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No To Dangerous TFL Proposal

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
GMB Call On TFL Board To Vote Against Dangerous Proposal To Deny Private Hire Licences To Venues

In-venue private hire operators create a fully licensed structure for booking, safe passage and for responsibility beginning with the venue, its operator and drivers says GMB.

GMB, the union for professional drivers, is calling on Transport for London (TFL) board members to vote against a proposal to stop issuing licences to private hire companies operating out of venues. See notes to editors for previous GMB press releases on TFL’s review of private hire regulations.

The final decisions on a set of proposals first opened for consultation on 27th March 2015 will be taken by the TFL board on Thursday, 17th March.

Steve Garelick, GMB branch Secretary for professional drivers, said “In-venue private hire operators create a fully licensed structure for booking, safe passage and for responsibility beginning with the venue, its operator and drivers.

The legitimate need for vulnerable individuals travelling from venues to have a bona fide service in residence is not only logical, it is clearly a knee jerk reaction to revoke such a facility.

Beyond the safety consideration, TFL must take into account the commercial losses and potential claims for businesses no longer able to operate as a result of such measures. Not all drivers want to drive for apps and seek the legitimacy of licensed operators to work.

GMB is adamant that had more respondents realised the ramifications of such a draconian measure of removal of licences altogether they would not endorse such an action.

GMB would ask the TFL board to consider a more stringent set of guidelines for venues so that the public have this valuable controlled facility available to all and to consider provision of Taxi availability at the venues.”

End

Contact: Steve Garelick on 07565 456 776, or Michelle Bacon on 07961 709680 or GMB press office on 07970 863411 or 07739 182691

Notes to Editors

Copies of previous GMB press releases

1 Letter to TFL board members from GMB

I am writing in relation to the proposal to remove the facility of licensing venues by TFLTPH on which you will be voting.

Please may I request you read this message in its entirety as it has salient points that I believe will resonate with board members.
In relation to Satellite office and venue licensing it will be apparent that there was a reason such provision was required in the first place and this was to protect the travelling public from touts and predators.

The clear thinking was to create a fully licensed structure for booking, safe passage and responsibility beginning with the venue, its operator and drivers.

This allowed prospective passengers to travel with a licensed and insured operator and on element of control and protection that had not previously existed.

Whilst this has not wholly eradicated the issue of touting and predators that generally will immerse themselves within these groups it has created a system that has allowed many to travel with minimal risk and with accountability of the operator.

Whilst it seems some aspects of the consultation have been obfuscated or dropped the ramifications of such a removal go beyond real reason.

I wish you to examine several issues as a result of such a change.

Firstly, in the case of venues where licenses have been granted on the basis of requiring a Car service there will be an issue over licences that will be required or will need renewal.
Not only does this affect them but for those Private Hire operators who have licenses in place what does this mean for the drivers and staff who work for them?

Claims that apps can replace these are misguided and frankly not a commercial decision neither TFL nor the Mayor should be involved in.

The probability based on legal discussion is that should an operator choose to appeal to court that protracted proceedings would not only lead to license requests being upheld but great expense to TFL.

In our submissions we recommended the option for pop up taxi ranks to give the travelling public a choice.

It seems that 58% of respondent’s have not been offered such an option so has adopted the all or nothing option.
This still means that a number approaching 50% felt that a Venue licence option was more logical.

We are definitive that had more respondent’s realised the ramifications of such a draconian measure of removal of licences altogether they would not endorse such an action.

Turning to the beyond legitimate need for safety of vulnerable individuals, inebriated or otherwise travelling from venues having a bone fide service in residence is not only logical it is frankly a knee jerk reaction to revoke such a facility.

With no service at all venues will be deluged with miscreants and touts and app based drivers hoping for a journey blocking streets.

With little or no way of constantly policing all venues and with limited power to detain individuals without proof of an offence (Unless an attempted journey occurs.) the phrase ‘open season’ springs to mind.

In this case TFLTPH not only do not have the power to enforce but with Police being stretched less likelihood of apprehension of those acting illegally.

I would add that parking is not TFLTPH’s concern this is a local authority issue which all seem to administer and create revenue from.
Unless TFLTPH and the Mayor are to seek primary legislation on driver caps in TFL’s licensing area they are unlikely to see a reduction in traffic.

App based drivers are more likely to be cause traffic issues if they know individuals are booking from a venue by just ‘hanging around’.

I believe you do not wish to be authors of the next Newspaper headline of abduction, robbery or rape from a TFL area venue?

