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Agenda item

Review of Minimum 21 Years of Age Criteria and Extension of the 12 Months Driving Licence Requirement to 36 Months - Consultation Response

 To consider the responses to the consultation and other matters raised by consultees.

Minutes:

The Chairman advised that it should be noted that the consultation response from the DPHDA and more specifically the issues regarding the penalty points scheme – had been covered in the Officer’s report and would not be revisited.

 

The Chairman invited the Senior Licensing Officer (SLO) to present her report on the response from the Trades and the public to the Council’s proposals as Licensing Authority to review the minimum 21 years of age criteria and to extend the qualifying 12 months full GB or equivalent driving licence requirement to 36 months.

 

The SLO made the following points in support of the Officer recommendation that the Committee not extend the current 12 months qualifying period for holding a full ordinary GB driving licence, or equivalent, to 36 months [Recommendation 2.2 report para 3 (g) agenda page 7 and 9]:

 

·         Officers agreed with the responses from All Night Cars and the Dartford Private Hire Drivers Association (DPHDA) as set out in Appendix A; that the proposed amendment to 36 months would be a barrier to new applicants joining the Trade and may lead to a decline in the number of drivers, specifically as a large number of drivers are over the age of 50;

·         Officers further concluded that raising the qualifying period for holding  a full ordinary GB licence, or equivalent to 36 months could disadvantage older applicants seeking to re-train as hackney carriage or private hire drivers;

·         There was no evidence that increasing the minimum requirement to 36 months improved safety;

·         Requiring first time applicants for a passenger carrying licence to pass the DSA test was a further safeguard to the 12 month requirement to hold an ordinary GB or equivalent licence;

·         Officers had conducted a comparison survey of the other 12 Kent local authorities and Transport for London (TfL), only the latter required a 36 month criteria, and only for Private Hire (Mini Cab) drivers not for Black Cab [Hackney Carriage] drivers and that;

·         the partial requirement by TfL was illogical, especially given that Black Cab drivers tended to be older and there was an evidence base that an older driver’s abilities declined with age.

 

Councillor A Bardoe noted that:

 

·         50% [7 of 14] of responses received from members of the public expressed concern over both the 21 year age criteria and the 12 month minimum requirement;

·         The one member of the public content with the status quo was a former driving instructor and therefore not entirely impartial;

·         Officers had supplied no statistics to support the adverse impact argument for applicants, particularly older applicants wishing to re-train as private hire or hackney carriage drivers;

·         The DPDHA assertions that the Trade was in decline as indicated by fewer drivers and longer queues was contradictory;

·         Both the DVLA and motor insurance companies set store and had greater confidence in drivers with 3 years or more experience as evidenced by premium levels for younger drivers particularly those aged below 21;

·         All ‘neighbouring’ local authorities have a 36 month requirement.

 

The Vehicle Licensing Officer (VLO) advised, in response to the Member’s request for statistics concerning drivers re-training as private hire and hackney carriage drivers that no statistics were available for 2013 and only limited statistics to date for 2014 and only for those drivers who had successfully re-trained.

 

Members were advised that in order to become a Private Hire or Hackney Carriage Driver there is additional criteria to be met including; passing the Knowledge Test which consists of questions on the highway code, legislation and routes within the borough, an enhanced DBS check, an English language test and now the DVA test.

 

Councillor A Bardoe said that he would have valued a per-centage breakdown of the drivers who had applied to re-train by age and length of driving experience and the split between those who had passed and failed. He maintained that the best standards for Dartford should be the same as those of neighbouring authorities who applied a 36 month minimum criteria, and that knowledge of the highway code and Dartford routes was no substitute for age and experience. Especially in the case of newly qualified private hire drivers who had the safety of up to four adult passengers and an un-restrained baby in their hands. The Council needed to listen to the concerns of residents as expressed in Appendix A to the report.

 

The Chairman, in specific response to Councillor A Bardoe’s final point, observed that there had only been 15 (fifteen) public responses to the consultation; an equal view could be taken that the vast majority of the Dartford public were content with the existing 12 month minimum requirement.

 

The Senior Licensing Officer advised that statistics that were available to Officers showed that in the last 3 year period, 11 (eleven) private hire and 1 (one) hackney carriage driver would have been affected [barred from re-training] had a 36 month minimum driving licence requirement been in force.

 

Councillor A Bardoe noted that 11 private hire licence holders represented 25% of the total drivers who had passed the test during this time frame. He repeated the significance of the fact that 14 of the 15 public responses received under the consultation had advocated an increase to a 36 month minimum requirement and again be-moaned the lack of statistics concerning the hackney carriage trade, given the Trade’s assertion that it was in decline and that an increase to a 36 month requirement would hasten that decline.

 

Officers advised that in previous years, on average anything between 18 and 22 applicants per month had applied for a hackney carriage licence. To date in July 2014 only 4 (four) applications had been received. It was clear to Officers that the hackney carriage trade was in decline and the average age of existing licence holders was nearer to 70 than 50 years, as was the case for private hire drivers.

 

The Chairman noted that passenger numbers for the Council’s assisted Grabbacab Scheme operating in the town centre on Friday and Saturday evenings had declined from 400 plus to just 200 on average. The Council did not hold further in-depth stats concerning the hackney carriage trade nor could it be expected to.

 

In response to further specific questions from Members, Officers confirmed that:

 

·         13 Kent authorities had a 12 month minimum criteria;

·         TfL only required a 36 month criteria for private hire drivers;

·         90% of local authorities in England & Wales, who had responded to a poll on the Licensing Forum, had a 12 month requirement.

 

The Committee expressed support for the Officer recommendation to retain the existing 12 month requirement given that;

 

·         no evidence had been produced of poor driving by existing licence holders or complaints recorded against the 12 who had qualified in the last 3 year period;

·         where held, statistics had been provided by Officers in support of their recommendation;

·         the Trade’s argument that mileage was a relevant indicator of driver experience irrespective of age was a valid one.

 

With the exception of Councillor A Bardoe, who asked that his opposition to recommendation 2 below be formally recorded in the Minutes, the Committee

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    To note the responses to the consultation as set out in Appendix A to the report;

 

2.    That for the reasons outlined in para.3.5(g) of the report, the proposal to extend the qualifying period for holding a full GB driving licence, or equivalent, to 36 months is not endorsed by the Committee [by majority vote];

 

3.    That there be no change to the minimum 21 years of age criteria to hold a Hackney Carriage and/or Private Hire driver’s licence, for the reasons outlined in para.3.6(i) of the report;

 

4.    To uphold its decision to apply the DSA test to first time applicants and, where relevant, as an alternative to the application of penalty points on a licence, for the reasons outlined in para.3.7.1 (d), (g) and (h) of the report;

 

5.    To uphold its original decision to extend the time limit from 12 months to 36 months the period of time over which penalty points awarded to any individual licence holder remains ‘live’ on his/her licence; having considered the Trades’ objections and the Trades’ request that the matter be put out for consultation and for the reasons outlined in paras.3.7.3 (f) and (g) of the report.

 

Supporting documents: