Advice and information for Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers in relation to Coronavirus
Shared Regulatory Services has been receiving calls asking whether Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers can refuse to carry certain passengers through fear of infection.
March 20th, 2020
A great many people work in the hackney carriage and private hire industries and even more people rely on hackney carriages and private hire vehicles to transport them. Whilst there may well have been a significant downturn in this activity as a result of this crisis, hackney carriages and private hire vehicles will still remain a vital form of transport for many, including to and from hospitals, GPs and to go shopping.
The driver of a hackney carriage that is standing for hire (that is at a taxi rank or elsewhere on the highway) can only refuse a hiring for a journey within the district if they have a reasonable excuse. It would seem to be a reasonable excuse to refuse to carry a potential passenger who has obvious symptoms of coronavirus, but drivers must be careful. Assumptions about potential victims should not be made, and certainly should not be based on crude racial stereotyping. It would be difficult to see how a driver could legitimately refuse to carry a passenger who was not displaying symptoms in these circumstances.
Private Hire Vehicles
A private hire operator is under no obligation to enter into a contract to provide a private hire vehicle for anybody, provided any such refusal is not based on a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 Once the booking is been accepted, there is a contract in place to provide a vehicle for that hiring. If on arriving at the pickup point, the driver sees that the passenger is displaying obvious symptoms of coronavirus then they may feel it is not safe to carry that passenger. The driver would need to discuss that with the operator, because the contract for hire is between the hirer and the operator (there is also a contract between the operator and the driver which will need to be considered as well).
For drivers themselves, they should not work if they have a new continuous cough and/or a high fever and should at that point self-isolate. If drivers continue to work, the driver and proprietor of the vehicle both have a responsibility to ensure, to the best of their ability, that the vehicle is safe. Whilst that usually relates to mechanical safety, clearly environmental safety is also vital. Ideally every vehicle should be disinfected fully after every hiring, but this is clearly not practically possible. However, it would be possible to ensure that some form of cleaning of obvious areas takes place - door handles, seat belts and buckles and any other obvious hard surface that may have been touched by a passenger.
This would include areas that may have been infected following a passenger coughing or sneezing such as physical divisions between the front and rear of the vehicle, the rear of front seats and so on.
In the current climate, no activity is risk-free: the key is to take all sensible reasonable precautions to protect both drivers and passengers.