Whether you drive a black cab or standard taxi, safety is paramount during the current COVID-19 pandemic and the taxi industry has been acknowledged as one that is high risk due to the close proximity during fares. There has been great confusion in the industry on whether the use of facial coverings for taxi passengers is compulsory and the Department for Transport (DfT) has now issued an update on this issue.
Updated Facial Coverings Guidance
Face coverings were made mandatory for use when travelling on all forms of public transport in England from June 16th, with police deployed to train and bus stations to enforce this and £100 fines being issued to those who do not comply. Taxi travel was not included within the ruling, however the DfT have now announced new facial coverings guidance stating that while their use is not compulsory, taxi and private hire passengers ‘should’ cover their face. What’s more, their announcement advises that taxi drivers may be able to refuse fares if the passenger does not adhere to this. When it is reasonable to do so, private hire operators can make wearing a face covering a required condition to travel.
In Scotland, it was confirmed on 18th June that face coverings would be made compulsory on all public transport and during taxi and private hire travel from Monday 22nd June. Both Wales and Northern Ireland strongly advise that faces should be covered while travelling, but this has not yet been made mandatory.
In black cabs such as the Mercedes-Benz Vito Taxi and Ford ProCab™, integrated partition screens and larger interior areas mean that keeping a two-metre gap between individuals is possible but within standard taxis keeping a safe gap is more difficult. Further guidelines from the DfT state that additional requests from taxi drivers should be followed by passengers to adhere to social distancing. These include sitting in the back left-hand seat to ensure the maximum space between the individuals and paying using contactless methods such as card or telephone transactions wherever possible. Additionally, it has been requested that passengers keep touching surfaces of the vehicle to a minimum as far as is physically feasible.
The advice goes on to make further recommendations for those waiting at taxi ranks such as to keep a two metre distance, avoid physical contact and do not stand face to face with others waiting in line. The DfT then concluded they “encourage all licensing authorities to consider ways in which they can work with their licensees to support all reasonable measures to protect taxi and PHV drivers and passengers.”