Taxi drivers with a poor knowledge of the area they are operating in risk losing their taxi licence if they do not improve. And drivers who persistently flout taxi regulations will henceforth be subject to their own special demerit points system under which, if eight points are achieved, they face losing their taxi licence for three months.
The measures were activated yesterday by Minister for Public Transport Alan Kelly.
Demerit points, ranging in scale from one to four, may be applied by the Taxi Regulator for a variety of offences, including failing to give information to the licensing authority (one point), to using a taxi that is not roadworthy (four points on conviction).
Tighter restrictions on notices and signs permitted on taxis were also introduced. Signs such as “full-time Irish driver” are not allowed.
There are also new restrictions on so-called Stamp 2 visa holders, usually non-EU nationals in Ireland under education programmes, holding taxi driver licences.
Mr Kelly also announced that 15 new taxi enforcement officers would clamp down on unlicensed taxis and drivers not complying with all the regulations.
“I am determined that those who attempt to flout the law will be pursued and face the consequences,” said Mr Kelly. “This move will see the number of enforcement officers treble . . .”
Drivers with poor local knowledge and three verified complaints against them will have to re-sit their knowledge test when they apply for a renewal of their licence, currently every five years but coming down to every three years.
Drivers will also have to prove continuous tax compliance. Those convicted of serious offences, including murder, serious sexual offences or terrorist offences, face an automatic lifetime ban from holding a taxi licence.
Lesser offences, such as theft, will attract a ban related to the severity of the conviction – a five year jail sentence would result in a seven year taxi licence ban, for example.
John Ussher of the Irish Taxi Drivers’ Federation said that while some of the measures were welcome, taxi drivers were the only workers who faced an occupational penalty points system under which they could lose their livelihood.
The National Transport Authority says there are currently almost 31,200 active taxi driver licences in the country, down from a peak of 47,592 in 2009 following deregulation in 2000.