A TAXI driver was stunned to be told he must wear his name badge and display a sign on his car at all times, even on his days off.
Mohammed Iqbal Khan, 41, from Luton, was sent a letter informing him that investigations were being conducted after a licensing enforcement officer saw him driving his car on Tuesday, December 20 without a roof sign.
Mr Khan said it was his day off and he was driving home from the shops, so did not realise he was doing anything wrong.
Mr Khan, who lives with his wife in Whitby Road, said: “This is a very unfair matter. They are interfering in my private life. I was not working so why should I have to display a sign or wear my badge? I went to see the enforcement officer and he said I must wear my badge and have a roof sign on my car 24 hours a day, even if it’s my day off.”
If he is caught breaking these conditions three more times in the next six months, Mr Khan will lose his private hire vehicle licence.
Mr Khan said: “It feels like mental harassment. Why can’t I have a day off and not have to be a taxi driver every so often? But if I lose my job, that’s my bread and butter gone.”
A Luton Borough Council spokesman said that once a vehicle is licensed with a local authority, it remains a private hire or hackney carriage until the licence expires or is surrendered and can only be driven by a Luton licensed driver, even if it is for private use.
He said: “Drivers must fully comply with this legislation and other local authority conditions while the vehicle is being driven within its boundaries, even when being driven for private purposes. Therefore, the driver should wear and display the badge in a prominent position and have the correct livery (roof sign) fitted at all times.”
A CAB firm reduced a disabled man to tears by telling him he was too fat to get in their vehicle.
Ronnie Dickson weights 33 stone and suffers from a cellulitis, a skin condition that affects both his legs.
The painful medical condition means he is only able to walk with the help of two crutches and needs to use a disabled ramp to get into taxis.
His failing health means the 64-year-old has been travelling to hospital repeatedly over the last few months and is reliant on the service.
But Edinburgh-based City Cabs have refused to let him travel in one of their taxis, as he could break the vehicle’s ramp.
They said that they sympathised with Mr Dickson, but said the pensioner had broken a ramp on one of their cars just a week before.
Mr Dickson had called on the firm to take him to a doctor’s appointment but was shocked to be told he was too heavy to travel.
He said: “It hurt inside and I burst out crying. I got myself all uptight.”
His wife and carer, Hazel Dickson, 46, said: “My husband needs to use the ramp to get into a taxi on his crutches, but on Wednesday the driver said he couldn’t.
“Ronnie came back into the house and he was actually crying, he was very upset and I was angry.”
She added her husband had had similar problems with other taxi firms in the past.
City Cabs said they stood by their decision on the day. Company secretary Les McVay said: Company secretary of City Cabs, Les McVay, said: “Mr Dickson has been a customer with City Cabs for almost a year. In the past, Mr Dickson has been able to gain access to the taxi with the assistance from the driver.
“Unfortunately, Mr Dickson’s mobility recently has deteriorated and a combination of his weight and the inability to bend his knees has meant that he has recently started requesting the use of the wheelchair ramp to gain access to the taxi.
“The wheelchair ramp is designed to take a load in excess of 33 stone, but spread over the whole ramp. If Mr Dickson was in a wheelchair, then City Cabs could continue to provide a service. Mr Dickson damaged a ramp last week. The vehicle was off the road and the driver had to meet the repair bill at his own expense.”
He added: “City Cabs fully recognise and are fully committed to all of our disabled customers.
“Obviously this incident has caused Mr Dickson some distress and that is regrettable, but due to his failing health, the inability to bend his knees and his weight, he can no longer safely gain access to a normal taxi. He requires specialised help and a specialised vehicle.”
A BID by taxi drivers in St Albans to increase their income by calling for fare extras to be introduced was thrown out by councillors last night.
Members of St Albans District Council’s licensing regulatory committee came together with the St Albans and Harpenden Taxi Association to consider the request.
The taxi drivers say some of the bigger cars, for example seven seaters, should be able to charge extra for carrying two or more persons as the vehicle is more expensive to run.
However councillors on the committee disagreed and rejected their calls. The drivers had also asked for the outside of the cars to carry adverts for local businesses but this was also refused.
