This guide is here to help prevent you getting into an un-licensed (un-insured) taxi in London.
This happens a lot in London as people unwittingly hail down private hire taxis that are un insured to take passengers unless booked through an operator. Aside from it being an illegal drain on the black cab (public hire) drivers income, it means that should the worst happen and you were in an accident, the driver has no insurance cover for any damages that may be incurred.
In addition to this, there are a large number of people cruising the streets under the guise of a private hire / minicab driver, without any license whatsoever. These drivers do not want to pay for their minicab license and as you might expect do not have adequate taxi insurance so any accidents or injuries arising from these journeys are not insured; neither the driver, nor the passengers!
How do you tell the difference between a private and public hire taxi?
Private hire licensed vehicles are not allowed to display the sign “Taxi” and as such cannot be flagged down for public hire. They are only allowed to carry passengers who have pre-booked through an operator and therefore display a clearly visible sign on the vehicle to the effect of “not insured unless booked through operator”. Anyone found picking up passengers off the streets without a pre-booking is breaking the law and is contravening the terms of the drivers private hire license.
If you are in any doubt whatsoever, ask to see their license(s).
After many years campaigning, Transport For London took over the responsibility of private hire taxi licensing in London in 1998. This is the same organisation responsible for Black cab licensing.
It is imperative for passengers that regularly take minicab rides to know that their journey will not be insured unless the following licenses issued by the TFL are present.
- The OPERATORS license – this should reside in the minicab office and should be on clear show for any potential passengers in the office or shop to see.
- Private hire VEHICLE license – this is issued when the minicab has been tested to be fit for purpose. These licenses are date specific and should be clearly displayed in the front and rear window of the minicab. Before this license is issued by the PCO a valid London minicab insurance policy must be presented.
- Private hire DRIVERS license – drivers will be screened by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to ensure no previous criminal convictions. They will also be tested for an understanding of the London roads.
Only when the PCO are convinced that the driver, vehicle and operator are right for the job will they offer a license.
If you are in any doubt, do not get in a vehicle as there will almost certainly be another one coming past any second; it’s not worth the risk.