As alarmist as this may sound I am afraid as night follows day this is a distinct probability.
Beyond the safety consideration please take in to account the commercial losses and potential claims for business no longer able to operate as a result of such measures.
Not all drivers want to driver for apps and seek the legitimacy of licensed operators to work.
It will be no surprise that venues many years ago prior to licensing had operators in place who provided driers with ID because they craved legitimacy.

In conclusion turning to the final response to TFLs Impact assessment it seems that our views as a primary trade body on this matter have been set aside many groups not responding to the assignment especially as a high proportion of those approached did not engage on the final part of the consultation.
Candidly, the low level of respondents to the impact assessment - less than half approached, make the impact aspect more questionable especially on this point.

On the basis of the points raised in this communication I would implore the board to vote against this for the safety of the public.

I would ask you if need be to consider a more stringent set of guidelines for venues so that the public have this valuable controlled facility available to all and to consider provision of Taxi availability at the venues.

Thank you for your consideration.

2 GMB press release dated Tuesday, February 23, 2016

GMB Calls On TFL To Reconsider Preliminary Proposals On Private Hire Vehicle Regulations To Avoid Increasing Dangers To Passengers And Drivers

Should an intoxicated or violent customer become uncontrollable ridesharing creates a higher risk to the driver and passengers and should not be allowed says GMB drivers.

GMB, the union for professional drivers, is calling on Transport for London to reconsider some proposals that it put forward as preliminary indications as to how it wishes to proceed on the regulation of private hire vehicle drivers. This is after a consolation last autumn on how to protect private hire vehicle passengers and provide a sustainable income for drivers. See notes to editors for GMB press releases setting out GMB response to TFL consultation dated October 6th 2015

On the 24th February a final consultation by Transport for London (TfL) of private hire regulations will close. In September 2015 TFL published detailed proposals for consultation which closed on 23rd December. On 20th January 2016 TFL gave a preliminary indication of which proposals they proposed to progress. Final decisions on which proposals to be implemented will be made by the TFL Board in March.

The GMB professional driver’s branch is calling for TFL to reconsider some of the preliminary indications as water down protection for passengers and drivers as follows:

- Disclosure and Barring Service (DMS) checks for support staff have been watered down so that they do not apply to office based staff. GMB consider that operators will be able to substitute office based staff into front facing roles to avoid checks.

- Hire and reward insurance (a form of insurance designed for those who carry people or possessions for a fee) would only be necessary for private hire vehicle drivers who are signed up to an operator. GMB considers that such a system would be exploitable and that this type of insurance should be in place at all times.

-The requirement for operators to have a dedicated phone line with which to make bookings does not go far enough. It has been reduced to a necessity for customers to be able to communicate verbally with the operator. This may lead to situations in which drivers are unable to contact the operator if there is a problem or where those unable or unwilling to use a smartphone are ignored by the service.

-  A requirement for Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) drivers to provide their National Insurance number to the Department of Work and Pensions should also apply to taxi drivers.

- Any TFL guidance on ridesharing ignores fundamental problems inherent in ridesharing such as violence and sexual harassment which cannot be eliminated.

Steve Garelick, Branch Secretary for Professional Drivers, said “On behalf of the GMB Professional driver’s branch I am shocked that the mayor has either ignored the responses to the consultation or watered down the results to suit the needs of businesses and not the consumer and driver.

The proposals as they currently stand are ripe for exploitation and ignore the needs of drivers and the public in London.

Requirements for insurance that should be in place at all time is being watered down and will only need to be in place when a driver is signed up to a private hire operator. Not only is this unworkable and easily exploitable but it does nothing to reduce rates for drivers who in many cases overpay for cover.

Mandatory DBS checks that are common in other parts of the country will be implemented only for front facing staff. This allows operators in London to rotate office based staff to front facing positions to avoid the check. This is not right.

Ride sharing poses a risk to passengers and drivers. TFL should not support such concept and should work to ensure such business model is not allowed to operate in a PHV. There have been several complaints by passengers on Twitter where they have been sexually harassed by the passenger they shared the PHV with, most notably a Times journalist. Such models also create a higher risk to the driver and passengers should an intoxicated or violent customer become uncontrollable, so the driver will be at risk whilst trying to 'keep the peace'.

The need for operators to have a dedicated phone line has been watered down. It does nothing to allow a driver to talk to an operator when there is an issue nor does it provide for those who are unable or unwilling to use smartphones to book without them.
The requirement that PHV drivers must share their National Insurance numbers with the DWP that does not apply to taxi drivers is patently unfair and should apply for both groups of cab drivers.”

