A Conversation for Taxis

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 1

Captain Kebab

Technically, taxis which are allowed to 'ply for hire' (pick you up on the street) in England are licensed as 'Hackney Carriages'. Minicabs are private hire cars, and are not legally taxis. They are not allowed to display the word 'taxi' anywhere on them, nor are they allowed to diplay any kind of sign with the words 'For Hire'.

Interestingly, only in London is it possible to set up as a private hire operator without any license. It's my understanding (put me right if I've got it wrong) that anybody can set up as a minicab operator in London provided they have a driving license, a car and the appropriate insurance. In the provinces both the vehicle and the driver have to be licensed by the local authority.

If you should flag down a minicab without pre-booking it and the driver agrees to take you, they are invalidating their insurance. That means that not only is he or she not insured, you are not insured either. In view of the way some of them drive that's not such a good idea.

By the way, a bus in England is licensed as a stage carriage. Stand and deliver! smiley - smiley

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 2

I'm not really here

Some nit picking here I am afraid, to go with what is above. And I say this as an insider as I work in the trade. smiley - smiley

Where you say there is no specific restraint on number of people, items involved or distance travelled this is wrong. All licensed taxis and mincabs have a set number of passengers they are allowed to take. This is normally 4, especially outside of areas that use Black Cabs. It can go up to 8, over that it has to become a PSV, (or bus) although at the moment there is a loophole in the law that means you could have a normal car as a PSV, thus allowing the owner to avoid all the legalities of driving a taxi or mincab.
Taxis are only obliged to provide "reasonable" luggage space, so expecting a bicycle or something similar to be carried is not really going to happen.
And I think London taxis are also only obliged to take fares under 6 miles.

If licensed, minicab drivers also have to do The Knowledge. Outside of London this is much easier, but it still has to be done. They also have to be insured for the number of passengers they are carrying, and up to about 5 years ago pass another driving test.

Meters are set to charge time and distance, although not both at once. Extras are normally for people over and above the first person, and sometimes luggage. The fares are set by the local council, although I am not sure about Black Taxis in London. Mincabs are also allowed to have meters, but the must show the tariff in the car in the same way as taxis, and although they can set them to what they like, they are checked by the council for accuracy, the same as taxis.

And you can negotiate fares with any taxi or minicab, above or below the meter fare, as long as both parties agree.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 3


And not taking minicabs off the street is easier said than done, at least in Leeds where they have a tendency to park themselves in taxi ranks (presumably illegal).

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 4

NYC Student - The innocent looking one =P

Liveries do the same thing in the outer boroughs of NYC, and it's not too inconspicuous when they do. Literally dozens circle blocks where people wait for busses and scatter whenever a traffic cop comes by.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 5

I'm not really here

We're all nasty and vengeful in this town. If we see mincabs on our ranks we report them, but it's normally out-of-towners that do it.
We also report idiotic private cars that do it as well.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 6

Fat Freddie

Yeah, but if you're stuck in the taxi queue outside leeds station, usually a good 60 foot long, and a 'non-hackney' pulls up next to you, you may as well jump into that one. Better still, get the mobile number of one of the drivers from your favorite local firm, and he'll sort stuff out for you from there.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 7

Researcher 185787

Only in the City where people laud the use of natural language and the freedom of speech can a government enact a law in complete contradiction with reality. North is south, black is white, up is down, off with his head!

Today, Sunday 6th October 2001, I can call a taxi from a minicab company that supplies cabs. In just over 2 weeks time, any Londoner attempting this outrageous misdemeanor could break the law.

Why? Because a taxi company will not be allowed to send a minicab, and a minicab will not be allowed to send a cab. You see, taxis are Hackney Cabs and minicabs are not. "Minicabs" are "Private Hire Vehicles" (PHVs) managed by "Licensed Operators". But "Taxis" and "Cabs" are "Hackneys" controlled by "Radio Circuits" because they have taximeters (so they must be taxis mustn't they?). Even if I want to phone for taxi that will work in the exactly same way as a "PHV", I will get a minicab and not a taxi. Beware any "PHV Operator" who tries to sell me a "Taxi": You can be imprisoned!

