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Merseyside taxi drivers may no longer face ‘knowledge’ test

17/09/2014

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Private hire firm Delta wants assessment scrapped

Taxi drivers at some of Merseyside’s biggest firms may be allowed to carry passengers without taking the traditional “Knowledge” test.

Sefton council’s licensing committee will decide on Monday whether to keep or scrap the controversial Knowledge Test which all new taxi drivers in the borough must pass.

Bootle-based private hire firm Delta Taxis has put forward a proposal calling for the test to be scrapped, in light of recommendations made by the Law Commission.

Their report states that “private hire services should only be subject to national standards. Licensing authorities should no longer have the power to impose local conditions.”

Within its submission Delta Taxis said it believes the “current test is nothing more than a memory test and out of date” and that “computer aided and satellite navigation has totally transformed the industry since the knowledge test was introduced 22 years ago.”

The test, which is conducted by the council, involves new driver applicants having to answer 20 questions on local landmarks and licensing and driving rules, selected from a list of 60 questions, as well as six route questions selected from a list of 40 routes.

Paul McLaughlin, Delta company secretary, said: “In all honesty it is no more than a memory test, which has absolutely no bearing on a driver’s ability to navigate.

“You memorise the routes in advance and regurgitate them back onto a piece of paper. It is a tick-box exercise which has zero practical benefits for drivers or customers.”

Wayne Casey from South Sefton Hackney Carriage Drivers Association said he believed the ability to find places in a driver’s chosen working area is a reasonable expectation,

He said: “Failure to have or acquire this knowledge is to deny the fundamental function of hiring a vehicle and driver as a taxi.

“The tests were introduced many years ago by Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council and seem common sense now.”

He also said how an informed choice, based on local knowledge, is still needed when using a sat nav as they usually give a choice of routes.

Tommy McIntyre from Unite the Union’s taxi section said: “The proposals (by Delta Taxis) seem ludicrous to say the least, that modern technology can replace the in-depth knowledge both private hire and Hackney drivers should have to perform their duties to the travelling public’s expectation.”

In a statement he said he believed an in-depth knowledge was beneficial to the local community who expect a professional who knows where they are going.

He added: “Modern technology indeed is an asset to the Hackney and private hire driver, but is in no way a substitute for the driver’s base topographical knowledge.”

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