One in five taxis ‘unfit for the road’

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ONE in five Sheffield taxis inspected during a month were so unsafe they were suspended from the road - and almost two-thirds were not complying with safety regulations.

Statistics released by Sheffield Council for the first four months of the year show a steady rise in the number of black cabs and minicabs said not to meet standards.

Of 102 vehicles tested in April, 61, or 59 per cent, failed, and 21 were suspended for unroadworthiness, a rate of more than 20pc. In January, 84 cabs were tested, 21 failed and eight were suspended.

Suspension notices are issued for vehicles which have mechanical problems serious enough to fail an MoT test.

In the four months from January to April, 488 vehicles were tested and 180 failed. And 55 vehicles, or 11pc, had their licences suspended for serious faults.

Hafeas Rehman, chairman of Sheffield Taxi Trade Association, which represents drivers of black cabs, moved to reassure the public. He said the bar by which black cabs and minicabs are tested for safety is set higher than the MoT test for other vehicles.

“The results are slightly misleading in terms of the fact people might think a failure means the vehicle is automatically not roadworthy.

“Suspensions are given to vehicles that would not pass an MoT, whereas a failure to meet a safety test can be for things like warning stickers being peeled off in the passenger area.

“A lot of drivers who buy used taxis now put them through the full mechanical test before they start work, even if their last certificate was still valid.”

Councillors agreed a request by taxi drivers to delay the date of vehicles’ first safety inspections by 12 months.

All black cab and private hire vehicles had faced mandatory checks at five years old. That will now be six.

Black cabs were then tested yearly up to eight years and from then twice-yearly. Now, the cabs will be tested annually between six and nine years old, followed by twice-yearly inspections until they are 15, when they cannot have a licence.

Private hire taxis must have twice-yearly tests from the age of six and are no longer licensed beyond nine years.

Owners are charged £59 per test for black cabs, and £54 for private hire vehicles.

The drivers’ request, made by Mohammed Yasin, chairman of Sheffield Private Hire Drivers’ Association, was approved by the council licensing board.

Mr Yasin said: “The five-year rule has been in place for over 20 years while the standard of vehicles has improved beyond recognition for safety, comfort, reliability and environmentally-friendly fuels.

“The tests are about ensuring the safety of the passengers and driver. The change will help cut running costs.”