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Training and English language testing for cab drivers should be tightened up, independent review says

TRAINING and English language testing for cab drivers in Bradford should both be tightened up, according to an independent review of Bradford Council’s licensing service.

A team from neighbouring Leeds City Council has made 12 recommendations after carrying out a peer-review of Bradford Council’s hackney carriage and private hire licensing department.

It calls for Bradford’s training for new and existing drivers to emulate Leeds by including ‘instant fail’ questions, where a wrong answer results in the driver having to re-take that whole part of the course.

An example of an ‘instant fail’ answer would be if private hire drivers said they would stop if hailed by a customer without a booking, it says.

The report also calls for the authority to review its English language testing for drivers. It reveals that the current test involves some pre-assessment questions over the phone, followed by fuller testing face-to-face.

It says: “However, the service has a concern that some applicants may be asking partners or family members to take the call for them and by-passing this pre-assessment.”

The report says this “would be exposed” when the applicant struggled with the face-to-face test, but that it “could be valuable time wasted”.

The peer-review team said consultations with drivers about changes to fees or licensing rules often had too few responses, and recommended tweaks to its engagement processes.

It also said waiting times for drivers attending Bradford Council’s Shearbridge depot for vehicle inspections or appointments needed to continue to improve.

But the peer-review team praised the Bradford service for its customer service and its fees, which it said were “among the lowest in the region”.

It said it was “very difficult to support” complaints by some drivers that the fees were excessive.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, who oversees licensing at Bradford Council, said: “This review shows that the vast majority of drivers, operators and customers are completely satisfied with the way we operate.

“Another bonus of this independent report is that it also identifies areas where improvements can be made and the service is already taking action to progress these.”

Shabbir Master, of the Hackney Carriage Owners and Drivers Association, welcomed the recommendation to improve waiting times at Shearbridge, saying some drivers had been waiting up to three hours to renew their licenses.

He said: “It’s bedlam, to put it mildly.”

He also suggested that too few drivers were participating in consultations because many felt the department would do what it wanted, “whatever they say”.

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