TPH announced some time ago that from next year there will be a change in the testing procedure for London Taxis. No longer will we be required to present our Taxis at SGS for its annual inspection but instead we will be required to have 2 MOTs per year and on the Annual anniversary of its license we will also have to present our taxi to the new TPH contractor for a safety check and issue of plates, this new testing regime is much along the lines of what PH are subjected to now.
We already had a lowering of standards when testing of London Taxis was moved from the old Public Carriage Office to the system that we now have with SGS and this new system will see our standards lowered even further as the standard for an MOT is nowhere near as high as the standard required by SGS to get a Taxi through its annual inspection. I know of a lot of cabs that I have presented to SGS that have failed their Overhaul that would have quite easily passed a DoT MOT test. There is also the problem of “bent MOTs” as we all know someone who can get a “hooky MOT”, I have even been offered MOTs from garages where I have not had to present the vehicle, obviously for a fee over and above the standard MOT test fee.
Some drivers out there will obviously be pleased that they will be able to take their Taxi to any MOT test station to get it inspected and not have to go through what they see as an expensive and over zealous inspection that they feel is unwarranted and unnecessary, these are probably the same drivers who do not bother having their cab serviced throughout the year and then complain that their overhaul has cost them dearly due to their lack of maintenance, or the ones who drive around with bald tyres, or the ones that protest that they cannot afford to have a repair effected to their cab! Personally I cannot see the argument of not being able to have the cab repaired due to the fact that it is a Taxi drivers means of earning a living so in essence you cant afford not to have the cab repaired.
I think that this new testing procedure is the worst thing that could happen to our trade with regards to vehicle testing, it will see our standards fall to an all time low and the drop in standards will soon become apparent by the state of the taxis plying for hire on the streets of our capital city. I have seen some Taxi that have had no maintenance throughout the year and need a lot of work to get them through the overhaul but yet they may just scrap through an MOT, now with these type of owners it will be nearly 2 years before they are forced to have any work done to their vehicle and that will only happen when the taxi fails its MOT on the second year, so you can imagine what sort of state the taxi will be in by then.
There is also the problem of some of the fleets where the owners are a little unscrupulous to say the least, if they own their own garage and decide to have an MOT inspection area installed will they be inclined to pass their own cabs no matter what faults they have just to get them back on the road? If they do the cabs could end up in a really bad state of repair and they could keep doing this as long as the cab passes its TPH safety check which if the PH trade check is anything to go by it will be an absolute breeze to get a cab through.
What will happen to our dedicated Taxi garages? will they survive after the demise of the yearly overhaul? Probably not, well not in their current format, we have already seen a few garages close in London one of the more prominent being Coachlines who have been around for years. Taxi Garages will have to change the way in which they work and charge in order to survive, the garage trade will be very quiet for the first year after the system has changed as drivers will probably take it upon themselves to get their cab MOTed and only have the minimal work done to get it through should it fail.
We have worked on and seen many taxis that work in areas other than London and the standard is nowhere near as high as in London, in particular we service a number of Medway plated taxis which are required to have 4 MOTs per year, and I can confirm that not one of them would pass an SGS inspection and the fall a long way short of what I consider to be suitable to carry fare paying passengers, when I first started servicing them they were in a terrible state and yet they were still passing their inspections, they are now up to a reasonable level of maintenance but still at a lot lower standard than that required in London.
Taxi Garages for years have seen servicing as a bit of a loss leader with the overhaul work bringing in the profit, servicing is done at a very low price i n order to keep the customer happy so that they return to the garage for their overhaul work to be done, but with the overhaul work gone what will happen to servicing prices? well your £50 TX1 service earns the garage nothing basically, the actual cost of the parts to if the driver were to buy them retail would equal what he is being charged by the garage to do the work for him. So if the garage earns basically nothing from servicing a taxi and then reaps the benefit from the overhaul work what will happen when the overhaul work comes to an end? The garage will have to start charging realistic prices for any servicing work which would be retail prices for parts plus a decent hourly labour rate, they will have no choice otherwise they will go out of business.
Some drivers may well be happy to see the demise of Taxi garages as I have heard certain drivers refer to garage owners as piss takers and that may well be true in some cases, but in the vast majority of garages are respectable and honest, it would definitely be detrimental to our trade if lots of taxi garages were to close and if you do not believe me try taking your taxi to a normal car garage for a service, 1 it will cost you more, 2 it will definitely be off the road for longer. Also your running repairs and breakdowns would require a longer downtime as car garages obviously do not stock Taxi parts, most order parts in on an “as needed” basis, whereas your average taxi garage carries most of the essential parts in stock.
I personally cannot see how this change is going to benefit our trade in anyway, it is detrimental and possibly damaging to our envious reputation of being the Best Taxi Service in the World. We are at risk of our standards dropping as low as those of PH which just brings us down another level towards them with the difference between us and them becoming less and the distinction between the two trades being eroded which is something that we need to resist where possible.
I might be wrong about all this and only time will tell if my predictions are right, but if I am proved right it will mean our trade is becoming less stringently regulated and our reputation would become tarnished, I hope I am wrong!