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Private Hire Vehicles
It seems that hiring out chauffeured old vehicles is a much more popular activity than we had imagined, with hirings being made for all sorts of special occasions from weddings to school dances, from theatre trips to birthday parties. We explained in the last issue that the regulations say that such activity is illegal in England and Wales (except for weddings and funerals) unless the car is licensed with the local authority as a private hire vehicle, the driver is licensed with the local authority as a private hire driver, and the person taking the booking is licensed with the local authority as a private hire operator. This is not new. The exemption from licensing requirements for wedding hire was introduced in the 1980s, otherwise there has been no change since the 1970s.
Local authorities have some discretion in respect of the standards they set, but they cannot simply waive the requirement for licensing. FBHVC has considered making an application for an exemption for historic vehicles, but since the regulations exist for public protection - from criminal drivers as much as from unsafe vehicles - it is difficult to see how an exemption could be justified, especially when there is so much public concern about assaults on the young.
The fact that each local authority can make its own arrangements for PHV licensing makes it difficult to produce a single universal answer, but we have approached the Local Government Association for advice.
Meanwhile, as the recent case reported below shows, it would be wise for anyone in the habit of hiring themselves and their car out for anything other than weddings to stop doing so and talk to their local authority.
The case was heard in a magistrates court on 20 June. On 31 October 2007 police and local council staff stopped four classic and vintage vehicles. The drivers of each of the four chauffeur driven vehicles were cautioned and questioned. The drivers were transporting a group for a special occasion. None of the drivers held a private hire drivers licence; none of the four vehicles was licensed as a private hire vehicle and there was no licensed private hire operator. The insurance of all the vehicles had been compromised by the failure to comply with regulations. Three of the four drivers received points on their licences for driving without the correct insurance and the cars were impounded. The prosecution was taken against the fourth driver, who owned three of the cars, and his wife, who acted as the private hire operator.
The council had previously advised the couple, in writing, to licence their operation or risk prosecution, but they had not done so. In court they stated, in addition to this booking, they had completed several bookings for young people to travel to their school proms. The magistrates fined them a total of £1050 with £450 costs.