You see, a London minicab cannot have a method of measuring how far it has gone 'coz that would be a taximeter, and that would make it a "taxi", and there are laws about who can drive a Taxi and who can drive a Minicab.

Presumably, having a taximeter is a complex and dangerous task otherwise minicab drivers would be allowed to carry them too. Maybe knowing how far you have travelled (and thus charging a passenger a fair price) must be a highly responsible job that requires extra training. The mental stress must be quite debilitating.

In response, the "PHV" bosses are mounting a counter-attack. It's called "Radios Out Of Cabs". If carrying a taximeter is difficult, then to compound the problem with the addition of a radio must be sheer madness. So driver, carry a radio or a taximeter but not both! (Who is sane in the country of the mad?)

The alien traveller might assume that hi-tech Global Positioning Systems - which know with phenomenal accuracy where they are in London's concrete canyons - to be capable of measuring distance, and possibly also able to tell the minicabby where to turn next. Illegal my friend! (Not that any "Knowledgable" driver would ever need such a device, after all only minicab drivers can get lost).

Our alien tourist might also assume that the data-commuications devices that task modern black cabs to be "radios". And a radio can result in the cabby knowing where his passenger is. Damnable cheat!

London faces a bleak future in which taxis don't know where their prospective passengers are and minicabs don't know how far they have been. The difference will be that taxi drivers have "the knowledge" to be able to drive anywhere in London looking for that passenger, whilst minicab drivers will cruise perpetually around the city searching for number 123A Lostway Street!

And that's not all.

Let's say you run a taxi booking service called...erm... "You-Go". You can't tell your customers that you provide taxis, oh no! You can't tell them that you provide PHVs (or minicabs). It seems that you have to know what they want before they've told you.

The simple alternative is of course - put up TWO signs: "We book taxis" and "We book Minicabs", side by side. (Hah! That fixed 'em.)Otherwise, look forward to the rattle of those keys in your cell door.

Thus it is that the world's most famous city of taxis will become famous for even more atrocious transport.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 8


Captain Kebab in post 1 you said "put me right if I've got it wrong" well may I sugest you check your facts over at A708905 or A721144smiley - huh

but here is a summary

In London Private Hire is regulated by ‘Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act, 1998’.

In London all ‘Operators’ are now licensed (although this process wasn’t complete when you made the original posting.

Within two years all drivers & vehicles should also be licensed.

And as to the maximum number of passengers a Private Hire vehicle can carry is limited by both the design of the vehicle and its insurance cover. (I also get feeling that you were making the error of confusing illegal touts with bona-fide minicabs)

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 9


It seems to me that those links confirm what Cpt. Kebab said, i.e. minicabs aren't allowed to ply for trade in the streets.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 10


It confirms the first paragraph

Paragraph 2, Minicabs are regulated in London (which is not what C.K. implied)

As for paragraph 3
"If you should flag down a minicab without pre-booking it and the driver agrees to take you"
A TOUT IS NOT A MINICAB, the laws they are breaking (and are prosecuted under) by plying for hire are Taxi laws if anything they are illegal Taxis.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 11

Captain Kebab

HappyDude - thanks for that - I am happy to stand corrected as I said. I was out of date - I did a little minicabbing (not in London) in the early 1990s, and at that time, as you say yourself, Private Hire vehicles were unregulated in the capital.

You also seem to imply that only operators are licensed, and that licensing for drivers and vehicles is something which is about to be introduced - is that right? If so, it would seem that Private Hire in London is still not proerly regulated.

Certainly when I did my stint I had to obtain a license to drive (in a farcically easy test) and obtain a license for my car (in a fairly strict test) before I was legally allowed to operate, and I had to display plates on the car, and a photo ID card on my person. The licensing authority is the local council. Rules vary - in Manchester you can have an illuminated sign on a minicab, in Bury you are not allowed to display one. In no case are you allowed to display the words, 'cab', taxi' or the phrase, 'for hire'. I don't think any of that has changed.

More recently new car plates have been introduced which carry the details of the vehicle on them, to try to stop fraud and increase passenger safety.

