Private hire operators and drivers

A private hire vehicle requires a licence from the Council in order to operate in the Borough.

If it is operating without a licence it is in breach of the provisions of Part II of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and is breaking the law.

Legal definition of a private hire vehicle

A private hire vehicle is a vehicle capable of carrying less than nine passengers which can be hired by prior arrangement.

Unlike a Hackney Carriage, it cannot be hailed in the street, nor pick passengers up from a taxi rank.

Show me the full legal definition of a private hire vehicle.

Licences required

2. Operators

2.1 A private hire operator is a person who, in the course of business, makes arrangements for the invitation or acceptance of bookings for a private hire vehicle.

He/she need not own any cars or drive them himself/herself. 

A licence will only be issued if the applicant has supplied all such relevant information respecting trade or business activities before making the application, convictions recorded and such other information, as is authorised by the Act, to enable the Council to determine whether to grant such a licence.

If any person knowingly or recklessly makes a false statement or omits any material particular in giving information he/she shall be guilty of an offence.

a) Vehicles

The Act says the Council should not grant a licence for a private hire vehicle unless satisfied that the vehicle is suitable in type, size and design for use as a private hire vehicle.

It must be in a suitable mechanical condition, be safe and comfortable and cannot be of such design and appearance as to lead any person to believe that the vehicle is a hackney carriage.

2.2 The Council has therefore specified that a private hire vehicle cannot be similar to any vehicle specified by the Public Carriage Office as a hackney carriage (e.g. 'FX4', 'Fairway' or 'Metrocab') and must:-

a) have a solid roof - convertibles or soft tops will not be allowed but sun roofs may be permitted if not in excess of 50% of the roof area;

b) have a minimum engine capacity of 1600cc;

c) have a minimum of four doors, including an entry/exit for the driver;

d) be able to carry at least four passengers in addition to the driver; each seat must be of a minimum width of 41cm per passenger.

In the case of vehicles fitted with rear bench seats, the minimum width of the seat at the widest point should be 127cm;

e) have a solid roof - convertibles or soft tops will not be allowed but sun roofs are permitted provided they are kept water-tight and do not take up more than 50% of the roof area;

f) be provided with two external driving mirrors;

g) be provided with interior lighting in working order;

h) not display any signs, notices, advertisements, plates, marks, numbers, letters, figures, symbols, emblems or devices whatsoever, on, in or from the vehicle, except as may be required by any statutory provision (including byelaws) or required or permitted by the conditions attached to licences for private hire vehicles.

All vehicles should carry:-

i) a spare wheel and the necessary tools to change a wheel in the event of a puncture etc., and

j) an efficient type fire extinguisher of at least 1kg capacity;

k) suitable first aid equipment. 

Provisions regulating how private hire vehicles are to be furnished or provided

3. The owner of a private hire vehicle must:

a) provide sufficient means by which any person in the vehicle may communicate with the driver;

b) ensure the roof or covering is kept watertight;

c) provide any necessary windows and a means of opening and closing at least one window on each side;

d) ensure the seats are properly cushioned and covered;

e) ensure the floor has a proper carpet, mat or other suitable covering;

f) ensure the fittings and furniture are generally kept in a clean condition, well maintained and in every way fit for service;

g) provide means for securing luggage if the vehicle is built to carry luggage;

h) provide an efficient fire extinguisher which is easily accessible if needed;

i) ensure that passengers have access to at least two doors and the driver has a separate way of getting in and out of the vehicle.

Unlike Hackney Carriages the Council does not fix a scale of fares and the Act does not require a private hire vehicle to be equipped with a taximeter.

However, if a taximeter is fitted then it must have been tested and approved by or on behalf of the Council which issued the licence for the vehicle.

It is an offence for any person to tamper with any seal on any taximeter without a lawful reason.

It is also an offence to alter the taximeter with intent to mislead, or allow a vehicle to be used in the Borough which has a taximeter which has not been tested and approved.

Inspection of vehicles

4. Vehicles beyond four years from the date of first registration by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority will not normally be accepted for an initial licence.

Applications to license exceptional vehicles beyond four years of age will be considered on their merits.

