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Legal definition and requirements for taxis

Legal definition of a hackney carriage

1. A hackney carriage is a taxi with a meter which is licensed to collect passengers from a taxi rank and is available to be hailed in the street.

A private hire vehicle, such as a minicab, is not licenced to collect passengers from ranks or to be hailed in the street, but is licensed only to be hired by prior arrangement only.

Show me the legal definition of a Hackney Carriage, 

Hackney carriages - licensing

2. Licences for hackney carriage vehicles and drivers are granted under the provisions of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 and Town Police Clauses Act 1889, as applied by the Public Health Act 1875 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.


The Council may attach such conditions to the grant of a licence as it considers are reasonably necessary and may require a hackney carriage to be of such design or appearance or bear such distinguishing marks as shall clearly identify it as a hackney carriage.

The Council does not stipulate any specific type, colour or appearance of vehicles to be licensed as hackney carriages.

Any vehicle to be used as a hackney carriage (i.e. a 'taxi') shall, in addition to those requirements prescribed by the Council byelaws regulating how hackney carriages are to be furnished or provided;

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 of four doors including an entry/exit point for the driver if a vehicle other than a taxi approved to the specifications of the Public Carriage Office;

c) have a minimum engine capacity of 1600cc;

d) be capable of carrying at least four passengers in addition to the driver.

Each seat must be at least 41cm wide per passenger, except in the case of vehicles fitted with rear bench seats where the minimum width of the seat at the widest point should be 127cm;

e) be provided with a 'Taxi' sign of a minimum width of 76.2cm with lettering of a minimum height of 12.7cm and bearing the words " 'Licensed by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council', capable of being illuminated, to be mounted across the roof of the vehicle (excepting purpose-built taxis). 

f) be equipped with two external driving mirrors;

g) be provided with interior lighting in working order;

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

i) be provided with an efficient fire extinguisher of not less than 1 kg capacity;

j) be provided with a suitable first aid kit.

2.2 Inspection of Vehicles

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 hackney carriage licence is received, must be furnished with the requisition for the licence.

Vehicles older than seven years old from the date of first registration by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will not normally be accepted for an initial licence.

Applications to license exceptional vehicles beyond seven 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 Council.

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.

Each application for a vehicle licence shall be accompanied by a certificate of inspection issued by a competent motor engineer or approved Department of Transport examiner at a testing station.

A test certificate issued by an examiner for this purpose shall be dated not less than eight weeks prior to the date on which the application for licence is received.

At least 16% of the licences available should be reserved for vehicles purpose-built or adapted to carry disabled passengers in wheelchairs.

The Council does not 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 requirement prescribed by the regulations 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 the hackney carriage is furnished or provided to the Council's byelaws or specifications set out below.

In addition, the Act empowers any authorised officer of the Council or any police officer at all reasonable times to inspect and test, for the purpose of ascertaining its fitness, any licensed hackney carriage and any taximeter and, 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 it 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.

2.3 Insurance

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

2.4 Vehicle Registration Document

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 a requisition for a hackney carriage licence is submitted.

2.5 Proof of ownership

The Council will only grant a hackney carriage licence to the true owner of the vehicle.

Proof of ownership (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

2.6 Identification plate

The plate must be fixed vertically at the rear of the vehicle, either to the body or on a bracket, as specified by the Council.

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.

2.7 Transfer of licences

If the owner of a licensed hackney carriage transfers his/her interest in the hackney carriage to another person he/she shall within 14 days after such transfer give notice in writing to the Council, specifying the name and address of the person to whom the hackney carriage has been transferred.

2.8 Drivers' licences

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 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.

A hackney carriage driving licence will also authorise the driving of a private hire vehicle.

Applicants for a new 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 circumstance may demand evidence of the fitness of a person to act as a driver of a hackney carriage.

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 relevant legislation.

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.

2.9 Knowledge of the District

Applicants should ensure that they are sufficiently prepared to submit to the test of their knowledge of the district licensed by the Council.

The examination will comprise 50 oral questions on the locality, including residential areas, places of business, industrial sites and social resort, relevant legislation, licensing of hackney carriages and driver's handout, fares structure and byelaws.

Candidates will be required to achieve a minimum pass mark of 75% before a licence may be granted.

Those who fail at the first attempt may retake the test after a suitable interval, during which time they will be expected to gain further experience of the licensed district.

2.10 Convictions

When considering applications the Council will have regard to the Councils Policy regarding the relevance of convictions and other related information.

You should declare all convictions, cautions, warnings, reprimands, including motoring offences and other relevant information.

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.


3. 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.

Licence and conditions

4. As stated, the Council is empowered to attach to the grant of the licences for hackney carriages such conditions as they may consider reasonably necessary and various powers are given to the Council to refuse, suspend or revoke the licences.

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.

IMPORTANT NOTE CONCERNING HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVERS (Not relevant when driving private hire vehicles)

5. The licence holder must observe the provisions of the byelaws and the above-mentioned Acts, among the more important of which are the following:

a) If the hackney carriage is standing at a rank or in a street, the driver must not, without reasonable excuse, refuse to drive to any place within the "prescribed distance" (1847 Act, Section 53.)

b) The authorised fare scale must be used at all times for journeys within the borough (however the hiring is effected) and may only be dispensed with for journeys ending outside the borough IF the hirer agrees BEFORE the journey commences. (1847 Act, Section 58; Borough Council byelaws; 1976 Act, Section 67.)

c) If a hackney carriage is used for a "private hire contract", the fare is calculated from the point at which the hirer starts his/her journey.

A "private hire contract" for this purpose is one made either with some person other than the driver or when the hackney carriage is not at a rank or plying for hire. (1976 Act, Section 67.)

d) A hackney carriage must not be left unattended in a street or place of public resort or entertainment, and if it is one of the first two on a rank, the driver must be ready to be hired at once. (1847 Act, Section 62 and byelaws.)

e) The badge provided by the Council must be worn in a plainly visible position at all times when plying for hire or hired. (Byelaws.)

f) Drivers must be civil and orderly and give reasonable assistance with passengers' luggage. (Byelaws.)

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

6.1 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.

6.2 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.