Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles

Taxi and PHV license regulations for driver knowledge and vehicle integrity are strict in United Kingdom. In fact, the regulation of taxicabs and private hire vehicles is especially meticulous in London.

Information in this section explains the driver and vehicle licence rules and regulations for taxis and PHVs (also called hackney carriages, black cabs, or London taxis).

Taxi and PHV Licensing

As a rule, the local authority regulates taxis in most metropolitan areas across the United Kingdom. They also enforce the rules on taxi colouring (e.g. blue hackney carriages in Bristol, and white with aquamarine in Bristol).

Even so, there are different types of taxi and PHV licensing rules and regulations (inside London and outside):

  • Hackney carriages have a meter. They are licensed to pick up fare paying passengers on the street or those who have pre-booked. The local authority sets the meter charges (even though the driver might choose to negotiate a lower fare with the customer).

  • Private hire vehicles (PHVs) must be pre-booked and it will be the private hire operator that sets the rates.
  • Licensed hackney carriages (taxis) can only pick up fare paying passengers off the street in the area where they obtained a taxi license. But, taxis and private hire vehicles (PHV) can pick up anywhere in the United Kingdom, providing (both):

    • It is a pre-booked fare.
    • The driver, the vehicle, and the operator are all licensed within the same borough.

    That is one reason why your taxi could be from another city. Some of the neighbouring local authorities have set up agreements with each other.

    It now allows them to deputise enforcement officers operating in several different areas. Doing so gives them the power to apprehend taxis who ‘trespass’ outside of their licensed area.

    Of course, there is a legal way for taxi drivers to operate their driving businesses outside of their particular area. The correct method is to obtain multiple licences (i.e. one for each licence authority area).

    Last time we checked:

    A UKPollingReport election guide declared Luton as having the highest number of taxicabs in United Kingdom (per head of population).

    Driver Licence for Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles

    This section explains how to apply for driving licences for a taxi or for a private hire vehicle (PHV). The type of driver licence you need will depend on whether you will be operating inside or outside London.

    Outside London

    You should apply to the local council to get a driver licence for driving a taxi or a private hire vehicle (PHV) outside of London.

    The eligibility criteria to apply for a driver’s licence for taxi and PHV includes:

    • Being allowed to work ‘legally’ in the United Kingdom.
    • Having held a full GB or Northern Ireland driving licence for at least twelve (12) months (or full EU driving licence).
    • Be considered as a ‘fit and proper person’ (you may have your background and character checked).

    The council can check the criminal record of someone applying for a taxi licence. So, they may carry out an enhanced criminal records check as part of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

    As a rule, you will also need:

    • A medical examination
    • A ‘driver knowledge’ test
    • To take a ‘taxi driving test’

    The local council in your area will confirm what their specific requirements are, the fees, how to apply, and licence renewal procedures.

    Inside London

    Transport for London (TfL) issue licences for taxi and private hire drivers in the capital city. You can contact TfL licensing department to check the eligibility criteria for becoming a taxi or PHV driver in London.

    Successful applicants will receive a renewal form from Transport for London (TfL) before the expiry of the current taxi or PHV driver’s licence.

    Important: Failing to renew your licence before it expires means you will be unable to work as a taxi or a PHV driver. Some of the rules and regulations for taxi operator licensing differ in for Northern Ireland.

    Vehicle Licence for Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles

    You cannot operate your vehicle as a taxi or as a private hire vehicle (PHV) until you get it licensed. The method you use to apply for a taxi vehicle licence will depend on whether you will be operating in London or outside.

    Inside London

    Vehicle Licences for London Taxis

    Transport for London (TfL) will need to inspect your vehicle. It must meet the eligibility criteria set out by TfL for your particular type of vehicle.

    Vehicle Licence for Private Hire Vehicles

    You would need to apply for a private hire vehicle licence with Transport for London to use it for private hire work. To meet the eligibility criteria, the private hire vehicle must:

    • Contain no more than eight (8) passenger seats.
    • Not be the same in appearance to a licensed taxi (e.g. the London-style ‘black cab’).
    • Only display advertising that complies with TfL guidelines.
    • Display valid licence discs (some exceptions may apply).

    Note: TfL will need to inspect your vehicle. They also produce further details on the policy, regulations, and legislation for the London taxi and private hire industry.

    Outside London

    The local council will need to licence and inspect your taxi or private hire vehicle if you will be operating outside of London.

    If you have more than one vehicle you would need to get a licence for all of them. None of the vehicles can have more than eight (8) passenger seats.

    As a rule, the council will want to check the vehicle to make sure it is in a roadworthy, clean, condition and:

    • It is comfortable for passengers to use.
    • The doors are safe and secure.
    • The taximeter is working properly.

    You will need adequate vehicle insurance that includes you as the named driver and covers you to operate for hire and reward. Your local council will confirm how often they test PHVs. But, it cannot be more than three (3) times per year.

    Important: Failing to fix any problems within two (2) months of a test failure can result in the loss of a PHV licence.

    Council Conditions for PHVs

    In some cases, the council will attach certain conditions to private hire vehicle licences, such as:

    • The colour scheme of the vehicle.
    • The use of a taximeter.
    • Restrictions on the use of roof signs.

    Refusals and How to Make an Appeal

    There are several reasons why a local council will refuse an application for a taxi and PHV vehicle licence, such as if:

    • The applicant does not accept any conditions given to them.
    • The vehicle fails to meet the eligibility criteria.
    • The local authority decides to control the number of taxis operating in the area.