I don't understand what the distinction is in your comment about touts - if a minicab driver agrees to take a fare on the street that hasn't been pre-booked he may well be touting, and he may well be breaking taxi law, he may well be bringing his honest colleagues into disrepute - but he's still a minicab driver, acting illegally. Yes he's an illegal tout - but he's still driving a minicab.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 12


99% of touts in London are not Private Hire Drivers they are professional touts And if a minicab Diver did ply for hire then remember a minicab is only allowed to pick up by appointment the moment they do otherwise they cease to act as a minicab.
(If a banker burgled your house and you walked in on them you wouldn’t be calling the police saying “there is a banker in my house” would you?)

Private Hire in London is Regulated by Act of Parliament and the Public Carriage Office (the same people who licence Back Cabs), at the moment it is in a transitional phase with the operators (the company you make the booking with) licensed but the Drivers & vehicles are not individually licensed BUT the operator is responsible for both drivers & vehicles under the licence they have. In about 18 to 24 months Full driver & vehicle licensing will be introduced.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 13


I think what people fail to realize about the Private Hire Trade in London is that the "Cash" customer forms les than half the market with the major section of the market being Corporate Account customers with many Private Hire companies will not pick up cash customers – The trade in London is very different from that in the provinces.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 14

Captain Kebab

On several occasions when I was mini-cabbing I was approached by members of the public who asked me to take them - especially when waiting outside a pub for a pre-booked fare, for instance.

I always said that I had a booked job, gave them a card, and advised them to phone the office. I don't do that job any more, (thank goodness - I hated it) but I do go to pubs, and I go out in town. I witness that sort of thing going on, especially in central Manchester on Friday and Saurday nights, and I've often seen minicabs take the fare. I've never understood why private hire drivers take the risk - there's plenty of booked work on a Friday and Saturday.

I understand that things are rather different here than in London - if vehicles are not licensed in London does that must mean they carry no license plates. Is that right, HappyDude? If it is, then you should find that the introduction of vehicle licensing helps reduce the number of touts who are just using private cars - the private hire plates used around here are very conspicuous - you know when you are getting into a minicab. But of course it doesn't stop the problem of licensed private hire drivers in minicabs plying for hire.

One reason that I call a minicab plying for hire a minicab and don't just refer to them all as touts is this - not everybody understands the distinction between public and private hire, particularly outside London and big cities where taxis are not necessarily black cabs. In my first post I was trying to draw atttention to the fact that by travelling with a tout you are taking a risk. People think that when they get in a minicab they are travelling in a licensed and insured vehicle with a licensed and insured driver - if they haven't booked then they aren't.

I don't wholly accept the point about the burglar, though - if I saw an article in the paper about, say, a milkman who had been caught burgling houses I wouldn't think it odd to see him described as a milkman. Mind you, if I walked in on somebody burgling my house he may well think I'd called him a banker! smiley - winkeye

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 15


" don't wholly accept the point about the burglar, though - if I saw an article in the paper about, say, a milkman who had been caught burgling houses I wouldn't think it odd to see him described as a milkman."

but as I said most of the touts are not Private Hire Drivers & if a milkman burgled your house they would not be acting as a milkman and you would find it odd if the paper described the burglaries as delivering milk.

The touts are offering a Taxi service, (this service may be illegal but its still a Taxi service) not a Private Hire (Minicab) service.

Even when licensing comes into force in London vehicles ill not have anything that identifies them as for hire other than the licence. While on many vehicles this will be easy to see bolted to the rear of the vehicle, BUT on many it wont as there will probably be an option for a more discreet windscreen mounted licence (if you’re a corporate customer who is trying to give the impression your being chauffeur driven you don’t want the image blown when the S-class Mercedes you arrived in pulls away & has a large Private Hire plate bolted to the bumper.

“then you should find that the introduction of vehicle licensing helps reduce the number of touts who are just using private cars”
only if the public are educated on the subject, the Metropolitan Police has precisely four Officers tasked to deal with touting.

