COVID-19: Licensing Advice - Taxi and Private Hire

As the current situation with the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop, we are keeping the matter under review, following government advice, and updating our own business continuity arrangements to ensure we can continue to deliver our licensing service and to enable firms, vehicles and drivers to continue providing vital public transport where it is safe to do so.

We have collated the current advice on taxi and private hire licensing below. The situation is constantly changing so some of this information may be subject to change without notice. We will do our best to keep you informed but we appreciate your understanding and patience at this time.


Please note that we are not able to accept new driver applications at this time


Applications

In line with government advice, officers are working from home as much as possible. Our offices are closed, so please do not attempt to make the trip to drop off any paperwork, payments etc. Knowledge tests and all appointments are cancelled until further notice.

Please see below for specific guidance by licence type, including details of how to apply both online and by email. If you cannot apply by any of the routes detailed, please contact us to discuss.

As we are very busy trying to process as many applications as possible, please do not contact us unless it is absolutely necessary. In the first instance, please check the website for any updates or changes to procedures.

Renewal applications will be prioritised by expiry date. We will do our best to process your application as quickly as possible but please bear in mind it will very likely take longer than usual. If your licence does lapse, you will be unlicensed and you must not carry out licensable activities until you have received a new licence/badge/plate. For driver badges and operator licences, we would suggest you apply at least 4 weeks before the expiry of your licence, and for vehicle plates at least 2 weeks before expiry. 

Contacting the team

  • In the first instance, please use email to contact us. Our email address licensing@southoxon.gov.uk will be monitored throughout the day and we will respond as soon as we are able.
  • If you do not have access to email, please call us on 01235 422556. It is likely that we will not be able to take your call at the time, so please be prepared to leave a message with your name, phone number and the reason for your call.
  • We will try to return any calls and respond to emails within 5 working days.

Medicals

There has been no advice from the government on taxi driver medicals. We are aware that some drivers may face difficulties with getting medicals done if their GP surgery is not carrying out non-urgent appointments.  

If you would like us to consider an extension to your medical expiry date, please email us a completed medical declaration form (48.5 KB) Word 97-2003 . An officer will review your records and confirm whether we will grant an extension.

Any drivers who require annual medicals (which includes all drivers over the age of 65) are unlikely to be granted any extensions. In addition these drivers are likely to fall into the category of person who should be self-isolating or more stringent in following social distancing measures. Please see here for guidance on social distancing and here for guidance on protecting people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

The requirement for insulin dependent drivers to have their medical signed off by an independent consultant specialist in diabetes is temporarily being relaxed, but please note that the medical must still be signed off by a specialist in diabetes.

All licensed drivers are required to inform us of a material change to their medical status and this would include testing positive for COVID-19. For the safety of licence holders and the general public it will be necessary for us to temporarily suspend the licence of any driver that tests positive for COVID-19. However, no action will be required by licence holders to have their licence reinstated once the isolation period has ended and they can return to normal activities.

Compliance tests and insurance

All vehicles are still required to have compliance tests as usual, and new insurance documents should still be provided to us prior to the expiry date. Failure to keep up to date with either of these will lead to the suspension of your vehicle licence.

All of our compliance test centres remain open. A current list is available here (20.5 KB) PDF . Any vehicle proprietor having difficulties in getting a compliance test should email us at licensing@southoxon.gov.uk.

Insurance documents should be forwarded to us by emailing showing the thread from your broker or insurer.

No compliance test or insurance reminders will be sent by post until further notice, so please ensure you are aware of your relevant expiry dates. We are looking to see if these can be sent via email in future, so please ensure we have an up to date email address for you at all times.

Other

  • Panel hearings have been postponed until alternative arrangements can be put in place
  • We will deal with complaints and compliance issues as normal.
  • If you have an application pending with us and need to submit additional documents, please do this via email and ensure you include your badge/plate number in the subject of the email to assist us in linking it with your application.

