How can taxi drivers and passengers stay safe during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic?
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, taxi drivers find themselves asking how this will affect them and their customers in the weeks and months to come. One recent positive development is the recent approval and implementation of a vaccine.
So, what can taxi drivers do to protect themselves and their passengers during these uncertain times? As specialist providers of taxi insurance, we will give you the details on what we know so far, what safety measures you can take, and how to help improve passenger confidence.
How Coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting the taxi industry?
Fewer drivers on the road
One immediately obvious thing is that there are fewer drivers on the road than ever before. With demand for Private Hire and Black Hackney services being reduced due to COVID, new factors are emerging that may also be contributing to this including:
- Some drivers may be self-isolating or have new childcare or family obligations, such as taking time to look after young children or at-risk family members
- A reduction in available work could lead drivers to work at peak times when jobs are at their most frequent.
- Part-time delivery driving has become increasingly attractive as you still have the option of being your own boss, with companies such as Uber Eats and Just Eat thriving currently. Demand for delivery services has never been higher and is a lucrative way of staying on the road whilst taxi customers are in short supply.
Airport taxi transfer
This was previously a great source of income for both private hire and Hackney drivers, but several factors are contributing to its current decline including:
- An overall reduction in air travel passenger numbers due to quarantined countries
- Confidence in the travel industry reducing overall bookings
- Less disposable income resulting in reduced demand for flights
This means that people in the UK are opting for “Staycations” instead of travelling abroad. Passenger demand in April 2020 was down 94.3% compared to April 2019 according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Similarly, tourists visiting the UK from abroad are expected to fall to 16.9 million visits in 2020 compared to 40.9 million in 2019 (IATA). This reduction has meant demand for taking tourists from A to B in big UK cities, which was a favoured method of transportation compared to car hire or public transport, has further reduced demand for travel by taxi.
Transporting ill and at-risk passengers to and from hospital
Taxi drivers can still be used by those who are ill or at-risk to be transported to and from hospitals, doctors’ appointments and other vital services. Though not classed as key workers under governments regulations, taxi drivers still perform a vital function today and provide an essential lifeline to care and treatment that many so desperately need. In many cases, taxi drivers can also be used to transport children of key workers to and from school, or to the home of elderly relatives for after school care.
How can taxi drivers reduce the risk of coronavirus?
Guidance has been made available to the public via the gov.uk website regarding the safe conduct of transport services including taxi drivers during the coronavirus pandemic. This guidance outlines exactly who should be using public transportation, under what circumstances, and the social distancing levels that should be applied whilst the pandemic is still in effect. Here are some of the measures taxi drivers can take to reduce the risk of infection:
Do not transport passengers if they have symptoms of coronavirus
It is important to remember not to transport anyone displaying symptoms of the virus for the protection of both you and other potential passengers. These symptoms include:
- A new continuous cough
- High temperature
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
Passengers whose family are self-isolating should also not use taxis or any other form of public transport.
Install a protective barrier
The installation of such a barrier must be approved by your licencing authority but a variety of sanitary transparent protective screens are now becoming widely available to consumers. You can opt for a flexible PVC or rigid polycarbonate version depending on your vehicle’s interior. They are easy to clean and affordable and in these uncertain times will provide an extra layer of protection from potential infection.
No face mask no ride
As of the 23rd September 2020 taxis have been classed as public transport when it comes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020. This means that if someone wants to ride in your car, they must wear the required protective face mask to do so. The gov.uk website states “No person may, without reasonable excuse, use a public transport service without wearing a face covering”. This is true if they display symptoms or not. Therefore, it’s vital to uphold this law in your taxi not only for your own protection but that of the greater community.
Regularly washing your hands
Now more than ever it is vitally important that you remember to regularly use hand sanitiser and wash your hands as regularly as possible. Hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol works best. Look for labels with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol. However, anti-bacterial hand wash or soap and hot water work just as well if not better, so whenever possible wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Using contactless payments
With the above point in mind, it makes sense to go contactless in your cab. Contactless is a quicker, more hygienic, and secure form of payment with protection against fraud through encryption and dynamic data technologies as standard. With passengers spending less time digging in wallets and purses it gives you more time to get back out on the road earning more fares.
Frequently clean your vehicle
To reduce the risk of infection it is important to regularly clean your vehicle both inside and out. If you have transported someone displaying symptoms, it is recommended you wait 72 hours before cleaning and using your car again. During the cleaning process, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including a disposable face mask, disposable gloves, and apron should be used in conjunction with bleach-free household disinfectant. Be careful not to use cleaning products that can damage the interior/exterior of your vehicle. Steer clear of products that contain bleach or hydrogen peroxide when applying to paintwork or upholstery. Remember to dispose of all waste (including disposable PPE products) in a double-bagged bin liner. Seal the bag and leave for 72 hours before disposing of with the rest of your household rubbish. The key areas to clean are:
- External door handles
- Passenger area
- Driver area
- All seats
- Floor area/Floor mats
- Boot latch and interior
- Car keys
Make sure to clean those often-forgotten areas of the car too such as the control stalks, touch screens, armrests, and seat pockets. Once you have finished cleaning be sure to wash all clothing at 60°C and wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with antibacterial hand wash or soap and hot water.
For further government advice, guidance, and information for taxi drivers please consult the gov.uk website for the latest updates.