Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Government announces major change to Taxi Sector

- 46 Key Actions outlined in Government Report on Future of Taxi regulation

Public & Commuter Transport Minister, Alan Kelly, has today published the Government’s report into the future of the taxi sector.

The report contains over 40 key actions to address deficiencies in taxi regulation as part of a Programme for Government commitment to review the taxi sector.
“ This is the most radical examination of the taxi sector in Ireland ever,” stated Minister Kelly.
“The powers of the Gardai will be extended as a key action, with strengthened collaboration with the National Transport Authority for more effective on street enforcement. We will also be tightening up on the rental sector, removing criminal elements from the sector and creating a much more robust system of regulation.”

“The broad aim of this report is to increase consumer confidence in the sector and eliminate the rogue elements in the sector. We also want to ensure that legitimate and professional taxi operators and drivers can be rewarded fairly by operating under a regulatory regime that is adequately enforced. We want it to be a sector worth working in.  This report will allow us to achieve this and we have brought taxi regulation right back to the top of the transport agenda,” added Minister Kelly.

The report proposes actions under six categories: Compliance & Enforcement, Consumer and Industry Assurance, Driver Licensing, Vehicle Licensing & Standards, Accessible Services, and Fleet Management & Rental Controls

Some key actions under these categories are listed below:

Compliance & Enforcement: Significantly extend the powers of the Gardai to issue fixed-charge penalties and to work with the NTA for greater on-street enforcement with the NTA to focus more on off-street enforcement. 
  • Introduce and commence Legislation to remove certain categories of criminals from the sector or have them apply to the courts to maintain their licence
  • Introduce a system of penalty points specific to the SPSV sector. 
  • Introduce the legislation to allow suspension of licences for specific breaches of regulations 
  • Introduce a graduated system of fixed fines as opposed to a single €250 fine for all offences
Consumer & Industry Assurance: Facilitate a smartphone app to allow consumers check if their driver is licensed and operating within the regulations.
  • Make the consumer complaints process fully accessible online
  • Semi-Permanent branding on taxis for greater professionalism and accountability
  • Drivers may have to re-sit knowledge tests if more than three valid complaints are made against them.
Driver Licensing
  • Continuous social welfare & revenue compliance checks for drivers and vehicle owners
  • Part-time drivers must declare their SPSV licence to main employer
  • Transfer responsibility for driver licensing to National Transport Authority for a single point of contact for all licensing. (GardaĆ­ will continue to maintain role for vetting).
Vehicle License & StandardsAge limit of vehicle of nine years for all new vehicles entering the fleet and for vehicles that have entered the fleet since 1 January 2009.  For existing vehicles in the fleet prior to 1 January 2009, those vehicles will be allowed to operate with an upper age limit of fourteen years subject to NCT testing every six months.
  • New smaller roof-sign to be designed looking at electronic display of information and supply restricted to licensed companies. 
  • Freeze the transfer of vehicle licences in 2012 so licences cannot be sold on the open market. 
  • Vehicle licences will have to be registered to the owner of the vehicle.
Accessible ServicesTo create a single despatch contact for Wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV) linked to the NTA database for wheelchair taxi operators. 
  • Develop a website and app for self-ordering of WAVs
  • To reduce the specification of a wheelchair accessible vehicle to make more affordable for operators to invest in.
Fleet Management & Rental ControlsNo more renting of a vehicle license only. Anyone renting out their license must own the car the license is attached to, be responsible for the insurance/meter/roof-sign and be accountable for the operation of the licence. The NTA to be notified of all rentals at all times.
  • Real Time linking of drivers’ licenses with vehicle licensing. 
  • Increase part-time taxi rank space
  • Introduce  low cost hackney licences for rural community groups or businesses with  limited area of operation

 In June of last year, Minister Kelly established a review group consisting of various stakeholders along with
As part of the report, Indecon consultants were also engaged to examine the current market situation regarding taxis. They identified a significant oversupply of taxis in the Irish market currently which they estimate to be in the region of 13-22% ahead of taxi demand.

Speaking at the formal publication of the report the Minister added:
“This is an action-orientated report and work on these measures will start immediately. The National Transport Authority will be key partners in driving these actions.  This is a key government priority that sets about significant and necessary change. It follows a commitment in the programme for government and we are living up to that commitment.
 “One new provision I’m keen to develop is the specific hackney for rural places. Transport is not just an urban issue and we need to adopt a different regulatory approach for many isolated places that currently have no taxi service. With rural Ireland suffering from social isolation we have to give people some form of transport options,”

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