According to industry figures, more than half the UK’s taxi drivers have left since the Covid pandemic which caused a shortage that was worse than the HGV driver shortage.
The Licensed Private Car Hire Association, (LPCHA), estimates that the UK’s private and taxi hire industry is down to 160,000 of the 300,000.
It comes after MailOnline revealed that there was a shortage Uber drivers, many of whom have switched to takeaway delivery because of the drop in taxi demand.
The LPCHA warns now that the shortage is affecting both the taxi industry and the private hire sector.
According to the trade association tens and thousands of drivers have left the industry in order to work for Amazon, as demand plummeted during last year’s Covid lockdowns.
They also claim that delays in licensing, which is handled by local councils, have hampered their efforts in bringing in new drivers.
The shortage has raised concerns about the safety and well-being of students, women, and night workers who are trying to get home at night.
The LPCHA bosses warn that the crisis is worse than the HGV driver shortage. This shortage left petrol stations without fuel earlier this year and has since threatened to cause shortages in supermarkets.
MailOnline spoke with Steve Wright, a representative from the LPCHA. He said that it was a “perfect storm”. Many drivers left the industry in the wake of the pandemic.
“Quite a few people went to Amazon to drive delivery because they couldn’t afford to buy their cars (before the pandemic), and they also bought them on finance.
“We are still trying for a lot of those people that left because they had to find other jobs – they have mortgages and children to support.
According to the Licensed Private Car Hire Association (LPCHA), the UK’s taxi- and private-hire industry is currently short of 160,000 of its 300,000.
MailOnline spoke with Steve Wright, a representative from the LPCHA. He said that it was a “perfect storm”. Many drivers quit the industry during the pandemic and many have not returned.
“Also many local councils shut down their licensing offices during pandemic, so there’s a huge backlog now which is slowing down things.”
When he was asked about the extent of the problem, he replied: “This is a very really big concern. Although there has been much talk about the HGV crisis, this problem is even worse.
“And it is impacting businesses as well, such as pubs, clubs, and restaurants, since people don’t know when they’ll be able get home.”
“I even went to trade meetings a few months ago and couldn’t get taxis home.
Mr Wright, who has been in the industry since 1973, called on the Government to step in and help clear the backlog.
Current rules require that taxi drivers apply to their local council to be licensed as either a taxi driver or private hire driver.
Taxi drivers (such as black cab drivers) can be hail on the street. Private hire cars such as Uber vehicles must be booked ahead.
Licences can cost up to £600 a year and drivers must also obtain a criminal record check and medical check. In certain cases, drivers may need to pass a “Knowledge” test where they must prove their excellent knowledge of the local roads.
These background checks are important because of safety concerns and can take some time.
Industry chiefs warn that there is a backlog in councils due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
MailOnline was told by the LGA, or the Local Government Association that councils were working hard to clear the backlog.
Taxi drivers (such as black cab drivers) can be hail on the street. Private hire cars such as Uber vehicles must be booked in advance
Local councils are also taking a proactive stance to combat the taxi driver shortage.
In Torbay in Devon, they have slashed the cost of licensing to just £50 to get more drivers behind the wheel.
Christine Carter, Councillor of the BBC, said that there were huge lines for taxis and the tourist industry was being affected. She added that they thought it best to intervene.
“In the summer, we had taxi marshals to assist people, and we will do that again at Christmas to make sure it’s as safe as possible.”
The Night Time Industries Association stated that it was ‘alarmed by the driver shortage’.
Michael Kill, the BBC’s chief executive, spoke out to urge the Government to prioritise the issue. The Government recently intervened to address the nation’s shortage of HGV drivers.
Michael Kill, the BBC’s chief executive, called for the priority of the issue by the Government. He recently intervened in an attempt to solve the nation’s shortage of HGV drivers.
He stated that ‘With a focus upon vulnerability, and safety of women at night, as well as thousands of night workers across the nation, we cannot underestimate how important these services are in keeping people safe at night.
MailOnline was informed by a spokesperson from the LGA that the councils were seeking a pragmatic approach in order to deal with the issue.
According to the spokesperson, COVID-19 had had a significant impact on taxis and PHV trade as well as other areas of the economy.
“We saw a drop in the number of private-hire vehicle drivers during the pandemic, and many of these drivers moved into other sectors, including food delivery.
“Councils have worked hard in trying to support the sector by taking an open and pragmatic approach throughout this pandemic.
“Authorities will continue their efforts to protect the public as businesses seek to increase driver numbers.
MailOnline was told by a government spokesperson that although taxi licences are the responsibility of local authorities, we continue to work closely with industry groups to address potential shortages.
“Throughout the pandemic we supported private hire vehicle driver through grants from Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.”
A spokesperson for DfT said that the Government had set out to support drivers during the pandemic by offering its Self-Employment Income Support Schemes (SEISS).
It also said it would be issuing a consultation for a revised Best Practice Guidance to licensing authorities in the new year.
A spokesperson for the local licensing authority stated that the guidance will prompt them to review what they require in taxi and/or PHV licensing as well as what the benefits and costs to passengers and trade.