Regulation – transport, storage and distribution sector

Providing taxi and private hire vehicle services

There are two types of taxi in the UK – hackney carriages and private hire vehicles (PHVs). In Great Britain, only licensed hackney carriages can describe themselves as taxis. Both taxis and PHVs must be licensed. Taxis are licensed to ply for hire – that is, they can pick up a passenger in the street or from a taxi rank. PHVs are not allowed to pick up passengers in the street or from a rank – they can only carry passengers who have pre-booked the journey. Passengers generally telephone PHV operators to make the booking or visit an operator’s office in person.


The local licensing authority or Transport for London (TfL) can set the fares that can be charged by licensed taxis. Taximeters are normally installed and these are tested regularly. Licensing authorities do not control fares charged by PHVs, although in Scotland if a meter is installed in a PHV then the taxi fare scale must be used.

Journey distances

In London, unless he or she has a reasonable excuse, a taxi driver must accept any hiring up to 12 miles long provided the destination is within the Greater London area. In the provinces a taxi driver has to accept any hiring within the district for which he or she is licensed.

Wheelchair accessibility

All licensed taxis in London and in Belfast must be wheelchair accessible. Taxis in other parts of the UK may be obliged to be wheelchair accessible as a condition of their licence being granted. Taxis licensed for the first time in a number of ‘first phase’ authorities will have to meet accessibility requirements by 2010 and all taxis in these areas by 2020. Read the government’s statement on accessible taxis on the DfT website.

Carrying assistance dogs

There are several pieces of legislation that require taxis and PHVs to carry assistance dogs that accompany a disabled person. The dogs must be carried free of charge. The relevant pieces of legislation are:

Running a taxi like a local bus service

A licensed taxi can also be used to provide a local bus service along a route that is registered with the area Traffic Commissioner. The route must have at least one stopping place in the area where taxi is licensed and the taxi must display a bus sign and details of the fares. The driver must be licensed as a taxi driver by the same licensing authority as the vehicle. You can find details on applications for a special restricted Public Service Vehicle Operator’s Licence on the VOSA website.

Using radio transmitting equipment

Taxi and PHV operators who use a radio circuit to allocate bookings to drivers must have a Private Mobile Radio class licence under the provisions of the Telecommunications Act 1984. Licences are granted by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Office of Communications (Ofcom) is responsible for enforcement. The licence must cover both the base and mobile units. Find out about licensing on the DTI website.

Recording client details

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires businesses that record clients’ details to register with the Information Commissioner as data users. The rules apply to:

  • taxi and PHV operators who record details of bookings
  • drivers of vehicles which are fitted with internal security cameras

For more detail see the list of guidance leaflets on the Information Commissioner website.

Road tax

Any vehicle travelling on the road must display a valid excise licence. The price of the licence is affected by:

  • the fuel it uses – petrol, diesel or an alternative
  • the vehicle’s level of emissions

See current duty rate bands on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) website.

This document is based on Crown Copyright © 2004-2011
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