Like it or not, Taxi and Private Hire companies and drivers have been left to their own devices when implementing measures designed to ensure the safety of both passengers and Drivers. We could be critical of central government and local authorities for not making the rules of engagement clear but we’re in unknown territory and we believe that its reasonable for the public to use their own judgement when deciding when and how to travel.
At Vokes, Windmill and Rainham Taxis we moved quickly to implement a number of measures designed to keep everyone as safe as we possibly could while continuing to provide an uninterrupted service for 24 hours a day throughout the shutdown. These steps are being continued to ensure no-one becomes complacent at a time when the threat of the virus remains as high as ever.
The World Health Organisation recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser to be combined with frequent washing of hands in warm water but this isn’t always practical for Drivers or travellers. We’ve therefore supplied our drivers with an advanced alcohol-free hand sanitiser which remains effective on their hands for several hours following application. This is very important for both Drivers and passengers alike the transmission of the virus across the surfaces including cash, credit cards and shopping bags etc becomes very unlikely. We’re also using an advanced biocidal surface sanitiser indie our vehicles. This is applied using a ‘fogging machine’ which coats every surface within the vehicle with an active microscopic layer sanitising layer which remains effective against the virus long after its application. Our Drivers are encouraged to reapply this anti-bacterial surface sanitiser direct to door handles and other frequently touched surfaces throughout the day, and onto any surfaces that may have been contaminated by coughing or sneezing. It is certified to kill up to 99.999% of pathogens within seconds and remains effective for hours following application. All Drivers are expected to carry tissues with them, and to use them if they need to sneeze or clear their throat, and will drive with windows open to improve ventilation as much as possible.
We seem to be caught in the middle of the debate about whether face-coverings should or shouldn’t be compulsory for both Drivers and passengers. New rules requiring passengers to wear a face covering on their journey came into force on public transport across England from Monday 15 June 2020 but Taxi and Private Hire transport is exempt. Some coverings will reduce the chance of airborne transmission, others feel anxious at the thought of masks being worn (especially some younger passengers) so we’ve taken the decision to leave it to the Driver’s discretion unless local authority guidance directs us otherwise. All of our Drivers have been provided with face masks, and will be carrying single use masks which they may request passengers to wear during the journey. Government guidance indicates that drivers ‘may be entitled to refuse’ to carry passengers that may refuse to wear a face covering when requested’. One thing is clear, regardless of whether or not they are wearing a covering our Drivers may not work if they are displaying any symptoms and they are within their rights to turn away any passenger that appears to the showing symptoms.
Seating & Customer Assistance
Our Drivers are likely to request that passengers sit in the seats furthest away from them in order to maintain, as far as possible, social distancing. This means back left seat first followed by the other rear seats and the front passenger seat as a last resort. Ordinarily they are quick to help passengers with luggage and/or bags but they have been advised to ask the passenger to load the vehicles themselves if they are able – again this is an effort to maintain social distancing.
Operator Staff and Guidance
In normal times Vokes has around 30 employees operating from offices in Rainham and Chatham. The Rainham office doubles up as a waiting room and the difficulty of enforcing social distancing means it will remain closed in the immediate future, but the Chatham office has remained open throughout the period with steps taken to ensure we are providing a safe working environment. We regularly clean all contact points with anti-bacterial wipes and disinfectant spray with cloth (telephones, surfaces, door handles and other areas) and display posters regarding hand hygiene and social distancing throughout the building. We have made provisions for staff to observe social distancing guidelines and provide hand sanitiser for everyone.
Supporting Passengers with Accessibility Issues
Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle drivers are still under the same obligation to provide reasonable assistance and make reasonable adjustments for disabled passengers, following safety guidance as far as is practicable.