Four hundred of the oldest and most polluting taxis will be taken off Stoke-on-Trent’s roads – if a new age limit is introduced.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is proposing to bring in a 12-year age limit for private hire vehicles and Hackney carriages, after finding that some licensed cars are nearly 20 years old.
The authority scrapped its previous age limit in 2016, but officials are now looking to reintroduce the rule as part of an updated taxi licensing policy.
At the moment, vehicles must be under the age of seven when they are licensed for the first time. Once they are ten years old they must undergo an MOT and suitability test every six months, but there is no upper limit, meaning, in theory, a car can be used indefinitely.
Licensing manager Rachel Wallwork told the licensing and general purposes committee that this was leading to a deterioration in Stoke-on-Trent’s taxi fleet.
Under the proposed policy, the seven-year age limit for new taxis will be removed, as will the requirement for biannual MOT tests after 10 years. But no licence will be renewed once a car is 12 years old.
Ms Wallwork said: “When the previous age limit was removed, the idea was that drivers would replace older vehicles as it would cost too much to get them through an MOT every six months. I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t what has happened.
“The last time I looked we had licensed vehicles which were up to 19 years old. There aren’t a lot of them that are that old, but they are around.
“We estimate that in the first six to 12 months we’ll remove 400 of the most polluting vehicles.
“I have to say that I thought 10 years would be a more appropriate limit, but 12 years is what we’re proposing after talking to the trade.”
Committee members welcomed the proposed change, which will be subject to a 12-week consultation along with other amendments to the licensing policy.
Councillor Ross Irving said: “I agree that 10 years would have been a better age limit. But we’ll put this out to consultation and see what comes back.
“We need to have thriving Hackney carrage and private hire businesses in the city, but we also need to make sure they provide an effective service for the general public.
“Once a car gets over 10 years old the interior is starting to deteriorate. I caught a taxi at Stoke Station the other day, and it seemed like it was ready for stock car racing.”
Committee chairman Amjid Wazir also welcomed the proposals. He said: “I think drivers will welcome this change as it will mean they won’t have to get MOT tests every six months after 10 years.”
Another proposed change to the licensing policy would allow Hackney carriage drivers to use vehicles with rear access for wheelchairs.
The current rule requires Hackney carriages to be wheelchair accessible from the side, which means makes them larger, more expensive and more polluting than typical saloon cars.
Ms Wallwork said changing the rule to allow rear-loading cars would give drivers the option of buying cheaper vehicles, without compromising passenger safety.
The council is also proposing to change driver training requirements, in response to concerns raised by the trade.
Drivers are currently required to pass the BTEC level 2 in ‘Introduction to the Role of Professional Taxi and Private Hire Driver’ course prior to making their application for a licence.
Under the new policy, this requirement would be replaced with a one-day driver training course, including a local knowledge test and safeguarding training.
Drivers will also be required to undertake a safeguarding refresher course every three years.
The consultation on the new licensing policy will run from March 9 to May 29.