Taxi and private hire operators - Coronavirus

Concern has been raised regarding taxis and private hire cars that are still operating and the lack of physical distancing in such vehicles, or any other controls for that matter. Given that the majority of vehicles used in Scotland as taxi and private hire cars will be salon type cars, 1m social distancing is not always possible.

In saloon cars it is not possible for drivers and passengers to face away from each other, the passenger will almost always be facing on to the driver. In a traditional black taxi if the passenger must sit with their back to the driver, they will not be able to maintain 1m distance.

This guidance covers potential protection of drivers but also considers other mitigating factors that could be introduced:

Stay at home guidance and social distancing between drivers and passengers

Drivers, like the general population, should not be working if they are symptomatic or if someone they live with is symptomatic. Drivers in the clinically vulnerable group and extremely clinically vulnerable (shielding) group should follow government advice about COVID-19.

Taxi and private hire operators and drivers should ask if customers have symptoms of possible COVID-19 (fever, new cough or loss of smell and/or taste) and should not accept symptomatic customers. Private hire taxis have to be booked beforehand so the operator should be screening and asking the relevant questions at the booking stage.

Drivers and passengers should remain at 1m distance. If maintaining 1m distance is not possible, drivers and passengers should face away from each other and face-to-face contact should be minimised. The number of customers in the vehicle should be kept to a minimum if possible, with no sharing of the vehicle if the customers are not living in the same household.

Windows should be kept open if possible and air conditioning and/or ventilation should be set to extract and not recirculate the air within the vehicle. 

Hand and respiratory hygiene

Drivers and passengers should wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. When hand washing is not possible, hand sanitiser should be used.

Drivers are advised to avoid handling money and to take alternative payment methods. If handling money cannot be avoided, drivers should wash their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser after handling money. The taxi and/or private hire car company should consider equipment which allows alternative payment means and ask how the payment will be made at the booking stage. This will help in reducing cash transactions.

Use of face coverings

When using taxis and/or private hire vehicles, passengers must wear a face covering.

The following groups are exempt from the mandatory use of face covering in such vehicles namely:

  • Under 5-year olds
  • Those with breathing difficulties
  • Those with physical conditions which make it hard to keep a mask in place

Persons providing a passenger transport service, or an employee of that person, namely the driver of said vehicle, must wear a face covering unless there is a partition, such as a screen, between the person or employee and the passenger.

View further guidance on use of protective screens in vehicles.

Wheelchairs and passenger assistance

The Equality Act 2010 section 165, sets out the duties imposed on a driver of a designated taxi for carriage of passengers with disabilities.

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 does not contain any specific provisions that impact upon the above, but Scottish Government guidance on social distancing applies equally to both driver and passenger and requires to be considered.

The Equality Act provides a qualifier to the assistance to be provided to a passenger – the use of the word reasonable and/or reasonably. A driver could assess a particular situation where a wheelchair user wanted to make use of their vehicle, and the driver could decide whether it is possible for them, observing the terms of Scottish Government guidance on distancing, to provide the service. If they believed that social distancing requirements were such as to prevent them being able to provide reasonable assistance, they could state that, but still confirm they could provide the service of carrying the passenger in their vehicle. The reasonability element has to be considered in light of the current climate.

However, having regard to the duties imposed in the 2010 Equality Act, should a driver refuse to accept wheelchair users in their vehicle they would then be breaching the terms of the legislation and local licensing conditions.

Cleaning of vehicles

Cleaning vehicles with normal household disinfectant will reduce the risk of passing Coronavirus infection on to other people.

After each passenger journey, drivers should clean all hard surfaces, both inside and outside the car, such as door handles, window winders, seat belts, card payment devices, boot access, the rear of the front seats and other surfaces passengers may have touched. Drivers should then wash and/or sanitise their own hands. There should be an adequate supply of cleaning materials and means of disposal for the shift.

A thorough clean of the vehicle with normal cleaning products should be completed at the end of each shift and/or working day.