Taking punters for a ride: 43% of Bolton taxis deemed ‘unfit’ in council spot-checks

By Dominic Claeys-Jackson

Illegal tyres, brake pads and seat belt provision are just three reasons why a shocking 43% of taxis spot-checked by Bolton Council last year were suspended.

Across ten days of inspection between May and December, authorities failed 47 out of 114 vehicles for breaching mechanical, structural or aesthetic standards.

And Greater Manchester Police – working in conjunction with Bolton Council – even issued fixed penalty notices to 11 drivers whose vehicles were dangerously unfit for the road.

A Bolton Council spokesperson said: “It is the responsibility of licensed drivers to ensure the vehicles are safe and sound.

“The council therefore carries out a number of spot checks throughout each year to ensure that these vehicles meet the required standards and vehicles are suspended when they fail on a serious defect.”

Checks by Bolton Council’s Licensing Enforcement Officers were undertaken with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and GMP.

Four days of May spot-checks saw 19 out of 38 (50%) taxis suspended, with 11 fixed penalty notices and nine council advice notices issued.

Taxis were suspended for critically hazardous defects including illegal tyres, lack of seat belts, inoperative lights and failure to carry an onboard fire extinguisher.

June saw two days of spot-checks, with illegal tyres, inoperative lights and lack of fire extinguisher again reasons why 19 out of 35 (54%) cars were suspended.

Worn brake pads, corrosion and a split boot were further mechanical and structural defects while failure to display fare cards and window stickers also featured.

In November, dangerous vehicles were suspended for corroded and damaged brake pipes, oil leaks and insufficiently-lined brake pads, across two spot-checking days.

And, in checks on December 1, illegal tyres, inoperative lights and lack of fire extinguisher again counted amongst the reasons for failure.

Suspension rates lowered to 27% (11 out of 41) in the final two months of 2012 – but this coincided with new, looser methods of vehicle assessment.

Under these new guidelines, only the most serious safety defects result in suspension, yet Bolton Council insisted that their latest testing framework would improve quality.

A spokesperson claimed that the system contains more robust measures for identifying and suspending dangerous vehicles.

“We will be talking to the trade representatives and taxi operators about working together to improve standards,” the spokesperson added.

Under legislation, operators must only dispatch council-licensed vehicles which are clean, carry relevant notices and identification, are insured, and are mechanically and structurally safe.

Indeed, operators and proprietors risk contravening road traffic legislation by dispatching failing cars, as they are perceived as ‘causing’ another person to drive the vehicle.

If faults of suspended vehicles are not rectified within a week, drivers must submit their plates to the council’s licensing team.

Licences will then be revoked if faults are not rectified within two months.

Abid Malik, manager of Bank Street Private Hire in Bolton, said that his company had strict measures in place to ensure drivers take vehicle condition seriously.

“Every morning the management send messages to the drivers’ mobiles using the data system, telling them to make sure that their lights are working and their vehicles are clean, and so on,” he said.

“There are similar automatic messages that go onto the data system in the drivers’ cars every four hours, so that it gets drilled into the drivers.

“We have a driver policy in place of three strikes and you’re out, because we just think of the safety of our passengers.”

GMP declined to comment.

Picture courtesy of Carlos62, with thanks.

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