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Taxi policy - Licensed vehicles


Suitability of licence holder

As with driver and operator licensing requirements, the objective of vehicle licensing is to protect the public, who trust that the vehicles dispatched and hired are above all else safe. The vehicle licence holder must ensure that the vehicle is always maintained to an acceptable standard, and they must also ensure that the vehicle is not used for illegal or illicit purpose. The Authority will only issue vehicle licences to persons it considers safe and suitable to hold such licences, as such it will have regard to the conduct of the licence holder.

Although some vehicle licence holders may not drive their licensed vehicle (and if they are they will be subject to their own fitness and proprietary test to obtain a driver's licence) they clearly have an interest in the use of the vehicle. They will be responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle and vehicles that are not properly maintained have a clear impact on public safety. Licensed vehicles are used to transport people in many circumstances and are seen everywhere across the UK at all times of the day and night in any location. Therefore, they could provide a transportation system for illegal activities or any form of contraband, whether that is drugs, guns, illicit alcohol or tobacco, or people who are involved in or are the victims of illegal activity, or children who may be at risk of being, or are being, abused or exploited.

This Authority will use the following test in considering the fitness and proprietary of an applicant for a vehicle licence:

Without prejudice, and based on the information before you, would you allow this person to have control of a licensed vehicle that can travel anywhere, at any time of the day or night without arousing suspicion, and be satisfied that they would not allow it to be used for criminal or other unacceptable purposes, and be confident that they would maintain it to an acceptable standard throughout the period of the licence.

If on the balance of probabilities, the answer to the question is 'no', the individual should not hold a licence. Applicants or licence holders will not be given the benefit of doubt. It is useful to note that the threshold used here is lower than for a criminal conviction (that being beyond reasonable doubt) and the Authority can take into consideration, conduct that has not resulted in a criminal conviction.

Applicants are required to produce a basic disclosure certificate on first application and then annually, to an authorised officer of the Authority who will consider it against the Authority's' Guidelines in Appendix A and the information together with any other relevant information from the applicant and other agencies will be considered when the application is determined.

New vehicle licence application

In the first instance any person wishing to apply for a new private hire vehicle licence should ensure that the vehicle meets the Authority's vehicle specification. Section 4.6 below and Appendix G provide details regarding private hire vehicle specification.

Any person wishing to apply for a new hackney carriage vehicle licence should familiarise themselves with the current policy in relation to the allocation of such licences in that the Authority has limited the number of hackney carriage vehicle licences to 187. It does so because it is satisfied that there is no significant unmet demand for the services of hackney carriages which is evidenced by regular independent surveys.

An application for a new vehicle licence shall include the following:

  • Completed application form
  • Current certificate of insurance/cover note
  • Compliance certificate
  • Right to work documents for the applicant
  • DBS Basic Certificate (unless applicant is a licensed driver or
  • operator with this Authority) and statutory declaration; and
  • Licence fees

Renewal vehicle licence application

A completed renewal application must be received by the Authority prior to the expiry of the vehicle licence, and failure to do so will mean that the vehicle cannot be used for licensed purposes once the previous licence has expired. A completed renewal application will include the following documents:

  • Completed application form
  • Current certificate of insurance/cover note
  • Compliance certificate
  • Right to work documents if the licence holder has only limited leave to remain in the UK or has a spousal visa as the right to work in the UK.
  • DBS basic certificate (every other renewal application): and
  • Licence fees

Notification of transfer of vehicle licence

A proprietor of a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle licence has a legal obligation to notify the Authority that they have transferred their interest in the licence to another person or have added or removed a person to or from the licence. The notification must be in writing and must detail the name and address of the person to whom the vehicle has been transferred or of persons added to the licence. The notification must be made within 14 days of the transfer taking place. To find the vehicle transfer form see transfer a taxi vehicle licence or change the details of your licenced vehicle.

A vehicle licence holder who fails to comply with this requirement without reasonable excuse is guilty of an offence. It is important that the Authority maintains an accurate record of vehicle licence holders and the failure to comply with this legal requirement will be regarded as a serious matter and likely subject to formal action.

Application to change a vehicle on a vehicle licence

There is no legal framework for the change of a vehicle licence to a different vehicle. However, due to this Authority having a limit on hackney carriage vehicle licences it is essential for a process to allow for replacement vehicles following accidental damage and for hackney carriages to be replaced with more modern, cleaner, suitable vehicles.

If a proprietor wishes to replace his hackney carriage vehicle with a replacement vehicle, then they must first surrender the licence in order that the same vehicle identification number can be issued to the replacement vehicle which uses the new vehicle licence application process.

In respect of proprietors of private hire vehicles, only if they wish to retain the same vehicle identification number do they need to surrender the licence.