Mudassar Yason, secretary of the drivers’ association, said although their calls for fare extras were rejected, the cabbies were glad some other issues were resolved. He added that an agreement was reached about advertisements inside the cabs and to help reduce carbon emmisions no cars below a 1.7 diesel engine would now be granted a licence.
He said: “With the fare extras I guess the decision was fine. At the end of the day we could have gone for a fare increase but we understand that people say the last increase was extortinate and we have lost a few customers because of this.
“We are glad the internal advertising was resolved but at the same time disappointed local businesses, who need all the support they can get at this time of recession, will not have the opportunity to have adverts visible on the outside.”
Figures released by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that 295 motorists who live in the region with 12 points or more still being allowed behind the wheel – in spite of guidance to courts that only under “exceptional” circumstances should they be allowed to continue.
Two of the drivers have amassed 20 points.
Now Councillor Lynda Clinton (Tyburn) is Labour’s Lead Member on Birmingham City Council’s Licensing Committee, has spoken out about taxi drivers with excessive points.
She said: “I would personally like to see the courts get tough with private hire drivers who accumulate more than 12 points.
“They know when they break the law that their job is at stake. But they claim hardship.
“Members of the public should not, in my opinion, be transported by drivers who have excess points. I certainly would not want my grandchildren driven around by somebody with excess points.
“It is unfair that this minority are allowed to continue driving.
“It is not unusual that I am called to interview private hire drivers (not so often Hackney drivers) who, despite exceeding the maximum points, are allowed to keep their driving licence on the grounds of hardship.
“The courts make these decisions and I, along with colleagues, then have a decision to make as to whether they should keep their Birmingham City Council licence.
“It is very difficult for us because the courts have allowed them to continue driving.
“If we make a decision to suspend or revoke the licence they can appeal, which may be successful and will cost the taxpayer even more money.”
“The number of points that some of these drivers have accumulated are really quite high. We are talking about 14, 16 or even 18 points.
“The laws of the land say they are a danger, so they should be off the road.”
But a spokesman for the Birmingham Private Hire Association said the courts do and should continue to allow some drivers the chance to continue working.
He said: “It is right that a driver who is caught driving without insurance has his DVLA and council licence taken away.
“But if it they are caught a number of times for not wearing seat belts or speeding then I think they should be allowed to continue driving.
“I can tell you that the majority of private hire drivers who are driving now with more than 12 points have had offences totted up and that is why they are allowed to continue driving.
“They drive more than 30,000 miles per year and are not going to have stuck to the 30mph limit the whole time.
“The council targets these private hire drivers to take away their licences, but when it does go to appeal the judges rule in favour of the drivers because they have these bills to pay.
“The judges allow them to continue to drive because they still have to feed their kids and pay their mortgages.”
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: “Just because a court allows someone to keep a licence for the sake of their livelihood, it does not necessarily follow that licensing will allow them to keep their licence.
“For example the committee’s policy is that any driver found guilty of plying for hire will automatically face licence suspension action, regardless of whether they are at 12 points or whether a court has said they can keep their DVLA licence, or not.
“Generally where a driver has accumulated more than nine points over a period of time, or committed a single offence attracting a significant number of points (6+) officers can recommend members review the licence.
“The committee also looks at far more issues than just traffic offence history in considering what action to take, for example a driver may have a history of licence offences which don’t necessarily attract points (and therefore applied at court) but add to weight of evidence supporting decision to revoke or suspend the licence.”
Road safety charity Brake spokesman Richard Coteau said: “Drivers who repeatedly flout traffic laws have shown complete disregard for the lives of other road users.
“They have had ample opportunity to desist breaking the law before reaching 12 points and facing disqualification.
“It’s time for the Government to get tough with these selfish, irresponsible and potentially deadly drivers.”
CAB drivers are celebrating a milestone in their campaign for standard fares and taxi ranks to be introduced.
The district council is asking people for their views on whether meters set by the council should be installed in Hackney carriages – any cab that can be hailed in the street.
