INDEPENDENT NEWS

Tougher New Test for Taxi Drivers

Published: Tue 1 Oct 2002 02:51 PM
Tougher New Test for Taxi Drivers
Transport Minister Paul Swain announced that a new area knowledge and English language test for taxi drivers is available from today.
Speaking at the NZ Taxi Federation annual conference in Nelson this morning, Mr Swain said the new test, which will be phased in over the next few months, toughens up the requirements for would-be taxi drivers
“The new test has a higher oral component (to test language skills), a greater emphasis on map reading and a section on devising alternate routes with more emphasis on buildings and city facilities.
“The new test is in response to industry concern and considerable anecdotal evidence about the poor English and area knowledge skills of some taxi drivers,” said Mr Swain.
“Another issue is that the test is open to fraudulent practices because some test providers have a vested interest in the result,” he said. “To address this the LTSA will take a more pro-active approach to monitoring the tests, particularly those administered by independent test providers.”
Mr Swain also said the government was committed to re-introducing legislation to cover taxi fare evasion. “The so-called taxi-runner offence is currently covered by generic theft legislation but it is difficult to prove intent,” he said.
“Re-introducing taxi-running as a separate offence will act as a deterrent for fare evaders and will give taxi operators the support for demanding payment for their work.”
To improve passenger safety, the government is considering introducing an Operator Safety Rating System to rate the safety performance of all operators, including taxis, freight, bus, taxis, said Mr Swain. “Under the proposed system individual drivers and/or transport companies would be rated on data collected over a 12-month period such as crash involvement, transport-related convictions of drivers and operators, pass/fail rates of vehicle inspections and the outcome of Police stops. The suggested ratings are: Unsatisfactory, Conditional, Satisfactory and Superior. “Operators who receive an ‘unsatisfactory’ rating would be suspended from operating for 28 days and then rated again. This could also apply to an entire company.”
The government is also proposing changes to the Driving Hours and Logbooks system for taxi drivers, said Mr Swain.
The proposed changes include: a simplification of the system by redefining “on-duty and “drive-time” to “work-time” - this will reduce confusion for drivers who are required to allocate their hours using three different categories. a reset of the 24 hour clock after 10 hours of continuous rest, removing the confusion over when you’re allowed to restart work an extension of the rest period from 9 hours to 10 hours an extension of the work period before a regulated break is required from 5 ½ hours to 7 hours.
“These initiatives are aimed at improving safety by giving drivers more rest between shifts,” said Mr Swain. “Alternative management schemes, where companies design their own driving hour management systems, may also be allowed. However these systems would need to be approved by the LTSA.
“The re-introduction of the taxi-runner offence, the introduction of an Operator Safety Rating System and the proposed changes to the Driving Hours and Logbooks system will all be covered by the Land Transport Amendment Bill, which I intend to introduce to Parliament next year,” said Mr Swain.
A full text of Mr Swain’s speech accompanies this press release.

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