Regulation – transport, storage and distribution sector

Private hire vehicle operator licensing

Private hire vehicles (PHVs) are not allowed to pick up passengers from a taxi rank or in the street. All their passengers must have pre-booked their journey through a private hire vehicle operator, either by telephone or by calling in to the operator’s office.

In London and in England and Wales outside London, PHV operators must be licensed. They do not have to be licensed in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

PHV operator licensing in London

The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 provides for the licensing of PHV operators in London. The Public Carriage Office (PCO) is responsible for licensing PHV operators. The legislation requires PHV operators to:

  • Take bookings only through designated operating centres, which have passed an inspection. These centres are listed on the licence.
  • Keep records of all bookings, the driver and vehicle that carried them.
  • Display a copy of the licence at each centre.

PHV licenses are valid for five years.

An operator must not misleadingly describe the PHVs that are operated so that members of the public think they are taxis. Find out about PHV operator licensing on the TfL website.

PHV operator licensing in England and Wales outside London

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 gave local authorities the power to license PHV operators. Before a licence is granted, the licensing authority must be satisfied that the operator is a fit and proper person. Operators must:

  • use PHVs and PHV drivers that are licensed by the licensing authority for that area
  • keep records of all bookings

The licensing authority may also require other conditions to be met, such as keeping a record of all drivers.

PHV operator licences are valid for a maximum of five years.


Unlike the licensed taxi trade, where the licensing authority normally sets the fare tariff, PHV operators set their own fares. PHV drivers are contractually obliged to charge the fare that has been quoted to the customer by the PHV operator.

This document is based on Crown Copyright © 2004-2011
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