Being able to speak English is essential for Private Hire Drivers, those who can't should lose their licenses

19 January 2024, 07:47

Being able to speak English is essential for Private Hire Drivers, those who can't should lose their licenses
Being able to speak English is essential for Private Hire Drivers, those who can't should lose their licenses. Picture: Alamy/LBC
  • Steve McNamara is the General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), the largest membership body representing London's black cab drivers.
Steve McNamara

By Steve McNamara

Transport for London (TfL) has announced it will not be taking enforcement action against private hire (minicab) drivers, who have failed to demonstrate the English language skills and understanding of how to keep passengers safe, required under new licensing rules introduced in early 2023.

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Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, subsequently welcomed TfL’s decision to “pause enforcement” on the grounds that “drivers who have been struggling to meet the requirement now won’t face enforcement action.”

He noted that he has “repeatedly expressed concerns” about the requirements, but I for one can’t understand why?

These working minicab drivers had until the end of September 2023 to complete a Safety, Equality and Regulatory Understanding (SERU) Assessment and demonstrate that they met the English Language Requirement (ELR).

These requirements must be met for a driver to be considered ‘fit and proper’ to be licensed in London. The drivers concerned have either failed to sit the new assessments at all or failed to pass them.

Either way, five months on from the deadline, they should now rightly face the loss of their licences on safety grounds.

Why are these drivers being allowed to keep transporting members of the public for the foreseeable future? If they were applying for a new licence, they would not be considered fit and proper to hold one and would be refused.

This decision clearly compromises passenger safety. These requirements represent the basic skills and awareness drivers need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

The SERU assessment also ensures drivers understand their duty of care and how to meet the needs of disabled passengers and other protected groups.

I know from personal experience driving a cab, just how important it is to be able to communicate clearly with passengers. This ensures you can get people where they want to go without any misunderstandings, you can advise them of changes to their route or any issues during the journey, offer them advice and support when dropping them off, make recommendations on where to go, and many other things.

London’s licensed taxi drivers spend years completing the Knowledge of London during which their language skills are repeatedly demonstrated.

The Mayor claims to “champion” the interests of both PHV drivers and their passengers, but it’s unclear how this decision will do anything other than put those very passengers at risk.

Yet another reason to always travel by licensed taxi if you ask me.


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