Taxi drivers will take Hull knowledge test from April
PEOPLE applying to be taxi drivers in Hull will have to sit a knowledge test from April.
The move comes after concerns were raised over the number of current drivers who are unfamiliar with the city's road network.
Many also do not speak English as a first language after an influx of European Union migrants in recent years.
When the idea of re-introducing the knowledge test was first put forward last year, the Mail revealed how one clueless cabbie who took a fare in Ferensway did not know where Beverley Road was.
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Now, licensing councillors have given the go-ahead for the test to be included in a new BTEC qualification for all new applicants for drivers' licences.
The test is expected to quiz drivers on their familiarity with the city's roads and neighbourhoods as well as Hull's City Council's regulations covering the private hire and hackney carriage vehicles.
Councillor John Shipley said: "I'm in favour of the knowledge test.
"Since it was scrapped by the previous Liberal Democrat administration, we have seen so many complaints about this."
Councillor Sean Chaytor said it was one thing for satellite navigation equipment to send drivers up the wrong road, but a different matter entirely if passengers were taken on longer journeys than necessary because a driver did not know the best route.
Councillor John Abbott said ensuring new drivers had a firm grasp of English was also essential.
"We should set the bar reasonably high on this issue," he said.
The traditional knowledge test in Hull was scrapped in 2007 after a new basic test covering numeracy and literacy skills was introduced.
That will now be incorporated into the new nationally recognised BTEC qualification which will also include customer care, equality and diversity issues and basic route-planning skills.
From April, new drivers will be required to complete the six-week course before their licence application is considered.
Keith Fenner, the city council's licensing manager, said consultation with the taxi trade over the introduction of the knowledge test with the BTEC qualification would continue over the next few weeks.
He said: "We are in the middle of consultations with the trade but would expect to be in a position to go ahead with it when we have our annual review of licensing policies and conditions in April."
Initially, new drivers are not expected to have to pay the full cost of completing the course because funding has been secured for the next 12 months.
Normally, the cost would be £176.
However, Mr Fenner said it was not yet clear whether funding support would continue in 2014.
Drivers who already hold a licence in Hull will not be required to sit the test.
East Riding Council does not operate a knowledge test based on local geography.