Taxi driver numbers slashed by half due to Covid-19 pandemic

5 November 2021, 14:22

The UK's taxi and private hire industry is short of 160,000 drivers
The UK's taxi and private hire industry is short of 160,000 drivers. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

A shortage of taxi drivers as the nation heads out of the Covid-19 pandemic has sparked safety warnings from an industry body.

The Licensed Private Car Hire Association (LPCHA) has warned that more than half of licensed drivers have left the industry since the beginning of the pandemic.

The LPCHA estimates the 300,000-strong workforce is down by 160,000 - prompting safety fears for women and workers trying to get home at night.

The Office for National Statistics published figures in August that showed 49 per cent of women do not feel safe walking alone after dark.

The LPHCA say fees alongside backlogs for criminal and medical checks have caused a "perfect storm" with drivers having to pay up to £600 to their local council just to obtain a year's licence.

There are also minicab shortages in London, with drivers regularly turning down journeys due to poor rates after a switch in pay levels last Christmas.

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It is estimated up to 80 per cent of journeys are being turned down by minicabs in the capital.

Experts have warned that the crisis is now worse than the HGV driver shortage with taxi drivers switching to food delivery jobs or parcel delivery for companies such as Amazon.

It has prompted some local councils to take urgent action, in Torbay, Devon, the council have cut the cost of licensing to just £50 in a bid to get more drivers behind the wheel.

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But the last ditch attempt has so far only provided Torbay with half of the taxi drivers they need.

A spokesperson from the Department for Transport said: "While provision of taxi licences is the responsibility of Local Authorities, we continue to work with industry groups to address concerns over potential shortages.

"Throughout the pandemic we have supported private hire vehicle drivers through grants from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme."

The DfT plan to revise licensing guidelines for taxi drivers, but consultations are not expected until next year.

It has prompted safety fears after research by the ONS found both men and women both feel less safe walking after dark on quiet streets close to home, busy public spaces and parks or open spaces.