“In my first post I was trying to draw attention to the fact that by travelling with a tout you are taking a risk”
And by referring to them as ‘minicabs’ you are implying they are something to do with the legal and legitimate trade of minicabing, causing even more confusion among the public.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 16


In Leeds I have seen many minicabs touting, but never another vehicle. In my opinion it is necessary to point out that minicabs are not licensed to pick up fares without pre-booking, which is what Captain Kebab did.

I think your point is basically that not all touts are minicabs and not all minicabs are touts. Fair enough.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 17

Captain Kebab

If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck it's a duck. If I see a car with private hire plates attached to the front and rear bumpers I assume it's a private hire car.

You said most of the touts are not private hire drivers - that may be the case in London, but as you said yourself things are different in the provinces. The Manchester Evening News regularly carries letters from black cab drivers specifically complaining about private hire drivers touting for business, and the lack of action against them. These hackney drivers call them what they are - private hire drivers illegally plying for hire.

A milkman doesn't stop being a milkman when he's not delivering milk, or even if he breaks the law. He stops being a milkman when he retires or is fired. A private hire driver who picks up a fare is a tout - no argument. He is also a private hire driver acting illegally - and in his position as a private hire driver with a marked and plated car (in the provinces) he is more able to successfully tout for business.

I have no experience of London, but if you drive a car with private hire plates through Manchester city centre on a Friday or Saturday night after 11.00pm you will have no shortage of people trying to flag you down. Stop outside a club or pub for a pre-booked fare and you will be approached by people who haven't booked asking you to take them. I know this, I've experienced it. Some drivers take them. They are able to attract that illegal trade because their vehicles are marked as private hire cars.

They ARE something to do with the legitimate trade - they are the people who bring that trade into disrepute. Every trade has black sheep. The vast majority of private hire drivers are honest men and women who have to work horrendous hours and deal with all sorts of drunks and ne'er-do-wells for not very much money. Sadly, a minority are tempted to act illegally - and once caught they lose their licenses and then they no longer are private hire drivers.

I stand by what I said - you should not travel as a fare paying passenger in a private hire vehicle or minicab if that vehicle has not been prebooked. I don't see why that should be confusing.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 18

I'm not really here

This touting business can be complicated for people outside the trade. As up to 3 days ago I had held a Private Hire/Hackney Carriage driving license for over 8 years, and I have driven both types of vehicles, I think I have a unique perspective on this.

A tout is someone who acts "in a public place to solicit persons to hire vehicles to carry them as passengers".
Imagine I still have a taxi licence. If I'm driving my hackney carriage and I shout out of the window at a pedestrian - "do you want a taxi?" I am illegally touting. Making me an illegal tout.
If I'm driving my private hire car and I get out and stand outside a club and ask you if you want a 'taxi' (the phrase I hear most often), I am illegally touting, whether I'm in a licensed area or not. Making me an illegal tout.

The last I heard, the offence is charged in the form of soliciting for business on foot. That offence was included in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, it might have changed since.

Anyone could take their car and stand outside a club and tout for trade. So that makes three different types of people that can be illegal touts. Private hire drivers, hackney carriage drivers, and Joe Bloggs from round the corner.
Illegal touts are not necessarily minicabs. But that doesn't mean that minicab drivers *don't* do it.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 19

I'm not really here

BTW, Captain Kebab - the reason why drivers take the risk is because they are greedy. This job might be better than the next one they get. This is here and now, not 10 minutes and 5 dead miles down the road.
Drivers like HappyDude and I are - as far as I've seen - in the minority. Both my Mum and my Dad are cabbies, and they've both picked up outside their licensed area. They've also used an unlicensed courier car to carry regulars around in when they are desperate.

I refused to do it, I wanted to keep my license too much.

Taxis, hackneys and minicabs

Post 20


I think the point is being missed wot I object to is describing the act of touting & the carrying of touted passengers as minicabbing and the vehicle that do it as minicabs. It's not and the vehicles that do it are not, its the provision of an illegal Taxi service. Even if a vehicle is licensed for Private Hire the moment the driver starts touting it ceases to act as a private hire vehicle and is in breech of its license.

CK there is nothing wrong with your statement I even agree with it, I just think you should qualify statements, making a clear distinction between criminals and the legitimate trade, and as I said in London 99% of touts are just that.

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