Bill to introduce taxi 'demerit' system
Taxi drivers who overcharge and take longer routes than necessary could have their licences suspended under a Bill before Seanad today.
A demerit system for taxi drivers who breach regulations is contained in the The Taxi Regulation Bill 2013.
The legislation also includes “lifetime bans” for drivers with manslaughter, murder and rape convictions, Minister of State for Public Transport Alan Kelly said today.
Under a penalty point style system drivers who accumulate enough demerits could have their licence suspended. Offences include overcharging, not providing information to enforcement officers and taking longer than necessary routes.There will be no overlap between the operation of the driver demerit system and the State's penalty point system, Mr Kelly said.
Any driver who gets eight demerits could be suspended from driving for three months, Mr Kelly said.
The Bill also provides for mandatory disqualification of taxi drivers with certain serious criminal convictions.
There will be “lifetime bans” for drivers with manslaughter, murder and rape, terrorism, torture, trafficking and sexual offence convictions, Mr Kelly told RTÉ Radio.
There will be temporary bans for burglary, firearms offences, serious assault, harassment and other areas.
Someone with a conviction for seven years will not be able to apply for a licence for five years, while someone with a conviction of two years will not be able to apply for a licence for 18 months, he said.
Drivers convicted of drink driving and dangerous driving will not be able to get a licence for three to five years.
“There is a process being put in place to identify” the drivers with criminal convictions, Mr Kelly said. The legislation will be retrospectively applied to existing taxi drivers. Some 6000 drivers with taxi licences have some form of criminal conviction but many of these are minor, Mr Kelly said.
Gardaí will have extra powers in refusing licences and extensions to people they “deem to be of unsavoury character” a Department of Transport statement said.
The Bill also allows for the use of CCTV for taxi enforcement such as on the ranks.
An online register of drivers will be introduced as part of the bill “So the state knows what driver is in what car and consumers will be able to verify this” Mr Kelly told the Seanad today. The information system on drivers was “imminent” and would likely be in a mobile app, Mr Kelly said. This would mean a passenger could type in the number of the taxi and see if the driver matches.
Mr Kelly was asked by senators about dealing with part-time taxi drivers with other full time jobs.
Under new legislation those who apply for licenses “must notify their employers,” Mr Kelly said. This might deal with some people, who possibly due to the nature of their job, shouldn’t work in the industry, he said.
The rental sector would be cleaned up and new vehicle standards would be introduced, he said.
Drivers were “suffering from unfair competition from unscrupulous operators” and consumers have not had confidence in the “standards of professionalism” in the sector, he said.
There had been an “almost laissez faire” attitude to the taxi industry since deregulation, he said.
Mr Kelly said it was “the most comprehensive Bill in the history of the State” when it came to the taxi industry.
Sinn Féin senator Catherine Reilly said the Minister needed to ensure that political prisoners released under the Belfast Agreement “are not excluded” from getting taxi licences.
The Bill passed second stage in the Seanad today and will go to committee stage next week.