Vehicle specifications/standards

The legislation requires hackney carriages to be of such a design, appearance or have distinguishing marks so that they are clearly identifiable as a hackney carriage. Any person wishing to licence a vehicle as a hackney carriage should in the first instance familiarise themselves with the policy to limit the number of licences it issues. Appendix H details the specifications for hackney carriage vehicles.

For private hire vehicles the legislation requires that the vehicle be suitable in type, size, and design, not such a design that a person could believe it is a hackney carriage, be in suitable mechanical condition, safe, comfortable and the vehicle is suitably insured. Any person wishing to licence a vehicle as a private hire vehicle will be expected to provide a vehicle that complies with the specifications in Appendix G.

Vehicle emissions standards

The Authority is currently working with others in the city to reduce Preston's climate change carbon dioxide emissions and expects that the Policy will be reviewed and updated within its life to address city wide hackney carriage and private hire fleets that minimise carbon emissions.

Vehicle testing, inspections, and maintenance

It is the responsibility of an applicant to ensure that any vehicle to which an application relates meets the vehicle specification.

Vehicle licences are issued for a period of 6 months the same frequency as vehicle testing. It is the responsibility of the applicant to arrange for the testing of a vehicle at an approved vehicle testing station in Preston. There is a list of approved vehicle testing stations on the Authority's website.

Any Preston MOT approved business which would like to become an authorised vehicle testing station for Preston hackney carriages and private hire vehicles should consider the Authority's requirements which are included in Appendix O. For details on the application process see apply to be an approved vehicle testing station.

Conditions attached to the relevant vehicle licences require that weekly inspections be undertaken on licensed vehicles to ensure that the vehicles are safe and roadworthy. The findings are recorded on the Weekly Vehicle Maintenance Schedule, provided by the Authority, which must be kept in the vehicle. However, licence holders are advised to undertake a daily inspection of their licensed vehicles following each shift.

Vehicle licence conditions

The legislation allows the Authority to attach "reasonably necessary" conditions to the grant of a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle licence. It has a set of standard conditions that are attached to the grant of private hire vehicles set out in Appendix J and hackney carriage vehicle licences in Appendix K .

The Authority will include additional specific licence conditions on the grant of a licence where it considers reasonable and necessary to do so.

Signage and advertising

It is important that the public should be able to identify and understand the difference between a hackney carriage and a private hire vehicle.

Private hire vehicles are not permitted to display roof-mounted signs and any signs that include the words "Taxi" or "Cab" or "For Hire" or any words or words of similar meaning, whether alone or part of another word.

Roof signs fitted to hackney carriage vehicles shall be always illuminated when the vehicle is available for hire.

Vehicle identification plates are a key feature in helping to identify vehicles that are properly licensed. All licensed vehicles, except those private hire vehicles deemed Executive Hire vehicles by the Authority, shall display plates on both the front and rear of the vehicle.

Private hire vehicles shall display door signs indicating that they must be booked in advance and separate signs indicating details of the private hire operator they are working for.

Magnetic door signage are not permitted.

Vehicles shall not be allowed to display written or other material on any window or within the interior of the vehicle except for those permitted by the conditions of licence.

The Authority will allow advertising on hackney carriages but not on private hire vehicles. There is an application process for hackney carriage proprietors on the Authority's website.

Executive hire

Legislation provides an exemption for licensed private hire vehicles from displaying plates, and signage. The Authority will consider requests for this exemption from private hire vehicles used exclusively for the purposes of executive hire.

There is no legal definition of "executive hire", but the Authority will generally consider the following when determining any requests for exemption from displaying plates/signage:

  • Most of the work should be for businesses which maintain an account
  • with the private hire operator
  • The vehicle may be used for one or more contracts, but these would be booked on account with payment made by invoice or card/electronic payments. No payments are to be made to the driver in the vehicle
  • The type of vehicle to which the application relates should reflect the executive hire status, i.e., a high value luxury vehicle.
  • The driver of an executive hire should wear a uniform befitting of the
  • executive status
  • The vehicle cannot be used for any standard private hire work

If an exemption notice is granted it would apply to the duration of the licence. Failure to comply with the requirements above or the conditions attached to the grant of a private hire vehicle licence will result in the exemption being withdrawn or the licence being revoked.

Licensing of stretched limousines

The Authority considers such vehicles do not undertake standard private hire work and any request to licence a stretch limousine as a private hire vehicle would fall under consideration of executive hire and would expect to comply with the requirements detailed in section 4.11.2.

The Authority will only consider applications from vehicles which have been examined and granted Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) certification by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). In addition, vehicles will be subject to further taxi test and inspection. Special arrangements may be necessary regarding vehicle testing if the size of the vehicle prevents the use of Authority approved vehicle testing stations.

The Authority will only consider applications in respect of a vehicle with 8 or less passenger seats and will not consider void/blocked off seating areas.

