Taxi bosses warn new plans to increase driver numbers in Aberdeen threaten to “seriously damage” standards built up over decades.
Councillors are pondering an overhaul of the street knowledge requirements for private car hire drivers, despite claims change could have a “catastrophic impact”.
Currently drivers must pass a test before getting their licences to ensure they have a detailed knowledge of the city’s streets.
Candidates have to pass four sections – streets, places, routes and signs – so they can still carry out jobs should they come across any issues such as roadworks or sat nav failures.
But there are fears the strict requirements are deterring would-be drivers from getting into the trade, which is suffering shortages.
As private hire car trips are pre-booked, officials are considering doing away with the need for those drivers to sit the test – as they are given a level of forewarning of the destination.
Now, four options are being put out for public consultation to ensure the test is “still fit for purpose”.
What are the four options?
The first would see an amended general test given to private hire drivers.
It has been argued that these drivers could prepare routes due to advance bookings so would not need to take the extensive test.
But a general test would ensure they had enough knowledge to carry out jobs should a booking be made at short notice.
The second option is axing the street knowledge test for private hire drivers altogether.
Under current rules if a candidate fails one section of the test, they must take the entire test again.
And so option three would change that, allowing retakes of failed sections only.
Finally, the public will be asked about the introduction of a new requirement for drivers to gain an SQA qualification on taxi and private hire alongside the street knowledge test.
Taxi firms suggested their own changes
A trio of Aberdeen’s largest taxi firms have brought forward alternative proposal however: continue as things are.
ComCab Aberdeen, Rainbow City Taxis and Aberdeen Taxis suggested that private hire drivers continue to sit the street knowledge test, as all drivers are “doing the same job”.
Bosses warned allowing private hire drivers to skip the test would “seriously damage the standards that we have all striven to achieve”.
But they also pushed for change, calling for the pass score to be reduced and for applicants to get two chances to resit failed modules.
Rainbow City Taxis managing director Russell McLeod said: “We realise there is an issue and we want to be proactive in increasing the Aberdeen fleet.
“But we will not, nor should we, forget that we have standards that have been built over the past 40 plus years.
“Standards that we should not just disregard because we have a shortage of taxis at some peak times.”
He added that a decision to stop drivers from taking the test could have a “catastrophic impact on our trade and destroy 40 plus years of hard work”.
Aberdeen taxi driver test options ‘not plucked out of thin air’
But council licensing solicitor Sandy Munro said the options had “not been plucked out of thin air”, and were informed by discussion with other councils.
He added: “We absolutely want the trade’s views but I think it’s important to get the general public’s perspective on this as well.
“There may be people who are being put off joining the trade because of the standards or because of the current layout of the test.”
The results will be heard in September.