Committee concerns over licensed vehicle standards

Highland Council Licensing Committee is voicing its concern that a small number of licensed taxi and PHC operators are failing to take appropriate steps to ensure their vehicles are safe and meet the standards required.  This follows three hearings at each of the last two Committee meetings, on 14 October and 11 November, following the receipt of reports from Trading Standards.

The reports related to unacceptable or non-existent vehicle maintenance regimes which, as a consequence, resulted in vehicles being submitted for inspection with severe safety defects.

The issue has come to light in recent months and has been identified as a result of Trading Standards’ Penalty Points System, an assessment system whereby operators’ and drivers’ compliance with the standards set by the Council are routinely monitored over a period of time. 

Committee Chair Cllr Maxine Smith said: “Poor vehicle maintenance can put the public at risk and is not acceptable.  Although vehicles have been made safe after the defects were found, it alarms me that just prior to this the vehicle most probably has been carrying a member of the public who expects the vehicle to be safe.  Operators have a duty to keep vehicles safe at all times and not just fix what is found wrong when inspected.”

Gordon Robb, Trading Standards Manager added: “There appears to be a growing trend here and we have increased our enforcement activity. We will be writing to all licence holders to remind them of their responsibilities and outline, again, the system we have in place to identify those falling below an acceptable standard.

“The system is one of our ways of measuring compliance and is itself quite simplistic in that non-compliance in areas such as vehicle safety or appearance attracts penalty points.  The amount of points depends on the risk posed by the non-compliance and the likelihood of it being discovered by the driver, operator or mechanic.  When a person attracts 20 points or more, they are reported to the Licensing Committee.”

Councillor Smith further commented on the action that can be taken, she said: “The Committee has a wide range of powers available ranging from ordering that the operator submits his vehicle for 3 monthly inspections to suspending or revoking the licence, in cases where the safety issues are of huge concern, and the operator cannot convince us that he/she is taking it seriously or will not put measures in place to look out for any future issues. 

“What is also becoming apparent is that operators assume that every garage knows the Council’s inspection standards and not all of them do, so it is crucial that the operator knows that the garage is checking their vehicle in line with the standards required by the Council, which are higher than just a normal MOT.  We must protect the public at all costs, as this is our duty of care when issuing a taxi operator’s licence.”

Trading Standards will work with operators and drivers to understand why points have been accumulated, will advise, and can reduce points where circumstances dictate so that reports to the Committee are proportionate and necessary.  Operators and drivers are also notified by Trading Standards when 10 of the 20 point trigger for reporting has been reached.

Concerned members of the public, operators or drivers can contact Highland Council’s Trading Standards directly either in person or in writing at:  The Highland Council Trading Standards, Development & Infrastructure Service, 38 Harbour Road, Inverness IV1 1UF; by email: trading.standards2@highland.gov.uk or speak to an advisor on 01463/228700 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).

17 Nov 2014
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