Licensed vehicles from four to six years from date of registration shall be presented for inspection and mechanical testing at six-monthly intervals and thereafter at the discretion of the Director of Environmental Services.

The Council may impose special conditions on the licence for a vehicle as it sees fit, including a condition that the vehicle be presented for mechanical inspection on not more than three occasions during any period of twelve months.

5. All vehicles will be required to be examined by a competent motor engineer or approved Department of Transport examiner at a testing station.

A test certificate of examination, issued by the examiner, not more than eight weeks prior to the date on which the application for a private hire vehicle licence is received, shall be furnished with the requisition for the licence.

The Council does not propose to inspect vehicles at its own workshops or specify particular examiners.

If a certificate of examination is given other than by a Department of Transport Test Certificate, the examination of the vehicle must have been carried out to the statutory requirements prescribed by the regulation for the issue of test certificates under Section 45 of The Road Traffic Act 1988.

The Council's Licensing Officers will inspect the vehicle, by appointment, to ensure that it is furnished or provided to the Council's requirements and specifications set out above.

In addition, the Act empowers any authorised officer of the Council or any constable at all reasonable times to inspect and test, for the purpose of ascertaining its fitness, any licensed private hire vehicle and any taximeter fitted.

If he/she is not satisfied as to the fitness of the vehicle or accuracy of the taximeter, he/she may, by notice in writing, require the proprietor to make the vehicle or its taximeter available for further inspection and testing and suspend the vehicle licence until such time as such authorised officer or constable is so satisfied.

Insurance

6. A valid certificate of insurance, covering the carriage of passengers for hire or reward and at least third party risks shall be produced at the request of an authorised officer of the Council and in any case when applying for a vehicle licence.

Vehicle registration document

7. In view of the necessity to prove the details of a vehicle it is essential to ensure that the vehicle registration document is available for inspection when the application for a private hire vehicle licence is submitted.

Proof of ownership

8. The Council will only grant a licence for a private hire vehicle to the true proprietor of the vehicle. Proof of proprietorship (not the vehicle registration document) will be required before a licence application is considered.

Note: A hire purchase agreement, whereby the hirer will become the legal proprietor on completion of payment, will be accepted if the 'hirer' is the applicant for the licence.

Failure to provide any documentary evidence referred to will result in a delay of the issue of a licence

Identification plate

9. A licence identification plate will be issued by the Council in respect of every licensed private hire vehicle.

The plate is the property of the Council and must not be sold, hired or otherwise disposed of. 

In the event of any loss or damage to a plate the Council must be informed at once to enable a replacement plate to be issued.

A deposit will be required on the issue of a plate and will be refunded when the plate is returned in good condition on the surrender or expiry of a licence.

The plate should be fixed vertically at the rear of the vehicle, either to the body or on a bracket, as specified by the Council's authorised officers.

On revocation or expiry of a vehicle licence or the suspension of a licence the Council may serve notice on the proprietor requiring him to return the plate within seven days after service of the notice.

Transfer of licences

10. If the proprietor of a licensed private hire vehicle transfers his/her interest in the vehicle to another person he/she must write to the Council within 14 days, specifying the name and address of the person to whom the vehicle has been transferred.

Drivers

11. When submitting an application for a licence to drive a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle you are requested to declare any convictions or cautions you may have, unless they are regarded as "spent" under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The information you give will be treated in confidence and will only be taken into account in relation to your application.

You should be aware that the licensing authority is empowered in law to check for the existence and content of any criminal record held in the name of an applicant. 

Information received will be kept in strict confidence while the licensing process takes its course and will be retained for no longer than is necessary.

The disclosure of a criminal record or other information will not debar you from gaining a licence unless the authority considers that the conviction renders you unsuitable.

In making this decision the authority will consider the nature of the offence, how long ago and what age you were when it was committed and any other factors which may be relevant. 

Any applicant refused a driver's licence on the ground that he/she is not a fit and proper person to hold such a licence has a right of appeal to a Magistrates' Court.

If you would like to discuss what effect a conviction might have on your application you may telephone the Licensing Officer on 01737 276421/276422.

Hackney carriage driving licences also authorise the driving of a private hire vehicle.