Sanu Azid, 33, the chairman of the Epping Forest Taxi Association, said the consultation was a big step forward.
“We have been speaking to the council for three years about this,” he said. “There has been demand for it before, but no-one constantly creating the pressure.
“As it stands, a driver can charge £100 for a local journey, if he can get away with it, and the passenger can’t legally do anything.
“It gives a bad name to a taxi driver and everybody gets grief.”
The council also wants to know how much support there is for official taxi ranks and suggestions for which roads they should be on.
It has already raised the possibility of setting up a rank outside a parade of shops in Loughton High Road, near the turning for Trap’s Hill, although this raised objections from traders and the council has yet to make a decision.
Mr Azid said his group supported taxi ranks in general, although he would rather see one behind Morrisons that on the High Road.
“Once a rank is established, the public knows there’s a licensed taxi waiting there,” he added.
“In the whole of Epping Forest, there’s one official taxi rank, which holds three cars, in Epping High Street.”
Ron Taylor, 62, a self-employed driver who works around Buckhurst Hill and Loughton, said: “I think it’s the right thing to have meters.
“It’s fair for everybody – customers and the council as well, because if people rip off customers, they’re going to complain to the council.
“Putting bays in can only be a good thing. We’ve been pushing for ages for this.”
The consultation has been sent out to town and parish councils and its questionnaire on the topic can be found by going to www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk and clicking on ‘licensing’.
A taxi driver was punched to the floor and kicked by two men but was saved by a have-a-go hero.
The attack happened in Stilton on New Year’s Eve after the driver had taken a fare to The Talbot pub in North Street, shortly before midnight on Saturday, December 31.
But the passengers only handed over £5 of the £15 asked for and when the driver threatened to call the police, two of the men punched him to the floor and kicked him.
Police have appealed to revellers who witnessed the incident to come forward.
A brave onlooker intervened and the victim managed to get back into his car and drive away. He suffered minor injuries.
One of the offenders is described as white, about 20, cleanly shaven with dark hair. He was wearing a black, sleeveless top and blue jeans.
Pc Suzanne Pickard, investigating, said: “This was a nasty attack on a man who was simply doing his job.
“I would appeal to anyone who was celebrating the New Year at the pub and may have seen what happened. In particular I am keen to speak to the member of the public who came to the aid of the driver when he was being assaulted.”
Anyone with any information should call Pc Pickard on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
The public must be protected from would-be taxi drivers with police history, even if they haven’t been prosecuted, it was claimed today.
Licensing bosses have been allowed to carry out “enhanced” Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on potential drivers to ensure public safety for the past 10 years.
It means the CRB can disclose information on an individual, in addition to convictions, which they think may be relevant to the job they’re applying for.
But the government has looked at scrapping the practice, prompting lobbying by the Local Government Association and Transport for London.
Today, Preston’s licensing boss said, without the enhanced checks, people with police histories which “worry the council” would be driving taxis in Preston.
Licensing manager Mike Thorpe said, in recent years, they had refused a licence to a man acquitted of male rape and another to a man accused of having relations with a minor before the case was discontinued by the courts.
He said: “Preston has used this to stop people who have no convictions but where there’s been enough evidence to worry the council.
“Without being able to rely on this additional information, we’d have people like this driving round.
“Without that (information) we’d have granted them licences.
“Our role is to make sure these vehicles and these drivers are safe for the public and to give that assurance, when people’s daughters are out and coming home on their own, they can trust council vehicles and drivers.
“By not having all the information at our disposal to make the right decision, then risks are high.”
The council is currently consulting the public over whether rapists should ever be allowed to drive taxis.
They can currently apply after five years.
People have until January 31 to comment proposed changes to the taxi policy.
WHEELCHAIR users have long been deprived of a quintessential New York City experience: riding in a taxi. So after years of discussion, litigation and experimentation, the governor and the mayor of New York last month announced a deal to put 2,000 wheelchair-accessible cabs on the streets, setting aside up to $54 million in subsidies and loans to retrofit vehicles for wheelchair use or buy new wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
The plan is well intentioned but might not achieve the desired results. Rather than improving access for the disabled, it will require taxpayers and the taxi industry to foot the bill for taxis that will in all likelihood rarely be used by the target ridership. A more sensible alternative would be to set up a small fleet of wheelchair-accessible cabs that disabled passengers could call upon, through a centralized dispatch system, at any time of day or night, as part of the region’s mass transit system.