    Having made a decision, the applicant would get an explanation from the council about the right to appeal, for situations that include:

    • The refusal of an application for a vehicle licence.
    • The suspension, revocation, or the refusal to renew a vehicle licence by the licensing authority.

    You can make an appeal to a crown court about a taxi licence decision. But, you would need to appeal to a magistrates court about a private hire vehicle decision.

    Important: Some of the processes for driving or operating taxis (e.g. taxi theory test) differ in Northern Ireland.

    PHV Operator Licence Outside London

    There are several licences required to run a business as a private hire vehicle (PHV) operator in the United Kingdom. One of the important ones is a PHV operator licence issued by the local authority.

    Anyone who works as a one-person operator would also need to get driver and vehicle licences as well.

    Note: The licence requirements vary in the different regions. You can find your local council online to get further information and advice.

    PHV Operator Licence Validity

    The maximum length of time a private hire vehicle operator licence can last is five (5) years. Whereas, the maximum validity of driver licenses is three (3) years and up to one (1) year for vehicle licences.

    Note: The driver, the vehicle, and the operator must be licensed by the same licensing authority.

    Appealing a Licence Application Refusal

    There are several reasons why a PHV licence application may be refused (e.g. failing to meet the criteria of a ‘fit and proper person’).

    The authority may also refuse to issue an operator licence if the applicant does not accept any attached conditions.

    In this case, you would be able to make an appeal to a magistrates’ court if the licensing authority:

    • Refuses to grant your application.
    • Suspends your licence, takes it away, or they refuse to renew it.

    Note: You can use the online service to find the contact details for magistrates’ courts and tribunal venues in England and Wales.

    Operator Licences for Taxi or PHV Business in London

    You must be at least 21 years of age and have a TfL driver’s licence to become a taxi driver and operate in London.

    Anyone who runs a private hire business would also need to have the correct driver’s licence (either).

    • A small operator’s licence (for running up to 2 vehicles for private hire bookings).
    • A standard operator’s licence (no limit on the number of vehicles you run).

    Note: There is a fee for each type of licence and it would last for up to five (5) years. Receiving payment for taking bookings or for supplying drivers for hire without holding a valid operator’s licence can result in a prosecution.

    Apply for Private Hire Operator Licence

    You must apply for a private hire operator licence from TfL to run a business as a private hire operator inside London. The same rules apply for transport and driving businesses that involve minicabs or stretch limousines.

    Note: You would also need to hold a vehicle licence for private hire or for taxis and the correct driver’s licence (details above).

    Limousine Licensing Regulations

    Limousines do not require a licence when used for weddings and funerals providing they have no more than eight (8) passenger seats. But, unless the limousine is being hired out without a driver, it must be run by a licensed operator.

    • Small limousines (seating up to 8 passengers): You will need to get a private hire vehicle (PHV) operator licence (differs inside and outside London).
    • Large limousines (seating 9 passengers or more): You will need the public sector vehicle (PSV) operator licence.

    Important: Operators who try to avoid limo licensing regulations by hiring out the vehicle and drivers (e.g. chauffeurs) separately are breaking the law.

    Stretched Limo Vehicle Standards

    As a rule, Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) is a requirement for the registration and licensing of stretch limousines.

    Note: A Certificate of Fitness (COIF) is usually accepted for limos built before the 29th of July 2011.

    Enforcement of Fines and Penalties

    Authorities can destroy or confiscate a limousine if it does not have the correct license or is not adequately insured. Certain other types of violations and offences can result in a prosecution and a fine.

    Note: The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) have developed further guidance for operators of stretch limousines (e.g. vehicle registration and standards).

    Reporting Unlicensed Taxi or Minicab Drivers

    Taxi and Private Hire Accessibility: Statutory Guidance

    New guidance commenced on the 28th of June 2022 reflecting the amendments made by the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022 (the 2022 Act) to the Equality Act 2010.

    As a result, it provides statutory and non-statutory guidance in England, Scotland, and Wales that covers the duties (and related offences) under the taxi and private hire vehicle sections.

    Moreover, it helps licensing authorities implement new laws enabling disabled passengers who use taxis and private hire vehicles, with detailed advice about:

    • Communicating the new requirements to drivers as well as the operators.
    • Designating vehicles as being ‘wheelchair accessible’.
    • Enforcing the new statutory requirements concerning access to taxis and private hire vehicles for disabled users.
    • How to handle exemption applications from taxi drivers.

    In a nutshell, new legislation helps to ensure more than 13 million disabled people will receive help while traveling with dignity and confidence and get protected against being charged extra.

    Important: Taxis are licenced to be at a rank or to be hailed in the street. But, a minicab (often called a ‘private hire vehicle’) must be pre-booked.

    Report Unlicensed Taxi Outside London

    Local council authorities licence minicabs and taxis. But, minicabs licensed outside of London cannot have the same design or appearance as the local taxis (see above). The main reason is so that passengers can tell them apart

    You can report an operator or a driver that is operating without a licence by contacting the council in the area where the offence took place.

    Report Unlicensed Taxi Inside London

    Transport for London (TfL) licenses taxis and minicab firms that operate inside London. In fact, London taxis are purpose-built vehicles that:

    • Do not have more than eight (8) passenger seats.
    • Are accessible for disabled people.
    • Display a plate on the back of the vehicle that shows their taxi licence number.

    London minicabs must display special discs on the windscreen and on the rear window to show proof that they are licensed. TfL provide a special form to report touting and illegal cabs inside the capital city.

    Note: The Department for Transport announced new licensing guidelines in February 2019 to increase the safety of passengers in taxis and minicabs.

    Taxi and PHV Licensing Regulations in United Kingdom