| 25 May 2024, Saturday |

Taxi driver shortage in UK prompts public safety fears

According to the industry’s representative organization, more than half of licensed taxi drivers have not returned to work since the pandemic.

According to the Licensed Private Car Hire Association (LPCHA), the industry is short 160,000 of its previously 300,000-strong workforce.

During lockdowns, many drivers left the industry as demand plummeted.

The shortage has raised concerns about the safety of women, students, and night workers attempting to return home.

A backlog in costly vehicle licensing and registration, as well as criminal and medical checks for drivers, has resulted in what the LPCHA has dubbed a “perfect storm.”

A taxi driver must apply for a licence from their local council, which can cost up to £600 per year. Drivers must also obtain a criminal record check and a full medical examination, as well as the infamous “Knowledge” exam in some cases.

“This is a true national problem that affects everyone,” said Steve Wright, the LPCHA’s chairman.

“We’ve had calls from Inverness in Scotland all the way down to Cornwall from people saying they can’t get drivers or licenses fast enough,” he told the BBC.

It has left thousands of customers stranded. Taxis provide an essential service, transporting people to and from hospital appointments, shopping, and, of course, safely home after an evening out.

Taz Harrison, Welfare Officer at Stoke-on-The Trent’s Sugarmill, expressed concern about both staff and customers getting a ride.

“I’m leaving the club at 4 a.m. and won’t be able to get a taxi until 5 or 6 a.m.,” she explained.

“It’s a long time to be standing alone in town – before the pandemic, it was 5-10 minutes.”

“I’ve worked in venues for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The Sugarmill is turning away 600 music fans at the same time that multiple venues in Hanley are doing the same.

“The vast majority of people have given up and are walking,” Harrison added.

This comes as no surprise to Staffordshire University students.

“There aren’t any taxis anywhere, or they’re all shady,” explained one student.

“You get in, and they want money before you go anywhere,” she went on.