Plying for hire is the very essence of what taxis do and they have been doing so since their inception. It has stood the test of time – despite the significant advances in technology which has facilitated the huge growth of Private Hire vehicles within London over the decades. The first stage of this was the land line telephone combined with the two way radio, next came the mobile telephone, followed shortly by the Internet and now today we have Sat Nav and mobile phone apps. Consequently the Law Commission asked the following proposals in its consultation paper and we responded accordingly.
PP16. HAILING & RANKING SHOULD NOT COVER TECHNOLOGICAL BOOKINGS
Our response to proposal 15 explains why we believe that plying for hire should be defined in statute. We assert that this new definition should be used to facilitate effective enforcement and, therefore, we believe that it should be kept as simple as possible. As such, we concede that technological bookings should be considered to be outside the scope of plying for hire. However, we are concerned that this type of technology, particularly mobile phone apps, could allow a service provider to act as a taxi or private hire company without a licence. We assert that the process of simply matching customers with vehicles, without a strict vetting procedure of drivers, would compromise public safety. A US company, Ubercab, recently developed a mobile phone app that accepts payment in return for matching drivers with customers.
The company was issued a cease and desist notice by the San Francisco Metropolitan Transport Commission and the Public Utilities Commission of California. The authorities were concerned that the Ubercab service did not comply with city and state taxi and limousine regulations. However, Ubercab insisted that they are merely an app provider, not an unlicensed taxi service. The RMTLTB note that this company appear to be willing to take payment for providing a ‘service’ without taking on any of the responsibilities that we would expect to protect public safety. The RMTLTB propose that new legislation should ensure that service providers who match vehicles to customers via a technological mechanism should hold an operator’s licence.
PP19. PRE-BOOKING SHOULD BE THE ONLY WAY TO ENGAGE A PHV
The RMTLTB accept that new technologies have confused the boundary between pre booking and hailing. We also recognise that technology can evolve rapidly and this could mean that any new legislation could be difficult to enforce.
Our response to proposal 15 describes why we believe plying for hire, the distinguishing feature of the licensed taxi trade, should be defined in statute and that this definition should create a clear demarcation between the working practices of the licensed taxi and private hire trades. As such, we have adopted a pragmatic approach to this proposal, unless there are plans and methods available to strictly enforce this so that only taxis can be hired in this way we accept that a vehicle booked using a mobile phone app or via the internet should be regarded as pre-booked, and is therefore outside the scope of plying for hire. The RMTLTB agree that pre-booking should remain the only way to engage a private hire vehicle and that this mechanism should fall outside the scope of plying for hire, unless methods are available to enforce this.
We believe it is imperative that plying for hire must not be repealed and that it must be defined. This is the starting point that everything else must hinge on if we are to secure our rights and our future. It may be wise to define the nature of pre bookings but not instead of our long established practice that of plying for hire.
Therefore a line in the sand must be drawn regarding these methods of engaging customers. Plying for hire must be defined in the traditional sense as we fail to see how including any form of technological booking method will allow for such a definition to be formulated not to mention the difficulties regarding enforcement and scrutiny within the courts, after all if a taxi is illegally plying for hire doing pre booked work what is a private hire vehicle doing given that this is their method of hiring.
THE LAW REGARDING TAXIS DOING PRE BOOKED WORK
The High court judgment in the Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council v Fidler 2010 case confirms that the law relating to cross border hiring is correctly laid down in Britain and Gladen, and as such licensed hackney carriages may still undertake pre-booked hirings anywhere in England and Wales.(source LACORS)
There is no doubt that London taxi drivers have benefited financially over many years being able to also obtain work via technological means, and many would argue that the more ways to put people into taxis is a positive thing. However many forms of technology have both positive and negative aspects to them and it may be too early to predict any possible negative aspects (if they exist?) of the latest developments in the technology for engaging taxis and PH. We must be on our guard for this. Should the line become too blurred there may come a time when London’s taxis are forced to consider adopting the New York approach regarding methods of engagement, unless of course they are happy to receive the majority of their work via technological means where the shortest route is sent to you in advance and ranks are seen as obsolete. Is technology to decide our fate or are we?
Let’s draw that line. Let’s define Plying for Hire!
BE PROACTIVE – NOT REACTIVE
It’s your job. It’s your future! Calling ALL Taxi Drivers help us to “Put the London Cab back on Point” Text: 4Hire (along with your name and badge number) to 60777 (Your details will be treated in confidence)
It is just over a year since I first had the wacky idea that the London Taxi Trade should have its own Radio Station. I looked at various mediums to broadcast on but quickly found that the only option within our budget was internet radio as the others were either not available or totally out of our price range.
When I initially posted up the idea on Twitter the response from drivers who wanted to get involved was extremely promising but despite numerous requests for drivers to do shows very few have actually taken up the challenge to actually produce a show or podcast that could be broadcast on London Taxi Radio. The lack of response led to Mac and myself becoming a little despondent about the project and letting things slip a little. Due to this and what we thought had been a lack of listeners to the station we had decided to close the station down on 17th December when our licenses were due to be renewed but a few things have prompted us to change our minds.
