Signage on PH Vehicles has always been a thorny subject which is guaranteed to rile up any operator or driver one way or the other. Since the inception of licensing in London, there have been many discussions and consultations between the trade and the regulator, Transport for London (TfL).
The general consensus has always been that with limited exceptions for branding purposes, signage on PH vehicles in London is not beneficial to any party.
In the past when signage has been used, for example the ill-fated ‘pre-booked only’ roundels issued by TfL, they have been used by illegal touts to make their vehicle look official and illegally ply for hire, they also attract unwanted attempts to ‘hail’ the minicab, particularly late at night, resulting in PH drivers being subject to abusive behaviour and assault when they refuse.
The two tier system where, in London in particular, there is clear definition between a Taxi which can legally ply for hire and a Private Hire vehicle, which must be pre-booked is well understood and accepted by drivers and passengers. Any changes which start to blur the lines and create confusion will inevitably lead to a perceived merging of the services in the eyes of the travelling public which will be confusing and lead to potentially dangerous and illegal activities.
In addition, London has a unique situation where the vast majority of PH vehicles are also the drivers’ main family vehicle, this enables individuals to keep their costs under control and ensure maximum availability to the public, a major contribution to personal safety.
On November 23, TfL announced that following a consultation on the DfT statutory standards for Taxi and Private Hire, that with effect from 1st July 2024, all vehicles will have the following signs installed by NSL during their inspection:
Information about how to make a complaint to TfL
• No-smoking sign
• Cycle safety sign
• Card payment information (taxis only)
• Information for wheelchair users (taxis only)
• Pre-booked only sign (PHVs only)
• Seatbelt sign
• Message advising passengers that abuse of drivers is unacceptable
On Thursday 25th January senior PHV trade representatives, in a meeting requested by the LPHCA, met with TfL Taxi and Private Hire Directors and officials in Stratford to hear what was being proposed in greater detail.
To our dismay, they propose stickers would carry way too much information, and the proposal currently is that they are to be mandated in, and on, all PHVs including Chauffeur & Executive. The trade representatives were unanimous in rejecting these proposals outright.
It should be also noted that the Department for Transport (DfT) do have specific guidance on complaints:
“‘Ways to make a complaint to the authority should be displayed in all licensed vehicles.”
There is however, no mention of any other recommended signage requirements in the DfT Statutory Guidance, alongside the caveat that if there are good local reasons for non-introduction the DfT would understand this.
These proposals have therefore been introduced by TfL under cover of the guidance, which is untrue, despite considerable negative feedback from the PHV trade and its representatives during the consultation.
Further meetings with TfL are planned for early to mid-February, meanwhile, the Trade Associations will be planning our next steps, legally and politically with the LPHCA’s Chauffeur and Executive Committee being heavily involved.