Precautions for driver and passenger safety

The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed that:

Taxis and private hire vehicles can continue to work. But the advice is absolutely clear – people should stay at home if possible. That is the way to save lives and protect our NHS. The public should avoid travel unless absolutely essential. The only reasons to leave our houses are set out in the government guidance. Taxi and private hire drivers should not generally be considered Critical Workers. Those undertaking home to school transport or the transport of ‘extremely vulnerable’ people may be considered Critical Workers on a case-by-case basis.

We would like to also take the opportunity to provide advice with a view to protecting you and your passengers:

  • If you are vulnerable either due to your age, suppressed immunity or pre-existing health conditions, please consider whether it is in your interest to work. To continue to work as a taxi or private hire driver or leave the house when you have been advised not to would put you and those you come into contact with at risk. See here for guidance on protecting people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or who live in a household with someone with possible COVID-19, or if you believe you may have been exposed to the virus, either through a passenger or anyone/where else, please follow the official advice to self-isolate. 
  • We would recommend you only take bookings for essential trips – such as medical appointments, key workers going to and from work, and people doing food shopping. You should not accept symptomatic passengers.
  • Drivers are advised to avoid handling money and to take alternative payment methods.
  • Ask passengers to handle their own personal bags and belongings during pick up and drop off. 
  • Where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, drivers and passengers should face away from each other, rather than face-to-face if possible. Where face-to-face contact cannot be avoided, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible. Drivers should consider reducing occupancy to individual passengers in the back left-hand seat.
  • Good ventilation (i.e. keeping the windows open) may help to reduce the risk of transmission. Air conditioning or ventilation on vehicles must be set to extract and not recirculate the air within the vehicle where possible.
  • After each passenger journey, drivers should clean hard surfaces such as door handles, window controls, seat belts, card payment devices, the rear of the front seats and other touch points with alcohol (minimum 60%) wipes, disinfectant or bleach based cleaning products (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Drivers should then wash/sanitise their own hands. A thorough clean of the vehicle should be completed at the end of each shift/working day.
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, in particular after handling money, coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, touching your face, eating or drinking, or using the toilet. As an interim measure, use hand sanitising gel with alcohol of a minimum 60%.
  • Drivers should carry tissues, and use them to catch coughs or sneezes. Used tissues should be disposed of in a bin as soon as possible. 
  • If you have an operational office, you should maintain the 2 metre separation distance - including in any passenger waiting area - and see this guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar environments
  • Drivers are still obliged under equality legislation to provide reasonable assistance and make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers. The safer transport guidance for operators in the section below includes advice on measures that can be taken when it is not possible to maintain the recommended social distance. Guide Dogs for the Blind have also provided some guidance which can be found at this link
  • The use of PPE (medical face masks and gloves) is not recommended for transport workers as it may lead to false reassurance of protection and a failure to adhere to good hygiene and social distancing practices, therefore increasing the risk. PPE should be reserved for those who need it to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers.
  • There are some circumstances when drivers and passengers wearing a face covering (i.e. not a medical mask) may be marginally beneficial to assist in reducing transmission. Information on how to wear and make a face covering can be accessed via this link or disposable or reusable face coverings can be obtained from a number of online or local retail outlets.
  • If a driver wears a face covering, we recommend they carry a pen and paper to help communication with some passengers (e.g. someone who lip reads, someone who has a hearing impairment). Separate pens and paper should be available for drivers and passengers.
  • If an operator or driver wishes the passenger to wear a face covering, this should be made clear at the time of booking. If a passenger is not wearing a face covering, then drivers can refuse to carry them, taking into account any mitigating circumstances such as any medical condition which may prevent the person from wearing a face covering. For examples of reasons why some people cannot wear face coverings, please see this link

Use of partitions or screens in vehicles

We have created guidance on how to seek approval for the installation of a partition or screen which can be found at this link (22.9 KB) Word 2007  

Guidance

The DfT has published a letter to all taxi and private hire drivers which you can find at this link (374.9 KB) PDF

In addition, you may find the following links useful:

Support

The government has recently put in place measures to support businesses affected by the virus. There are grants and loans available as part of this package, please use the following links for more information:

If you’re a local business owner you can also contact our South and Vale Business Support team.