Accident notifications

Legislation requires proprietors of hackney carriage and private hire vehicles to report as soon as practicable and in any case within 72 hours any accident involving their licensed vehicle which has caused damage that may materially affect the safety, performance, or appearance of the licensed vehicle or the comfort or convenience of persons in the vehicle. To assist proprietors to comply with this requirement the Authority has provided an accident form that can be found under report a vehicle accident.

The provision of false or misleading information on an accident form will be regarded as very serious. Failure to comply with this requirement without "reasonable excuse" is an offence for which the vehicle licence holder may be prosecuted, and action taken against the licence.

In addition to the above provision the Authority is keen to be made aware of all road traffic accidents involving licensed drivers and has, therefore, imposed a condition on private hire driver licences and highlighted in the hackney carriage drivers code of conduct that drivers should report all traffic accidents in which they are involved, to the Authority so that any trends of poor driving standards can promptly be identified.

CCTV in licensed vehicles

Government has acknowledged the potential risk to public safety when passengers travel in taxis and private hire vehicles and views that the provision of CCTV in licensed vehicles can provide additional deterrence to prevent this and assist investigations. However, the mandating of CCTV in licensed vehicles may give rise to concerns about the proportionality of such an approach and will therefore require an equally strong justification.

This Authority has also not decided to mandate CCTV in its licensed vehicles, but such a proposal will be kept under regular review.

Licensed vehicles may be fitted with an appropriate CCTV system and the authority would expect the system to:

  • Cover all passenger and driver seats.
  • Recordings stored and kept available for a minimum of 14 days.
  • Recordings encrypted and can be downloaded by the data controller or
  • the police.
  • The quality of images is such that images are clear even in hours of
  • darkness.
  • The vehicle to carry appropriate signs

Licensing a vehicle in more than one authority

If a vehicle is currently licensed with another local licensing authority this Authority will not consider it for licensing. Vehicle licence plates and signage are required to be displayed throughout the duration of the licence, and the identity of the licensed vehicle would become confused if licensed in more than one licensing authority area.

A licence condition will be attached to the grant of vehicle licence holders to prevent them from obtaining a vehicle licence from another Licensing Authority on that vehicle during the duration of the Preston City Council licence.

Using a licensed vehicle with more than one operator

4.16.1 A condition will be attached to the grant of a private hire vehicle licences preventing them from working for more than one private hire operator at any time. Private hire vehicles are required to display company door signs to enable customers to recognise their booked vehicles. This is a safety feature which is undermined by using multi company door signs or the absence of any door signs.

Livery of vehicles

In Preston it is the practice that the differential between hackney carriage and private hire vehicles is by means of roof signs being present on hackney carriages, different specifications for hackney carriages and private hire vehicles and differences in door signage. At this stage the Authority has not included a colour policy to differentiate between hackney carriage and private hire. If poor public knowledge on vehicle differentials is found to be causing concern, then a livery policy may be considered in the future.

Child seats in licensed vehicles

It is not always possible for the correct child seat or booster to be available in a licensed vehicle. In the case of private hire bookings, the hirer is advised to clarify at the time of making the booking whether suitable child seats will be available in the vehicle and if not will be expected to make their own provision regarding child car seats.

The Highway Code, road safety and vehicle rules allow children to travel in hackney carriages or private hire vehicles without using a suitable car seat, but the following restrictions apply:

  • Under 3's may travel unrestrained, but in the rear only
  • Those 3 years and above must use an adult belt in the rear seat only
  • A child up to 135cms in a front seat of any vehicle must use the correct child seat or booster
  • The driver of the vehicle is responsible for seat belt wearing by children
  • under 14 years (except in vehicles with fixed partitions)
  • Rear-facing baby seats must not be used in a seat protected by a frontal air bag unless the airbag has been deactivated manually or automatically
  • Drivers are expected to comply with the highway code requirements and where passengers refuse to comply with seat belt requirements this is a legitimate reason for the driver to refuse to carry the passenger

Vehicle insurance requirements

The Authority requires appropriate vehicle insurance documents prior to granting a hackney carriage/private hire vehicle (proprietors) licence. It requires a valid certificate or cover note confirming that insurance is in place for each driver of the vehicle and specify the use as either public hire (hackney carriage) or private hire vehicle insurance.

Hackney carriage vehicle insurance documents will need to state that the insurance covers public hire and hire and reward.

Private hire vehicle insurance documents will need to state that the insurance covers hire and reward.

If a valid cover note is provided rather than an insurance certificate the insurance certificate should be provided to the Authority at the earliest opportunity and failure to do so may result in the suspension/revocation of the vehicle proprietor's licence.

Scanned copies of original documents are acceptable on the basis that the documents are clearly legible on the Authority's IT systems.

