Liverpool City Council continue to crack down on one of the biggest issues facing the private hire industry; the illegal act of ‘plying for hire’. Five of the city’s private hire drivers were prosecuted for the offence this week, taking the year’s total up to 30 drivers.

What does ‘plying for hire’ mean?

According to their licence and insurance, private hire vehicles are to be used for pre-determined bookings only. When a driver unlawfully picks up passengers from the street it is known as ‘plying for hire’. Public hire vehicles, or hackney cabs, can collect passengers from the roadside or designated ranks but it seems for many private hire drivers the temptation to do likewise is too much to resist.

A Liverpool City Council spokesman, said:

The operation to enforce the rules for private hire drivers is an ongoing joint action between Liverpool City Council and Merseyside Police. At its heart lies our concerns for public safety. Private hire drivers are only allowed to carry passengers who have pre-booked their journey. They are not the same as black cabs, who can pick passengers up on the street.”

“Private hire drivers who do pick people up on the street are breaking the law. They will also not be insured for the journey. In these circumstances both the passenger and the driver are taking unnecessary risks. If anything were to happen during the journey, there would be no record of the booking making it difficult to trace the details.”

He added:

“We are pleased to say that private hire drivers are heeding the message and we have had many reports of drivers refusing to take passengers who flag them down in the street. We would like to thank both the public and the private hire community for their co-operation. The message from Liverpool City Council and its partners is clear – don’t take a private hire journey unless you have booked in advance.”

The penalties

With Liverpool City Council leading the crackdown, private hire drivers may think twice before ignoring this basic taxi law. The punishment for plying for hire can be severe with a maximum penalty of £2,500. Given that plying for hire is illegal, such an act can also deem a private hire vehicle’s insurance void when carrying out such bookings. Driving without insurance protecting against third party risks can carry a maximum fine of £5,000 plus between six and eight penalty points.

The 30 drivers convicted so far this year in Liverpool have been fined a total of £17,783 and have all been handed at least six points.

Let us know what you think, should more be done to tackle this issue?