Taxi and Private Hire Car Licensing: Best Practice for Licensing Authorities, Second Edition, April 2012

Guidance for local licensing auhtorities on the licensing of taxis and private hire cars and their drivers.

Chapter 8 - DRIVERS

Duration of Licences

8.1. It is obviously important for safety reasons that drivers should be licensed. The process of renewing licenses, as with granting new licenses, is an important element of ensuring public safety and preventing criminality in the trade. While a three year license is the legal maximum, licensing authorities should consider carefully whether this length of time between renewal provides an appropriate level of scrutiny. There is a balance to be struck between a policy which is not an undue burden on drivers and licensing authorities alike and one which provides reassurance to the travelling public.

8.2. While a three year license can be good practice for licence holders that present no cause for concern, licensing authorities may wish to consider annual licenses for new applicants or where they feel a more frequent level of scrutiny is required. An annual licence may also be preferred by some drivers. That may be because they have plans to move to a different job or a different area, or because they cannot easily pay the fee for a three-year licence, if it is larger than the fee for an annual one. It can therefore be good practice to offer drivers the choice of an annual licence or a three year licence.

Criminal Record Checks

8.3. Applications for grant or renewal of taxi and private hire car and driver licences are required in terms of section 4 and paragraph 2(1) of schedule 1 of the 1982 Act to be copied to the Chief Constable. Any objection or representation relating to an application for the grant or renewal of a licence will be refused if the applicant is disqualified or is not a fit and proper person to be a holder of the licence.

8.4. The weight to be attached to convictions in the consideration as to the suitability of an applicant is a matter for the determination of the relevant licensing authority. In considering an individual's criminal record, local licensing authorities will want to consider each case on its merits, but they will doubtless take a particularly cautious view of any offences involving violence, and especially sexual attack. In order to achieve consistency, and thus reduce the risk of successful legal challenge, local authorities will ideally want to have a clear policy for the consideration of criminal records.

8.5. The Scottish Government introduced the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme with effect from 28 February 2011. The Scheme, delivered by Disclosure Scotland, replaces and improves upon present disclosure arrangements for people who work with vulnerable groups. The PVG Scheme can include taxi/private hire car drivers contracted to undertake regulated work in relation to the provision of transport to vulnerable groups. Detailed information and guidance on the PVG scheme can be accessed at:

8.6. Where appropriate, local licensing authorities will want to consider a policy on applicants from other EU and non-EU countries. One approach is to require a certificate of good conduct authenticated by the relevant embassy. The Criminal Records Bureau (an executive agency of the Home Office) provides further information on checking overseas applicants:

Age Limits

8.7. It does not seem necessary to set a maximum age limit for drivers provided that regular medical checks are made. Nor do minimum age limits, beyond the statutory periods for holding a full driver licence, seem appropriate. Applicants should be assessed on their individual merits.

Medical Fitness

8.8. It is common for Scottish licensing authorities to apply the 'Group 2' medical standards (applied by DVLA to the licensing of lorry and bus drivers) to applicants for taxi and private hire car drivers' licences. New arrangements are now in place for any person who has insulin-dependent diabetes and wants to be assessed for Group 2 standards. A leaflet from DVLA explaining the recent change and the process which applicants for a Group 2 medical must go through can be accessed on the Directgov website: 'A Guide for drivers with Insulin Treated Diabetes who wish to apply for Vocational Entitlement'

Driving Experience

8.9. Introduction of legislation in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 Section 174 provides that an applicant for a taxi or private hire car driver's licence under Section 13 must have held a VOSA issued driving licence for the 12 month period immediately prior to the date of their application. This applies to first applications and renewals. This is to ensure that an applicant has recent driving experience prior to applying for a licence.

Driving Proficiency

8.10. Many local authorities rely on the standard car driving licence as evidence of driving proficiency in regard to applications for taxi driver licences. Others require some further driving test to be taken. Local authorities will want to consider carefully whether this produces benefits which are commensurate with the costs involved for would-be drivers, the costs being in terms of both money and broader obstacles to entry to the trade. However, they will note that the Driving Standards Agency provides a driving assessment specifically designed for taxis.


8.11. A number of Scottish licensing authorities have, or are developing, minimum training requirements for taxi drivers which require to be met at first grant of a licence or at renewal. Such training typically covers matters such as customer care, disability awareness, managing conflict, road safety etc. The Scottish Government commends as best practice the importance of such vocational training for drivers and would encourage authorities to adopt a positive approach to vocational training. While the 1982 Act does not provide that private hire car driver applicants must satisfy an authority as to their competence in the above matters prior to obtaining a licence, authorities may wish to require as a condition of licence that these drivers undergo appropriate training. The Scottish Government would commend as best practice any conditions of licence that seek to raise the standards within the taxi and private hire car trades.

8.12. Go Skills ( is the Sector Skills Council for passenger transport and can offer authorities professional advice and support on best practice in regard to vocational training for the taxi and private hire car trades through its regional network of Business Advisers. Training can cover customer care (including how best to meet the needs of people with disabilities and other sections of the community, how to defuse difficult situations and manage conflict), relevant legislation, road safety, eco-friendly driving, the use of maps and GPS and the handling of emergencies.

Topographical Knowledge

8.13. Taxi drivers need a good working knowledge of the area for which they are licensed, because taxis can be hired immediately, directly with the driver, at ranks or on the street. Many licensing authorities require prospective taxi drivers to pass a test of local topographical knowledge as a condition of first grant of a licence. Mandatory testing of topographical knowledge is best practice although the stringency of the test should reflect the complexity or otherwise of the local geography, on the principle of ensuring that barriers to entry are not unnecessarily high.

8.14. However, private hire cars are not legally available for immediate hiring in the same way as taxis and must be pre-booked. As the driver has an opportunity to check the details of a route before starting a journey, the 1982 Act makes no provision for private hire car drivers to undergo such testing as a requirement to obtaining a licence. However authorities seeking to ensure that private hire car drivers have a good topographical knowledge of the area in which they operate might consider the introduction of such proficiency testing as a condition of licence.


Email: Joanna Mackenzie

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