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 S50 allows for authorised officers of the Council to require a vehicle licence holder to produce insurance documents on request. Such requests may be made on site or in writing. Officers will normally allow a period of several days for the documents to be produced, but any documents produced must cover the period requested by the officer. Failure to comply to such a request without a reasonable excuse is an offence for which a vehicle licence holder may be prosecuted. In addition, action will be taken to immediately suspend/revoke the vehicle licence.

As an added public safety measure the Authority has imposed as a standard licence condition on all vehicle licences that a valid certificate of insurance always remains in place on the vehicle that is licensed. This provides added protection through the duration of the licence.

Hackney carriage fares

This Authority sets the maximum fares that can be charged by hackney carriage drivers for local journeys. The fares include all charges associated with the hire of the vehicle such as the flag fall (initial start-up fare which may include a measured distance), rate per distance travelled, soiling charges, and waiting charges. The fares are published in a table of fares displayed in the hackney carriage vehicle. The table of fares also indicates the different tariffs applicable for day/night and holiday periods.

For journeys that begin or end outside the City Council boundaries a fare can be agreed in advance of the journey (this may be higher than the table of fares due to the likelihood of the vehicle having to undertake a return journey without any passengers). If no fare has been agreed in advance, then the fare shown on the meter must be charged.

Private hire fees and charges

Private hire fees and charges are not set by the Authority, but by the private hire operators who take the bookings and dispatch the private hire vehicles/drivers. Each private hire operator has their own tariff which may be different or identical to the hackney carriage tariff.

Where a hackney carriage vehicle/driver fulfils a private hire booking they cannot charge more than the metered fare unless the out of area provisions referred to above apply.

Limitation on numbers of hackney carriage vehicle licences

The grant of a hackney carriage licence may be refused for the purpose of limiting the number of licensed taxis, if the local authority is satisfied that there is no significant demand for the services of hackney carriages in the area which is unmet.

Preston City Council does limit the number of hackney carriages to 187. The need for this limit is reviewed periodically (approximately every three years) by a competent company appointed to conduct the review on behalf of the Authority.

The Authority has no power to limit the number of private hire vehicles.


The Authority is committed to ensuring that a wide variety of opportunities are available to disabled persons, as regards to access to transport and to ensure disabled people are not discriminated against or treated less favourably.

The Authority is mindful that different accessibility considerations apply in relation to hackney carriages and private hire vehicles. This Authority requires all its licensed hackney carriages to be wheelchair accessible.

Since 2019 this Authority has published and maintained a list of designated wheelchair accessible licensed vehicles which can be viewed on the Authority's website. In doing so it had the effect of bringing into force section 165 of the Equality Act 2010 which places duties on drivers of designated wheelchair accessible hackney carriages and private hire vehicles. These duties are:

  • To carry the passenger while in the wheelchair
  • Not to make any additional charge for doing so
  • If the passenger chooses to sit in a passenger seat to carry the wheelchair
  • To take such steps as are necessary to ensure that the passenger is
    carried in safety and reasonable comfort, and
  • To give the passenger such mobility assistance as is reasonably required

Hackney carriage byelaws

A copy of the Byelaws are attached at Appendix D. They apply to hackney carriage drivers and hackney carriage vehicle licence holders. It is an offence to fail to comply with the byelaws.

Hackney carriage ranks

There are two separate legal provisions which allow for the creation of "hackney carriage ranks/stands" commonly referred to as taxi ranks. They were originally created by the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, now replaced by Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. Where a hackney carriage stand has been designated by this legislation, authorised local authority officers can undertake enforcement action in respect of the provisions of section 64 of the 1976 Act, i.e. prohibition of other vehicles on a hackney carriage stand - accepting the defence of reasonable excuse.

In recent years, many Local Authorities have utilised traffic regulation orders (TRO's) to create hackney carriage ranks, which imposes parking restrictions applied in such a way that they only permit hackney carriages to utilise the facility. The advantage of a TRO rank is that it can be enforced by civil enforcement officers who can issue fixed penalty notices. Appendix M provides details of the taxi ranks in Preston.

Intended use policy for the licensing of hackney carriages

Applicants for the grant, renewal and transfer of hackney carriage vehicle proprietor licences will be expected to demonstrate a bona fide intention that the vehicle will be used to ply for hire within the administrative area of Preston City Council. There will be a presumption that applicants who do not intend that the vehicle will be used to a material extent to ply for hire within the administrative area of Preston City Council will not be granted a hackney carriage vehicle proprietor licence authorising them to do so. However, each application will be determined on its merits.

The Authority has a duty to ensure that it licences vehicles in line with High Court guidance, which includes the requirement that hackney carriages mostly operate in the Authority area, in the interests of public safety. If vehicle  proprietors are not operating as agreed this undermines these interests and means they cannot be effectively monitored to ensure the vehicles are safe. The policy is included in Appendix L.

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