Proposals to overhaul the training of Hull taxi drivers to integrate them more into the sector have been suspended.
Hull City Council’s licensing committee has learned that the overhaul will see a new six-part training course run in-house, costing £ 100 compared to £ 400 for the current qualification.
The committee heard that the new course was designed to encourage more people into the trade while responding to customer complaints about the behavior and practices of some drivers.
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But Bill Waddington, an attorney speaking on behalf of the Humber Taxi Association, said companies feared it could lower standards by offering watered-down training.
Magnus Murray, taxi driver and secretary of the Association, said the overhaul would not stop the exodus caused by companies raising their fares by 10-20%.
It comes as advisers learned that 14 complaints were recently filed against Hull taxi drivers over a six-week period, and many have taken other jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Defendants accused some drivers of rudeness, inappropriate behavior, bad behavior and poor customer service. A report to the committee also said there had been times when some drivers failed to report convictions or warnings, a condition of their license.
The committee heard that this raised concerns for the safety of customers, especially the elderly, vulnerable, disabled and women taking taxis at night.
Advisors have learned that the new in-house course will launch in April 2022 and will be delivered by Guildhall’s learning and development teams.
Any new driver entering the sector would be required to study over three classroom sessions, while those already licensed would be covered by their current qualification.
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The proposed course would cover regulations, licensing requirements, equality and working with customers with disabilities, as well as health and safety and emergency response.
Lecturers would also be invited to speak with candidates on specialized subjects and those who succeed would be awarded a certificate with support to trainees in difficulty with certain modules.
Advisors have heard that the cost of the current course, which Hull drivers have been required to take since 2013, could create barriers for people entering the trade.
Watch Hull Cars’ Ian Jones discuss the city’s taxi driver shortage:
The new course, if adopted, would be free for the first six months before the £ 100 fee was introduced.
Council officials said recent complaints could suggest the current qualification was no longer suited to its purpose, while the new one would be cheaper while maintaining standards.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Cheryl Payne said she recently took a cab that had to stop twice to get directions, showing improvements were needed.
The advisor said: “These issues and incidents over the past few months raise the question of whether the current qualification is working.
“With the number of people telling me about taxi drivers, it seems some have no standards, customers might not know where they are being taken or they might be taken on longer routes which are more expensive.”
But Mr Waddington said drivers fear the new route will leave customers more at risk if it does not meet standards.
He said: “A number of factors are driving the driver shortages, not just the pandemic itself, but the fact that the two remaining large companies in Hull have imposed fare increases on drivers.
“The current qualification has been in use across the country for 20 years, it is issued by qualified instructors, it is perfectly fit for purpose.”
Murray said the shortages were caused by drivers not being prepared to work for less.
He said: “The new course will not solve the problem, the protection of the public will be endangered.”
The licensing committee has agreed to put the plans on hold and is set to hold another meeting with the board’s transport portfolio holder, Cllr Dean Kirk.
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