Advocates estimate that there are about 60,000 wheelchair users in the city — and that’s not counting out-of-town visitors. No one doubts that getting around New York in a wheelchair can be daunting. Most subway stations are not accessible; many bus stops are too distant for wheelchair users to reach; and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s van program for the disabled requires registration and making a reservation, usually days in advance.
In response, the state and the city now plan to sell 2,000 new taxi medallions (the current total is 13,237) that will be designated for wheelchair-accessible vehicles and issue 18,000 permits — one-fifth of them wheelchair-accessible — for a new class of livery cabs that will be permitted to pick up street hails in upper Manhattan and the four other boroughs, areas traditionally underserved by yellow cabs.
But simply putting more accessible vehicles on the street is impractical and, for many, unaffordable. Drivers of accessible cabs would find it difficult to find space in the middle of heavily congested streets to accommodate wheelchair users; insurance premiums for drivers and vehicle owners are likely to rise; and many disabled riders would far prefer home pickup to an uncertain wait on a corner in bad weather (though advocates for the disabled are loath to admit it).
The new plan put forward by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is partly a response to judicial pressure. On Dec. 23, two days after the deal was announced, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the taxi commission had failed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act by not providing sufficient wheelchair access. The judge even stopped the city from auctioning any new permits or medallions unless they are all accessible and until a plan is approved by the court.
There is a better approach: a centralized taxi-dispatch system for disabled riders. From July 2008 to June 2010, the Taxi and Limousine Commission tested such a system. When riders called the city’s 311 information line, a company dispatched one of 232 accessible yellow cabs to pick them up.
The results were not promising, but also not conclusive. The median wait time was 22 minutes. Only 2,700 individuals used the service — and most of them for just one trip per year. Only about eight rides took place each day. The $1 million budget for the 5,828 trips taken meant that each trip cost, on average, $172. The overwhelming majority of the rides began and ended in Manhattan (as is typical of cab usage in the city).
However, I believe the disappointing results were more a reflection of the high cost of riding a cab — a particular deterrent for people who are on fixed incomes — than of the challenges of a dispatch system.
My proposal is this: convert the existing van program run by the M.T.A. into a system of subsidized door-to-door taxi rides. The van system, known as paratransit or Access-a-Ride, spends more than $380 million a year. The average cost per ride is $30 to $50, which I believe could be lowered to $12 to $15 if the little-used vans were replaced with accessible cabs. The system would rely on usage patterns to determine the right number of cabs — instead of setting them by fiat. Passengers would pay $2.25 a ride (with a discount for purchasers of certain fare cards), the same cost as a subway trip.
The M.T.A. has been testing such a program; it should become permanent. It would allow the use of custom-built vehicles instead of retrofitted ones. The M.T.A. or the city would enforce service standards to ensure that wait times were reasonable and drivers properly trained. Over time, as the service became more reliable, demand would rise — after all, door-to-door service for the cost of a subway ride is far cheaper than hailing a retrofitted yellow cab. One model for this is Chicago, where only 90 wheelchair-accessible cabs (about 1 percent of the total fleet) are efficiently dispatched through a single toll-free number.
Congress could also help. The Americans With Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, exempted taxicabs, but subsequent federal regulations required cabs for the disabled to provide “equivalent service.” So governments are not required to provide accessible cabs, but if they do, they are open to being sued (as New York City was) for discrimination. The act should be amended to provide incentives for disability access instead of punishing municipalities that try to do the right thing.
Putting thousands of accessible cabs on the road looks good in theory, but how it will work in practice is a different matter. Quite possibly, the result will be further irritation — not enhanced mobility — for disabled New Yorkers.
Matthew W. Daus, a lawyer, was the chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission from 2001 to 2010.