the Department for Transport confirmed to HuffPost UK that “private hire” under this scheme includes Uber drivers.
Some women got in contact with HuffPost UK to say they never knew that taxi cabs weren’t subject to stricter regulations anyway.
A government report in 2018 found laws regulating drivers were not “fit for the modern world”, so these new proposals hope to change this through the enhanced criminal checks.
The Department for Transport is looking at introducing a “national minimum standard” for drivers, as well as regulations to stop taxi drivers from operating in geographical areas that are miles away from where they were issued their license. It is also considering whether cars should be fitted with CCTV.
Any revision to current laws would only apply to England, and most likely Wales, because powers to decide have been devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Irish Assembly. In Scotland, private hire vehicles can already only pick up fares within the local authority area which gave them their taxi-operating licence.
Taxis minister, Nusrat Ghani, said: “While the vast majority of drivers are safe and act responsibly, we have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children.
“These rules would make sure that drivers are fit to carry passengers, keeping people safe while stopping those with bad intentions from getting behind the wheel of a taxi or minicab.”