COVID-19 Prevention advice and guidance for taxi drivers and operators

Customers are legally required to wear a face covering (link) when using taxis or private hire vehicles. Anyone failing to do so will be breaking the law and could be fined. Taxi drivers or private hire vehicle operators will be entitled to refuse to accept a passenger if they do not wear a face covering.

There are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.

Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

This includes (but is not limited to)

  • children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity

Taxi drivers are also advised to wear face coverings. 

Customers must also observe social contact rules when using taxis and private hire vehicles in England. The risk of transmission is small at two metres and where possible, you should maintain two metres distance.

If a two metre distance cannot be kept, reduce the risk to yourself and others by maintaining a one metre distance where possible, and taking suitable precautions.

Customers must follow the advice of the operator and driver. For example, they may be asked to sit in the back left-hand seat if travelling alone. They may want to check with your taxi or private hire operator before travelling if they have put any additional measures in place.

Customers should use contactless payment if possible, or find out if they can pay online in advance.

Customers should aware of the surfaces they touch and be careful not to touch their face. Cover both mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of the elbow when coughing or sneezing.

When finishing a journey, customers should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise them hands as soon as possible.

Face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from coronavirus but not showing symptoms. People with coronavirus symptoms, as well as members of their household, should continue to follow the advice to self-isolate.

Additional Government guidance on actions that drivers, operators and owners of taxis or private hire vehicles (PHVs) can take to protect against coronavirus (updated 3 March)

The Government's full safer travel guidance is available on their website. 

Guidance released from the Department for Transport on safer transport guidance for operators.

Protective screens

Consider whether to install protective screens within your vehicle(s).

We support the installation of such screens, provided they do not compromise public safety. Drivers wishing to install these should examine the following information and first seek advice from the Licensing team by emailing licensing@northdevon.gov.uk

Protective screens in taxis (Safety/Covid-19 etc) (404KB)

Safety screens for taxis and PHVs (published 3 March)

Guide dog advice for taxi staff 

If screens are not in place, where possible ask all passengers to sit in the back of your vehicle.

COVID-19 risk assessment

You (or your employer) must undertake a COVID-19 risk assessment before working. You should think about how you work and ways you can protect yourself and your passengers.

Hygiene and safety advice

  • Before a journey ask your passengers if they or anyone in their household have had coronavirus symptoms (New, continuous cough, high temperature or loss or change to smell or taste) or have had a positive test in the last ten days. You should politely refuse service if they have and remind them to adhere to the government social distancing guidelines
  • Before the journey clearly explain to passengers what is expected from them with regards to hygiene and social distancing
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds in accordance with NHS guidelines. You can keep a bottle of water and a bar of soap in your vehicle or use a sanitizer gel. Sanitiser gel should be a minimum 60% alcohol
  • You should wash or sanitise your hands if you come into contact with a passenger or their luggage. You should do this before and after contact
  • Carry disposable tissues with you to catch coughs and sneezes. Dispose of in a plastic carrier after use. Have these available for customers too. Dispose of as soon as possible but a least daily
  • Avoid the use of cash instead use a contactless payment method instead
  • Open windows to provide ventilation and/or use the car's vents to bring in fresh air. You should not use the recirculated air option
  • Consider using larger vehicles for passengers such as minibuses, to allow more space

Keep your vehicle clean to reduce the impact of the virus

  • Before starting work and between each passenger journey clean surfaces regularly with sanitising wipes or spray including card payment devices, seatbelt buckles, door handles and other surfaces that customers may touch
  • Where possible always keep the windows open when there is a passenger in the vehicle to help with ventilation
  • Open doors and/or windows to ventilate the car for at least 5 minutes between passengers
  • Clean your driver door, steering wheel, gear stick, switches and other areas you touch on a regular basis
  • Where a vehicle is shared, regularly clean the steering wheels, handbrake, door handles. At the beginning, middle and end of a shift as a minimum
  • Switch off the air conditioning or set it to avoid recycling air within the vehicle to a setting that brings fresh air in and enables air changes to take place

Everyone should do what they can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus 

Critical worker status 

Taxi and private hire drivers should not generally be considered critical workers. Those undertaking home to school transport or the transport of ‘extremely vulnerable’ people may be considered critical workers on a case-by-case basis. Critical workers should also whenever possible make suitable arrangements for their children to stay at home; requests for children to attend school should be discussed with the school.”

Current arrangements due to COVID-19

There will be no face to face appointments for the foreseeable future at any of the Council offices. Applications must be made by either submitting an application by email, scanning appropriate documents to: licensing@northdevon.gov.uk or by posting the appropriate documents in the post box at Lynton House Barnstaple. Licences and documents will be returned by either post or email.

It is essential we have your correct email address and request you include this clearly on your application.

Payments can be made by card by contacting customer services on: 01271 388870 or by BACS Account no: 03956504, Sort Code: 60-02-03, Ref: please use the ‘our ref’ code stated on the front of your enclosed letter.

Please note, due to the current situation we are unable to check any meters.

Licensing of new or replacement hackney carriage and private-hire vehicles

When a vehicle is licensed, checks are ordinarily made by officers in respect of the operation of top lights; condition of body work, and interior; presence of fire extinguisher; first aid kit, etc. Additionally, a meter test is undertaken to ensure that taximeters are calibrated effectively, and there is no risk of over-charging members of the public. In light of the current situation, it is not proposed to enter hackney carriage or private hire vehicles at this time to undertake these checks or complete meter tests, and therefore a time limited derogation from the current procedure and Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy is currently operating as follows: 

  • officers will ask for photographs to evidence vehicle condition inside and out; presence of meter; top light (on and off); fire-extinguisher; and first aid kit
  • plates will be sent out in the post
  • no meter test will be undertaken, and meters will remain unsealed

Please note, a licence plate being displayed on a licensed vehicle is deemed of paramount importance in terms of public confidence. As such, the above derogation exists only in circumstances where vehicle plates can continue to be made by us, and posted to vehicle proprietors.  

Hackney carriage and private hire vehicle inspections

Our policy indicates that a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle shall be tested once per year until it is six years old, and thereafter twice per year, at six monthly intervals. The test must be carried out by an authorised MOT examiner at an approved MOT testing station, and conducted against the prescribed inspection checklist. This is in addition to an MOT, which for hackney carriages is required at one year old and thereafter for taxis and at three years old and thereafter for private hire vehicles.

Due to fact that garages are not being required to close, the same principles will apply in that if a test can still be undertaken, it should be completed. However, if a situation arises whereby garage tests are unable to be undertaken, the same extension of time as for MOT test periods (six months) will also be applied to garage tests.

Surrender of hackney carriage or private hire vehicle licence during the the pandemic

Hackney carriage/private hire vehicles can be surrendered during this time by completing an application form (pdf 66 KB) and complying with the requirements specified. If you wish to replate the vehicle at a later date you must do so by 31 March 2021 and the five year age policy will not apply. We will also transfer any fee left pro-rata to any new application.