Regulation – transport, storage and distribution sector

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Taxi and private hire vehicle driver licensing

Both taxi and private hire vehicle (PHVs) drivers must be licensed in the UK. There are different licensing systems in London, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Driver licensing in London

Transport for London (TfL) has powers to license taxi drivers. The Public Carriage Office (PCO) is responsible for licensing drivers on behalf of TfL.

To obtain a taxi driver’s licence the driver must:

  • satisfy the PCO that he or she is a fit and proper person – the PCO carries out a criminal record check on every applicant
  • be over 21
  • pass a comprehensive topographical test to demonstrate their knowledge of London
  • pass a medical test
  • pass a driving test in a taxi

There are two types of licence:

  • all London or green badge – licensed to work in greater London
  • suburban or yellow badge – licensed to work one or more suburban sectors

Read about taxi driver licensing on the TfL website.

The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 provides for the licensing of PHV drivers in London. The PCO is responsible for licensing PHV drivers. To obtain a licence a driver must:

  • pass a criminal record check
  • be over 21
  • have held a full driving licence (UK or equivalent) for at least three years
  • pass a medical

Find out more about PHV driver licensing on the TfL website.

Driver licensing in England and Wales outside London

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 gave local authorities the power to license PHV drivers. The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 gave licensing authorities power to license taxi drivers. To obtain a licence the driver must have held a full driving licence for at least 12 months and must satisfy the licensing authority that he or she is a fit and proper person. The licensing authority carries out a criminal record check on applicants. Each licensing authority sets their own conditions that must be satisfied before a licence is granted. These conditions might require the applicant to:

  • pass a medical examination
  • pass a topographical knowledge test
  • be over 21
  • pass a driving ability test

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has introduced a test specifically designed to examine the standard of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire drivers. Some local authorities include this as a licensing requirement. The test is called the Hackney Carriage Private Hire Test Assessment (HCPHTA). Find out about HCPHTA from the DSA website.

Some licensing authorities have a dual licensing scheme – this licenses the driver for both taxi and PHV work. PHV drivers must display their badges when driving.

The position in Scotland

Under the terms of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, local authorities are given the power to license both taxi and PHV drivers. To obtain a licence the driver must have held a full driving licence for at least 12 months. Drivers may have to pass a medical examination. The licensing authority may impose other conditions on taxi driver licences, such as passing a geographical knowledge test.

The position in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland there is a single licensing system for the drivers of all public service vehicle (PSVs). This includes drivers of taxis used for public and private hire as well as buses. Drivers are licensed under the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 and the Motor Vehicles (Taxi Drivers’ Licences) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1991. The Department of the Environment (DOE) is responsible for driver licensing. To obtain a licence the driver must:

  • be 18 years or over
  • be of good repute
  • have held a full driving licence for at least a year
  • be medically fit

For driver licensing in Northern Ireland you can:

This document is based on Crown Copyright © 2004-2011
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