Should there be national limits for the age of taxis?

vintage style red hackney carriage on a busy road

Choosing the right vehicle is key to every taxi driver’s business.

How much they pay and how they pay for it depends on how long they are planning to keep it. Some might pay upfront for a used cab or PHV, while others might take a new car on finance.

While each taxi business is different, many drivers keep their vehicles from new for about 10 years, which helps them keep on top of their finances. But it is the local licensing authorities that set the age limits for taxis and PHVs and this plays a big part in which vehicles drivers choose – while they might find the perfect car, if it only has a short working life left under some authorities, they might need something else.

Value for money

Whatever vehicle they choose, cabbies will want to get as much value as possible out of them.

With the rising price of cars and cost of motoring in general, many councils have increased the permitted ages at which vehicles can be used as taxis and PHVs, which means drivers can keep vehicles longer – usually an extra two to three years.

Last year, drivers in Cambridge breathed a sigh of relief after the council increased the upper age limit on vehicles from nine years to 11. They, like cabbies across the UK, were still feeling the effects of pandemic and lockdowns.

In 2022, taxi and PHV drivers in Telford were given a three-year extension, from 12 years to 15.

National standards

Changes such as this have led to calls for national tax and PHV standards. A good starting point would be a uniform approach to vehicles, including their age and safety. Among the arguments for extending vehicle life in Telford was that drivers who were refused could simply be licensed with another authority with different standards but still operate in the area.

Faced with a similar situation, Wakefield Council is the latest to increase the age limit of its taxis and PHVs.

The maximum age of petrol and diesel cabs has increased from 10 to 12 years and multi-seater and vehicles with wheelchair access has been extended from 12 to 15 years.

Following the push for greener motoring, full electric vehicles can operate for up to 20 years.

The decision was taken after consultation in a bid to ease financial pressures on cabbies, according to the Wakefield Express, and follows similar moves in neighbouring Leeds, Calderdale and Kirklees councils.

The council said: “Responses were, overall, in favour of an increase to age limits, with a number of comments requesting limits beyond those proposed.”

In each vehicle category – EV, hybrid, petrol and diesel – more than 70% of people were in favour of increasing the upper age limit of vehicles.

And 83% were in favour of increasing the age limit for wheelchair accessible and multi-seater vehicles to 15 years. The shortage of these types of vehicles has become an issue in many licensing authorities.

National standards

It makes sense that councils such as Wakefield listen to taxi and PHV drivers and understand the issues they are facing, especially when it comes to the great expense of replacing their vehicles.

The next step could be to introduce national standards, especially the age of vehicles, which puts drivers on a level playing field. This does not mean that cabbies will be driving around in old bangers – as with MoTs and current checks, anything that is deemed unfit or unsafe will not be allowed on the roads.

The 20-year lifespan of EVs is intended to encourage taxi drivers to switch to greener motoring and it makes sense to make it a national strategy that will have impact, rather than varying from council to council.

It would also give drivers clearer direction for future goals, so that they have time to make sure their business is sustainable and ready for Net Zero Carbon.

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.