We recognise these are challenging and uncertain times and would encourage anyone struggling with their mental health and wellbeing or financial difficulties to seek help from the broad range of support available including:

Driver licences - important note

We are currently only able to accept renewal applications. If you had an appointment that was cancelled and your licence lapsed as a result, you will be treated as though you applied to renew before the expiry date.

If you meet the following criteria, and have unlimited leave to remain in the UK, the licence will be granted for the usual 3 year period:

  • You are signed up to the DBS Update Service AND
  • You are able to send us a scan of the full DBS certificate AND
  • The Council saw your original DBS certificate at the last application AND
  • The Council has satisfactory proof of current right to work in the UK on your file from a previous application.

If you meet the above criteria and have limited leave to remain and work in the UK, subject to us being able to confirm any required checks with the Home Office, the licence will be granted either to the visa expiry date, or to a date as advised by the Home Office.

For those not on the DBS Update Service, applications will be reviewed on a case by case basis to consider whether a temporary licence can be issued for 3 months.

Vehicle licences – important note

For any change of vehicle applications, you will need to return the plate to the office by post (we recommend using recorded or special delivery) before we can process the application. As soon as you remove the plate, the vehicle will no longer be able to be used for hire and reward purposes (for hackney carriages, please also remove the roof sign). You cannot use the new vehicle for hire and reward until you receive the new licence and plate.

If you wish to apply for a plate exemption and apply via the portal, an officer will contact you to arrange payment of the fee as it is not currently possible to pay this licence fee online.

Operator licences – important note

Applicants who do not hold a current hackney carriage/private hire driver licence will need to be considered on a case by case basis in respect of the required DBS and Right to Work checks. Please contact us if you fall within this category to discuss with an officer.

Online applications portal - drivers, vehicle and operators

We have created an online portal here through which you can submit driver (renewal only), vehicle and operator applications. 

This portal will allow you to upload your signed application form and any supporting documents, and to pay the required fee with a debit or credit card. The portal should work via any smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC with internet access.

Applications submitted through the online portal will be prioritised as these applications should be complete at the point of receipt, rather than emailed applications which will require an officer to call you to take payment.

How to apply online – drivers, vehicles and operators

  • You will need to print off the application form and complete as normal, including signing and dating the form. Please take care to complete the application form in full. Any incomplete or illegible applications will be rejected and will not be processed.
  • You need to scan this application and any supporting documents. If you do not have access to a scanner, you could try to photograph each page of the form but please note it must be clear and legible or we will not be able to process it.
  • Upload the application and any supporting documents at the online portal here and pay the required fee with a debit/credit card
  • You will receive a receipt via email, so please ensure you give your correct email address
  • Once we have a completed application and payment, we will process your application. We will post any licences and badges/plates out to you by first class recorded delivery (someone will need to be in to sign for this) except operator licences, which will be sent by email. You will not be able to collect any items from the office.

How to apply by email – drivers, vehicles and operators

  • You will need to print off the application form and complete as normal, including signing and dating the form. Please take care to complete the application form in full. Any incomplete or illegible applications will be rejected and will not be processed.
  • Scan the application form and any supporting documents and email all of these to us at licensing@southoxon.gov.uk with any supporting documents. If you do not have access to a scanner, you could try to photograph each page of the form but please note it must be clear and legible or we will not be able to process it. Please try to send all the required documents in just one email if possible, as sending multiple emails can lead to our email system thinking your emails are ‘spam’ which results in them going to our junk mail folder.
  • When we are ready to process your application, we will call you to take payment over the phone. If there are any issues with the phone payment system, you will be required to send us a cheque made payable to South Oxfordshire District Council.
  • Once we have a completed application and payment, we will process your application. We will post any licences and badges/plates out to you by first class recorded delivery (someone will need to be in to sign for this) except operator licences, which will be sent by email. You will not be able to collect any items from the office.

Last reviewed: 01 - 07 - 2020

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