Drivers warned they could lose their licences if they breach the Equality Act

First published in News
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DISABLED passengers in Middlesbrough have been charged up to twice the normal fare for taxis by some drivers, it emerged last night.

Members of Middlesbrough Council’s licensing committee heard how some drivers in the town are discriminating against wheelchair users by charging them more money than able-bodied passengers.

Some are being charged up to twice that of non-disabled passengers as a “direct consequence of their disability”, a report to the committee claimed.

Now licensing officers at Middlesbrough Council are clamping down after receiving complaints from customers.

The council has the authority to set fares in relation to Hackney Carriages but it has no control on the prices charged by private hire vehicles, which are decided by market forces.

However, private companies have to act within the Equality Act of 2010, which bans discrimination, and the council is now warning that if evidence is found then they would review private hire licences.

The council has now written to taxi and private hire businesses warning them to comply with the act. It said it would be testing “compliance” over the next few months and warned licences could be at risk if evidence of discrimination was found.

Hackney drivers and private hire operators have been warned in the letters that over-charging was a breach of the Equality Act.

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9:08pm Sat 11 Jan 14

BorderRiever says...

I have just seen this item reported on BBC local news.

As a retired taxi driver, having had my first Hackney Driver's Badge in 1974 in Chester where the taxis at that time were Black cabs ("London Taxis"), there are a few bits in this story which I think the reporters don't understand.

First, taxis charge passengers fares worked out automatically by a meter from the schedule of rates agreed with and published by the local licensing authority and compulsorily displayed in every Hackney Cab (taxi). Meters are neither obligatory in Private Hire Vehicles nor banned.

Meters can be set to record time spent idle (loading or unloading, at traffic lights etc) and distance is recorded incrementally after the first "drop", or minimum fee.

Jobs which incur a lot of standing time, such as waiting for passengers to emerge from a function or where the driver needs to set up ramps for a wheelchair and then to fasten a wheelchair securely and safely will incur a higher fare than a passenger who is waiting at the roadside ready to jump into the taxi. Passengers in wheelchairs often incur higher costs in this way and it is quite reasonable for the driver to charge for this.

What is unacceptable, indeed illegal, is for a driver to charge any passenger at a rate higher than than those advertised and authorised. This can result in the suspension, or loss, of his badge and even the cancellation of his vehicle's licence to ply for hire (on dishonesty or "unfit person" grounds

It is acceptable for a driver and passenger to negotiate an agreed fare before the journey starts, although some licensing authorities would insist that this must not exceed what the ACTUAL journey clocked-up, and that all journeys MUST be recorded on the meter.

There is more to picking up a passenger in a wheelchair than in picking up an able-bodied person and it is only reasonable that more work & time equates to more money. However, the clip shown on TV tonight clearly showed that the deputy Mayor doesn't seem to know the difference between a Taxi and a Private Hire contract. A prior booking is a private Hire contract, and can be accepted but any licensed vehicle, it does not have to be a Taxi; a Taxi is a vehicle licensed to ply for hire or work from a rank withing its own licensing area. So I suggest to Licensing Authorities everywhere that the dearth of wheelchair-friendly "taxis" is better addressed with the Private Hire companies than the Taxi companies because the majority of the demand for these is Private Hire, i.e. pre-booked.

One point of caution, though. The clip show on TV tonight depicted a purpose-built wheel-chair cab carrying a wheelchair passenger side-on and showed the wheelchair "secured" by tying one wheel down using a length of seat-belt with a buckle on the end. Why does it have a buckle on the end? Where is the rest of the securing kit? Why was the passenger not secured personally, front-to-back & rear-facing, as required by law and according to the equipment-design in what is an excellent vehicle for the purpose? The drive committed an offence by using the vehicle and its securing equipment in a way contrary to its design use. Oops!
I have just seen this item reported on BBC local news. As a retired taxi driver, having had my first Hackney Driver's Badge in 1974 in Chester where the taxis at that time were Black cabs ("London Taxis"), there are a few bits in this story which I think the reporters don't understand. First, taxis charge passengers fares worked out automatically by a meter from the schedule of rates agreed with and published by the local licensing authority and compulsorily displayed in every Hackney Cab (taxi). Meters are neither obligatory in Private Hire Vehicles nor banned. Meters can be set to record time spent idle (loading or unloading, at traffic lights etc) and distance is recorded incrementally after the first "drop", or minimum fee. Jobs which incur a lot of standing time, such as waiting for passengers to emerge from a function or where the driver needs to set up ramps for a wheelchair and then to fasten a wheelchair securely and safely will incur a higher fare than a passenger who is waiting at the roadside ready to jump into the taxi. Passengers in wheelchairs often incur higher costs in this way and it is quite reasonable for the driver to charge for this. What is unacceptable, indeed illegal, is for a driver to charge any passenger at a rate higher than than those advertised and authorised. This can result in the suspension, or loss, of his badge and even the cancellation of his vehicle's licence to ply for hire (on dishonesty or "unfit person" grounds It is acceptable for a driver and passenger to negotiate an agreed fare before the journey starts, although some licensing authorities would insist that this must not exceed what the ACTUAL journey clocked-up, and that all journeys MUST be recorded on the meter. There is more to picking up a passenger in a wheelchair than in picking up an able-bodied person and it is only reasonable that more work & time equates to more money. However, the clip shown on TV tonight clearly showed that the deputy Mayor doesn't seem to know the difference between a Taxi and a Private Hire contract. A prior booking is a private Hire contract, and can be accepted but any licensed vehicle, it does not have to be a Taxi; a Taxi is a vehicle licensed to ply for hire or work from a rank withing its own licensing area. So I suggest to Licensing Authorities everywhere that the dearth of wheelchair-friendly "taxis" is better addressed with the Private Hire companies than the Taxi companies because the majority of the demand for these is Private Hire, i.e. pre-booked. One point of caution, though. The clip show on TV tonight depicted a purpose-built wheel-chair cab carrying a wheelchair passenger side-on and showed the wheelchair "secured" by tying one wheel down using a length of seat-belt with a buckle on the end. Why does it have a buckle on the end? Where is the rest of the securing kit? Why was the passenger not secured personally, front-to-back & rear-facing, as required by law and according to the equipment-design in what is an excellent vehicle for the purpose? The drive committed an offence by using the vehicle and its securing equipment in a way contrary to its design use. Oops! BorderRiever
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