Taxi drivers across Aberdeenshire could be forced to undergo a health MoT to check they are fit to sit behind the wheel.
Aberdeenshire Council has already agreed that medicals should be included in the licensing process, and has now launched a consultation on the best way to roll-out the scheme.
But last night, some of the 2,000 taxi drivers operating across the north-east described the idea as an “utter farce” and warned it may put some off continuing their work, which includes school runs in rural areas.
Currently, only drivers aged 70 plus – or who have a declared medical condition – must undergo a test before being granted a licence.
But last October, the authority’s licensing sub-committee decided the health check should be carried out on all drivers applying for, or renewing, their licence.
Aberdeen City Council does not ask its drivers to undergo a medical unless they are 65 or over and have a declared condition, which is the DVLA Group 2 Standard.
Last night, Stewart Wight, of Safe Drive taxis in Laurencekirk, described Aberdeenshire Council’s plans to go one step further by rolling it out to all drivers as an extra burden.
He said: “It is an utter farce. The Group 2 medical plan is far too onerous. It will have a huge effect on the trade, as many of the drivers who carry out the school runs are only registered as taxi drivers because they were asked to by the council. Most I have spoken to will probably give up if this goes through.”
Bin lorry drivers across Aberdeenshire are already subjected to the test, but other in-house drivers are exempt – further infuriating taxi drivers.
Operator Amanda Reid, from Reids of Rhynie, understands the need for the checks, but thinks the matter needs more consideration.
She said: “Safety is paramount. In light of the bin lorry tragedy in Glasgow back in 2014, I can see why they are looking to ensure that all drivers are medically fit but I also think that it could have serious financial and driver shortage consequences for the trade.
“When the initial report was approved by the committee during October last year, they accepted the necessity to ensure safety but they also expressed concern of the impact on the industry if the requirements are too onerous.
“If some of the drivers who are employed by the council for their own in-house fleet of buses do not hold valid Group 2 PCV driving licences and they still do not have to undergo medicals -then perhaps they should also be considering implementing a medical requirement for them as well.
“I think a lot of operators and drivers will see this as double standards.”
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council did not rule out implementing the scheme to their own drivers, and said all the options would be outlined at the drop-in sessions.
He added: “The options will be outlined at the drop-in sessions. But there is the potential that these could be rolled out to include the in-house drivers as well.”
Councillor Fergus Hood, chairman of the authority’s licensing sub-committee, said: “There are more than 2,000 taxi and private hire car operators and drivers in Aberdeenshire and it’s important that we hear as many views as possible before deciding on the best way to introduce the medical assessment scheme.”
But Tracy Smith, owner at AJS Contract Cars in Peterhead, agrees “in princple” that drivers should be medically checked, but claimed the authority should be doing more to let operators know what is planned.
She added: “I only heard about it through another operator. I also think the logistics of putting our 67 drivers through a medical is going to be onerous – but I plan to have my say at one of the drop-in sessions.”
The sessions will be held on November 29 at Viewmount, Stonehaven; December 7 at County Hall, Banff; and December 8 at Gordon House, Inverurie. Each will run from 11am-2pm.
There will also be an online consultation, with the responses from both fed back to the licensing sub-committee before a final decision is made on how to roll-out the checks.