After a conversation with Mac he remonstrated that we should keep the station going and try another big push to get people interested, Mac believes as do I that internet radio is before its time and will become more popular as time goes on, other factors such as the BBC closing down its AM services and the planned shutdown of FM (which I believe wont actually happen) and the very slow uptake of DAB radio combined with the news that car manufacturers have started to fit Internet Radio in cars in the UK makes us think that it will be the preferred medium for radio delivery in the future. Also this week I had to file a report for the stations listener hours for which I was very surprised, our listener hours had actually increased when we were thinking that they had gone down, in fact they had increased quite considerably.
I also had a conversation with a Taxi Driver from outside of London but who is currently doing the Knowledge to become a London Taxi Driver, Rachael, who said that she would be interested in getting involved and maybe doing a show on the station, during the conversation we concluded that London Taxi Radio in its current form was targeting a very limited audience of around 25,000 people and considering the response from the London taxi Trade that maybe we should look further afield for drivers who may want to produce a show or podcast or maybe even doing a chat show on the station, this got me to thinking that maybe we should offer the station to drivers around the UK and that maybe a change of name could benefit the station in order to achieve this aim so after a conversation with Mac it was agreed that maybe a name change would be beneficial so I promptly registered taxi-radio.co.uk and I was about to start building a new website to promote the station to the trade around the UK but then I had another conversation with Rachael in which she said that Taxi Radio as a name wasn’t very inspiring and that we should be looking for a name that is a little more quirky a catchy than just plain old Taxi Radio, after a lot of brain storming between the two of us we came up with a name that was staring us right in the face! Well I bet you want to know what it was? Well, I will tell you that later.
I had another interesting telephone conversation last night with Allen AKA Rockin Cabby Allen who does a 50s show on the station where I explained how disappointed we were that not many drivers were coming forward to volunteer to do a show or a podcast, Allen offered what could be an explanation as to why this may be? he said that it might be because people are either scared of doing it wrong or that they do not know how to do a show live or how to record a show or podcast, now this is something that I had considered in the past but that we had not really tried to combat. We decided that the best way to tackle this problem might be to run some sort of workshop, maybe once a month, in order to show people who they can go about making a show or podcast that can be broadcast on the station. We can also then ask people to bring their laptop along so that we can provide them with the necessary software in order to enable them to produce a show or podcast. So we will announce details of the first radio workshop that we will hold sometime in November.
Even though we are going to change the name of the station the London Taxi Radio website will remain and shows that originate from London Taxi Drivers will still be branded as London Taxi Radio shows and we will still play London Taxi Radio Jingles during those shows but we will be arranging for our preferred production houses to produce new imaging for the station in the new name that will be played out most of the time.
So back to the name! What have we decided to call the station? Well, we decided that the name should be Sherbet, either Radio Sherbet or Sherbet Radio, which way round we use the words I cannot decide. I was a little worried that the slang word Sherbet may not be recognised around the Country but Rachael thinks that most people around the UK should associate the word Sherbet with Cab, so there you have it, we are to be called Sherbet Radio or Radio Sherbet, please let us know what you think, which way round we should use the wording.
So the Radio Station has been given a reprieve and will be broadcasting for at least another year, we are already adding new shows that are produced by Taxi drivers and we are open to any suggestions for Taxi related content for the station so if you know of a Taxi driver who does a radio show or produces a podcast then please let us know.
I originally restarted the Anderson Shelter when Thomas The Taxi deleted the old site and decided to take a break from the internet for a while as I felt there was a need to keep the trade informed of the latest news and what was going in within the trade and initially i sought out new stories and information to add to the site and kept it up to date with the current issues affecting our trade, this was something that I did after consulting Jim and only used the name “The Anderson Shelter” with his permission.
The Anderson Shelter has once again built up quite a following with a substantial number of visitors to the site, in fact quite a lot more visitors than I originally expected and has been going quite well for the past couple of years.
Thomas The Taxi has since come back online with TaxiLeaks which is an excellent blog and recently I have found that I have merely been copying the posts from TaxiLeaks and putting them on The Anderson Shelter which seems to be a little bit of a waste of time and is a bit like reinventing the wheel!
So I have decided to take the Anderson Shelter website down and repoint the domain name to the TaxiLeaks Blog which is run by Thomas The Taxi, I will of course keep renewing the domain name and should TTT want to use it for any other purpose then I will give him all the help and support that I can. I feel that TTT is totally committed to bringing the latest news to the trade and exposing the authorities wrong doings far better than I can at present due to other commitments.
Last night while talking to a very chatty passenger that i had in the taxi something reminded me of an elderly barrister that I picked up in the cab many years ago. It was that long ago that I was driving my J Reg Fairway so it could not have been that long after I got my badge. I cant remember where I picked the elderly gentleman up from but I dropped him somewhere in the Kings Cross area outside his house, the old man was very talkative and quite pleasant and after paying me he left with his parting statement, he said:
“I liken you Taxi Drivers to my own profession because we take on all comers and never know where the fuck we will end up!”
After many years of doing this job those words have always stuck in my head and in a lot of ways I suppose he was right.