Taxi sector reforms target fraud and malpractice


STEPS TO eliminate fraud and malpractice in the taxi industry – including the deployment of “real-time” tracking devices – are to come into force from January next.

Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport Alan Kelly will outline the reforms at a photocall for new mandatory national taxi branding at Dublin Castle this morning.

The reforms include a ban on the transfer or sale of taxi licences; a limit of nine years on the age of vehicles; new national branding for taxis; prohibition of “plate only” rental; a reduction of the period taxi licences can be inactive and a ban on the use of “crew cab” vehicles.

The new branding will be a semi-permanent green-and-white strip that all taxis will be required to display on their doors. The requirement, designed to reassure customers of national standards, is also aimed at making it more difficult for rogue operators to duplicate taxis. In a step aimed at eliminating criminality in the industry, Mr Kelly will outline the creation of a live database that will link taxi drivers to on-street vehicles via smartphones.

This element will ensure the correct driver is in the vehicle they are licensed to drive. Under the scheme, any attempt to use one licence for two vehicles would be spotted immediately.

Also from January, taxi licences will no longer be allowed to be sold or transferred to another individual. This move has upset some taxi drivers who claim they should be allowed to sell their licence on retirement. In what drivers see as an unfair move, owners of multiple licences, linked to specific vehicles, can place the ownership of both in the name of a company and sell the company.

From January only “full package rentals” will be allowed. This means the person providing the rental must own the licence and the vehicle.

That person will also be required to provide insurance for the vehicle for the rental period.

In a further bid to streamline regulations surrounding the licence, vehicle and driver, the owner of the licence must be the registered owner of the vehicle. A committee advising Mr Kelly has recommended that an exemption be allowed for the transfer of a licence to a next of kin on the death of a licence holder.

Mr Kelly’s spokesman said legitimate taxi drivers would have nothing to fear from the new regulations which would deal with concerns raised in recent television documentaries on illegality in the industry.

Efforts to contact the president of the Irish Taxi Federation, John Ussher, were not successful yesterday. However, in an interview in Taxi News this summer Mr Ussher said he was concerned the measures would not deal sufficiently with what he said was an oversupply of taxis in the industry.

“I think the level of oversupply is much more than the figure which has been identified ,” he said.