Taxi rule changes leave some drivers fearing for future

Sudbury Cars taxi

New regulations have been brought in which has split opinion in the taxi industry. - Credit: Patrick Crew

Changes to taxi regulations have caused a mixed reaction in the industry, with firms torn on how it will affect them - and some fearing it will drive them out of business.

Alterations to regulations in Babergh and Mid Suffolk include the introduction of a college course around being a professional taxi and private hire driver, as well as new taxi drivers needing to own a car less than eight years old while existing drivers will have to have older vehicles checked more regularly.

The two-day course comes at a cost of £150, which adds to the current costs of knowledge tests, a DBS as well as medical checks.

The regulations came into force at the beginning of March.

Patrick Crew, managing director of Sudbury Cars, said professionalising the industry is a step in the right direction, adding he will be supporting new drivers through the course both with knowledge and financially.

"Making the industry more professional can only be a good thing in the long term, we want to show initiative and help bring people into the private hire and taxi driving industry.

“It gives people more comfort when it comes to making bookings, knowing that their drivers have a qualification and are by definition ‘professional drivers’, and can get you from A to B as safely as possible."

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However, Julie Row, a director at Stowmarket Cars says the new regulations are going to severely impact the business and the struggle to recruit new drivers and could be massively detrimental.

Taxi rank in Lloyds Avenue, Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The changes include a new college course which takes two days at a cost of £150. - Credit: Archant

She said: "It's going to close down my business. I was working during the first wave of Covid, I was lucky if I was taking £100 over seven days, this isn’t the right time to be hitting us with regulations that we can’t afford or sustain.  

“I’ve done my job for over 30 years and I’ve got to go to college and do a course which is £150 over two days. 

“We’re struggling to man the office at night, trying to find drivers. 

“Why would anyone want to set themselves up as a taxi driver? 

“You’ve got to buy a less than an eight-year-old car, do a two-day course, a medical and sight test and other checks. 

“There’re so many expenses involved. There’s no incentive to do the job. 

“It’s been a really difficult two years, for the majority of the last two years there’s been very little work, but for the few of us that are left and stuck it out as best we can, it feels like they’re putting the boot in and saying ‘cheers for what you’ve done but we’re going to make it harder for you now introducing these new regulations that you can’t afford.’"

A spokesperson for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils said: “We recognise the role that our taxi trade plays as a vital part of our local transport system, and the challenges that the industry has faced as a result of the pandemic.

“We will always consult the industry regarding changes to our policy, and feedback we received from the trade helped shape the final version of this policy.  

"Ultimately, however, we are responsible for ensuring our policies meet the required standards set by Government, in this case the Department for Transport, in terms of protecting our residents, and the continued professional development of the trade.

“This includes considering vehicle safety, with new drivers who first apply needing have a safe vehicle less than eight years old – and existing drivers with vehicles that are 10 or more years old needing to have their vehicles checked more frequently.  We feel this is a reasonable balance between our need to protect the public and the needs of the trade.“

Representatives from Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils will be meeting with members of the taxi industry in April to discuss the new regulations.