End

3 GMB press release date October 6, 2015

GMB Call For TFL To Cap Number Of Cabs And Drivers As Safeguarding Passenger Safety And Drivers Incomes Are Two Sides Of Same Coin For Sustainable Cab Regulations

As High Court hears case about smartphones as meters drivers need protection from dwindling incomes from failure to cap numbers which in turn increase risks to passengers says GMB.

GMB commented on the High Court case being heard on 5 October where Transport for London (TfL), taxi body( LTDA), Uber, and private hire body (LPHCA) are asking the Court to make a declaration on whether smartphones, used by some private hire drivers, are taximeters. This follows the publication last week by TFL of proposals for consultation on modernising private hire regulations in London. See notes to editors for TFL press release dated 29th September.

Steve Garelick, Branch Secretary Professional Drivers, said"GMB will consult members on these proposals and will respond in detail at that point.

GMB consider that instead of concentrating on the platforms used by the public to book cabs TFL should recognize the key point that safeguarding passenger safety and driver income are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other.

This means that drivers need to be protected from dwindling income forced by the failure to cap numbers which in turn increase risks to passengers.

TFL should look to build on the following principles in the consultation on modernising private hire regulations. See notes to editors for TFL press release dated 29th September.

- There should be an agreed cap on the number of licenced vehicles and drivers in London. All vehicles and drivers to meet agreed standards.
- Fares should be set at a level that all operators including Uber can enable drivers to earn a living without excessive hours avoiding the risks of driver fatigue and places an obligation on the operator for occupational safety
- A system to deal with complaints that drivers make about operators behaviour from illegal deductions or failings to return rent or insurance deposits to being barred or dismissed for refusing bookings.§ For passenger safety an agreed system to confirm the driver assigned to an app is the driver carrying out journeys.
- All payments from passengers to operators on journeys should be UK based to give greater protection to users and to make tax evasion impossible.
- In-venue licences should be retained - as we believe removing it as TFL propose will allow a tout culture to grow with no control on venues or the staff who profit from the illegal trade.
- An Insurance mini certificate to protect the good name of drivers should be shown in a similar location to the tax disk to protect the entire trade which will save insurers millions in fraudulent claims.
- Proposals to deal with attacks on drivers and driver’s safety, evading licence requirements by using courier licences, costs of licences and pre-booking, etc.

If TFL enter into dialogue on basis of these principles it should be possible to put in place sensible regulation that safeguarding passenger safety and driver income.”

End

4 Press release from TFL dated 29 September 2015

Consultation on modernising private hire regulations

Initial consultation, earlier this year, received almost four thousand responses from trades, customers and stakeholders

"The consultation sets out a number of ways that standards across the industry could be raised, ensuring Londoners can continue to benefit from the service provided by licensed private hire vehicles. No final decisions have been made and we're keen to hear a range of views from the trade and from Londoners too"

Garrett Emmerson

Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport, TfL

Secondary consultation contains proposals for discussion in relation to an English language requirement for drivers, stricter controls on insurance and tighter controls on private hire bookings

New taxi and private hire strategy also published, outlining TfL's vision for the wider industry as a whole

Transport for London (TfL) will tomorrow launch a secondary public consultation on potential changes to the regulations that govern the Capital's private hire trade. This follows an initial consultation which ended in June and received almost 4,000 responses from customers, stakeholders and the trades.

Following a detailed analysis of the responses to the initial consultation and meetings with trade representatives, a number of detailed suggestions have been drafted for consideration with the aim of helping TfL to better regulate the 21st century private hire trade.

These include proposals to improve driver skills, including English language capabilities and stricter requirements for insurance, as well as proposals around the way private hire operators can accept bookings and changes to how bookings are recorded. In addition a tough topographic exam to test driver navigational skills will also be introduced.

Garrett Emmerson, TfL's Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport, said:

'We are launching a public consultation in order to inform and improve the regulations that govern the Capital's private hire trade. In recent years the private hire industry has grown exponentially and technology has also developed rapidly. The consultation sets out a number of ways that standards across the industry could be raised, ensuring Londoners can continue to benefit from the service provided by licensed private hire vehicles. No final decisions have been made and we're keen to hear a range of views from the trade and from Londoners too.'

Alongside the consultation, TfL has also published a vision for the future of the taxi and private hire trade as a whole, setting the proposed changes to private hire regulations in the wider context of developments in the entire industry.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks and close on 23 December

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