Can you name an unlicensed chauffeur, limo or novelty vehicle? Can you spot an unlicensed driver or operator? Recent trade press articles suggests the trade can, but the authorities can’t!
Talking to the trade, their associations and reading between the lines in recent trade press articles it is possible that every town and city in the UK has it illegal operators. It seems the industry knows who the illegal operators are and you can feel the frustration and anger that some are running a coach and horse through the private hire legislation and getting away with it.
Its not about jealously because licensed firms lose work to an unlicensed one. The issue is about safety and the fact these laws, no matter how much they are a pain in the arse they are, are there for a reason. Companies and the public do complain about illegal operators, but depending on their licensing department it can mean the difference between prosecution and cheaper to look the other way attitude.
The impression I had when I spoke to licensing officers they were clearly passionate about his job and keeping his or her roads safe from unlicensed taxis and private hire, including executive and chauffeur companies. But like all industries their is the bad and incompetent and it is these individuals and their licensing departments who are letting the trade and licensing officers down on an industrial scale.
You only have to do a quick search online on councils websites to see how many licensed executive or chauffeur vehicles they have on their register. If you then search the internet for executive hire or chauffeur firms in that town or city you will see the numbers don’t add up. It’s no wonder that operators and licensed chauffeurs are pulling their hair out.
If so many people know who the illegal chauffeurs are why are these same companies who are alleged to be breaking the law still operating? I cannot believe for one minute that the trade just sits there and says nothing. Surely someone is complaining? If they are complaining which I believe they are means either the companies being complained about are legal or the licensing officials are incompetent. Which one is it?
My research seems to suggest some licensing officers are not fulfilling their ‘duty of care’ to the public. When you consider a powerful piece of legislation, the corporate manslaughter act you would expect councils would be petrified at being prosecuted under the act. Imagine if an unlicensed vehicle and driver killed a member of the public and it was found the council had been repeatedly warned about the driver. Someone could go to prison if found guilty under the act.
It does not help that there are two types of licensing department. The one that is proactive and takes a fair and balanced approach to private hire and taxi licensing and enforcement. The other being the council whose licensing officers view is never questioned and you find complaints can rest on one persons point of view. The latter approach risks the public safety because nobody is perfect and sometimes it is not a bad idea to have a second or third opinion and if necessary take independent advice if the council is not sure.
I am sure some councils put off taking legal action against illegal operators as the costs for prosecution have to come out of the councils coffers and not the fees it receives from licensing private hire and taxis drivers, vehicles and operators. I am really concerned at what I am hearing and seeing and need to look into this further.
In the meantime if you have an elephant in the room we would like to research this further and ask if you are aware of any unlicensed chauffeurs, vehicles or operators to please get in touch.