Taxis (hackney carriage vehicles) and private hire vehicles are a key part of the transport network that so many of us rely on.  Most people use licensed vehicles at some point, and some of the most vulnerable members of society (children, the elderly, disabled people and people under the influence of alcohol) are the most dependent on licensed vehicles as a means of travel. 

Taxis and private hire vehicles, drivers and (private hire) booking offices are licensed by the local council.  This means that the vehicle has been tested to ensure its safety and the driver has been vetted (and possibly trained) to ensure that they are safe and suitable to do the job. Booking offices will also have been subject to checks and will be operating under rules which require them to record all journeys.

Most licensed drivers are decent, honest and professional individuals, but there are occasional exceptions.   There are also some unscrupulous individuals who will falsely claim to be licensed drivers in order to lure an unsuspecting passenger.

The travelling public should be aware and safety conscious at all time. The following steps will help:

  • Know the difference between a taxi and a private hire vehicle.

              - Taxis can be pre-booked or hailed

               - Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked via a licensed operator.

  • NEVER use an unlicensed vehicle.
  • When booking your journey, ask the operator what colour and make of car to expect. What is the registration number?  Name of the driver?
  • Arrange a safe pick up point. If this is in the street and late at night, choose a well-lit area, preferably one where other members of the public will be out and about.
  • No pre-booking? Use a taxi rank if possible or hail a taxi but don’t get in any vehicle unless you are sure that it is a taxi.  They will normally have roof lights (lit if available for hire / dim if already hired), and a licensed vehicle plate displayed on the rear of the vehicle.
  • Before getting in a licensed vehicle, take a note (or a photo) of the licensed plate. Ask to see the driver’s badge (they are required to wear one).
  • Make sure that a friend or family member knows where you are and where you are going – especially if you are alone. Send them a photo of the licensed vehicle plate and let them know your expected arrival time.
  • Know your route. Most mobile phones have google maps or similar – enter the destination and track your progress.
  • NEVER get in a vehicle if you are in any way unhappy for any reason.
  • If you are in a vehicle and you feel unsafe, text a friend or family member and ask them to call the police.

Technology is advancing fast with greener, smarter vehicles and booking apps for mobile phones, but the law governing taxis and private hire dates back to 1847.  Local councils are responsible for licensing vehicles, drivers and (private hire) operators, but there is little means of ensuring that once licensed, the vehicle will be operated in the council’s area.

There are wide variations between councils in terms of their policies on licensed vehicles and the level of vetting and training they require from licensed drivers.  The Institute of Licensing has recently published Suitability Guidance for local councils and hopes that widespread adoption of these standards will address the current inconsistencies, but new law is needed for taxis in today’s Britain and should be drafted with consideration to future developments where possible.