Therefore, a holder of a taxi driver licence will not need to apply for a further licence to drive a private hire vehicle.

Applicants for a private hire vehicle driving licence will be required to obtain a medical certificate at their own expense, on a form prescribed by the Council, signed by their own medical practitioner.

Persons over the age of 45 years, continuing as drivers will be required to produce further certificates of medical examination at three year intervals.

After attaining the age of 65 years applicants will be required to furnish a medical certificate with each application, including renewal of an expiring licence. 

The Council reserves the right to require any driver to submit to a medical examination at any time where circumstances may demand evidence of the fitness of a person to act as a driver of a private hire vehicle.

Applicants for driving licences must have attained the age of 21 years and have held a full Department of Transport or equivalent foreign driving licence for 12 months.

It is not proposed to apply an age limit for drivers but applications from elderly persons will be determined by their fitness to drive. 

Applicants for initial licences will be required to pass a test on their knowledge of the locality and principal traffic routes.

When a licence is granted a driver will be issued with a badge which shall be worn at all times that the driver acts as the driver of a private hire vehicle.

The badge must be worn in such a manner and position as to be plainly and distinctly visible. It will be an offence to fail to do so without reasonable excuse.

Two recent photographs (passport size) are to be enclosed with the application, one of which will be inserted on the driver's identity badge which will be issued with the licence.

The Council is empowered to seek such information as it may require to determine whether an applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a licence, and will not issue a licence until such enquiries are complete.

Information

12. If any person fails to provide any relevant information, including details of convictions for offences, in connection with an application for a licence, the licence may be refused or, if issued, revoked and the applicant is liable to prosecution for failing to disclose the information.

Convictions

When considering applications the Council will have regard to Department of Transport Circular 2/92: Criminal Records: Applicants for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers licences.

You should declare all unspent convictions, including motoring offences. Subject to the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, if information respecting an undisclosed conviction is subsequently received then the application may be refused. Spent convictions, as defined below, need not be included.

Sentence becomes spent after:

  • Imprisonment of between 6 months and two years and 6 months :10 years
  • Imprisonment of up to 6 months: 7 years
  • Borstal training: 7 years
  • A fine or other sentence not otherwise covered in this table: 5 years 
  • Absolute discharge: 6 months
  • Probation order, conditional discharge or bind over: 1 year or until order expires, whichever is the longer
  • Detention centre order: 3 years
  • Remand home, attendance centre or Approved school order: The period of the order and a further year after the order expires
  • Hospital order under the Mental Health Act: The period of the order and a further two years after the order expires
  • Cashiering, discharge with ignominy or dismissal with disgrace from the Armed Forces: 10 years
  • Dismissal from the Armed Forces: 7 years
  • Detention: 5 years  

Notes:

(i) A sentence of more than 22 years= imprisonment can never become spent;

(ii) If you were under 17 years of age on the date of conviction, please halve the period shown in the right hand column.

Licences and conditions

13. The Council is empowered to attach to the grant of licences such conditions as they may consider reasonably necessary and various powers are given to the Council to refuse, suspend or revoke licences.

Operators, proprietors and drivers may appeal to the Magistrates Court or in certain circumstances the Crown Court, if they are aggrieved by a decision of the Council, or any conditions attached to the grant of a licence. In any such event the applicant or licensee will be advised of their statutory right and procedures for an appeal.

Approved types of fire extinguishing apparatus and items of first aid equipment to be carried on Hackney Carriages and private hire vehicles

14. Fire Extinguishing Apparatus

An efficient fire extinguisher with a nominal capacity of no less than 1 kg complying in all respects with the specification issued by the British Standards Institution in respect of portable fire extinguishers.

15. First Aid Equipment

(i) Ten antiseptic wipes, foil packed.

(ii) One conforming disposable bandage (not less than 7.5 centimetres wide).

(iii) Two triangular bandages.

(iv) One packet of 24 assorted adhesive dressings.

(v) Three large sterile unmedicated ambulance dressings (not less than 15.0 centimetres 120.0 centimetres).

(vi) Two sterile eye pads, with attachments.

(vii) Twelve assorted safety pins.

(viii) One pair of rustless blunt-ended scissors