Almost every industry across the world in some shape or form has been impacted by the coronavirus crisis that is still largely present and poses a risk to millions. Many employers have had to rethink how employees carry out their duties during these unprecedented times, with many now working from home where possible. Although, not everyone has this option. Taxi drivers have been particularly affected by the pandemic through various ways.
Social distancing impossible inside taxis
To start with, it has been extremely challenging to maintain a safe 2-metre distance (as recommended by the Government) when inside the taxi with a passenger. Demand has plummeted for their services, and those that would use this method of transportation are thinking twice before pre-booking their next journey. Additionally, private hire taxi insurance remains a considerable expense. As most drivers are self-employed, the process used to access government support funds has been quite difficult, with many finding that they are not eligible.
The costs don’t stop there either, drivers must sanitise their vehicles to minimise the risk of transmission, some have installed plastic perpex screens to separate themselves from their customers, and there are a few horror stories out there of a small number of drivers using makeshift shower curtains.
At the start of the pandemic the guidelines on what practices should be followed were somewhat murky and caused quite a lot of confusion, for both drivers and passengers. Fortunately, now that time and extra thought has been given to each industry, guidelines are a lot clearer.
Unfortunately, it remains to be seen how this will all play out for private hire taxi insurers. Inevitably, their attitudes to risk will alter post COVID-19. The obvious change that all motorists will see right away, especially taxi drivers, is an Increase in the annual premium.
Lockdown hit private hire taxi drivers hardest
During lockdown restrictions, which were in effect towards the end of March, the number of cars on UK roads decreased considerably as the population was advised to remain at home unless it was essential to leave the home. This meant that there were significantly less vehicles on the roads, which resulted in fewer incidents taking place. Great news for insurers, as there were less claims to pay out on. Some firms even offered a partial refund to customers as a way to pass on these savings. It was also a great time to compare private hire insurance for taxi drivers as the costs were slightly lower. Nevertheless, this was only temporary, and as the number of drivers getting behind the wheel each month increase, the price of cover is set to rise due to the increased number of cars back on public roads.
No doubt, insurance companies’ attitudes to risk will be more pronounced in the months ahead as the economy starts to reopen. The level of cover on offer may be altered, many new policies will be rewritten to reflect on the experiences from coronavirus. Most notably, the wording in the health and medical sections may even be overhauled to prevent large numbers of people from claiming on these grounds, especially if it is even remotely related to coronavirus.
The above will also impact third party public liability claims against private hire taxi drivers, as no insurer will want to assume any sort of responsibility if government regulations are now to be followed strictly to the letter.
With that being said, it will be beneficial to highlight how private hire taxi drivers and passengers should travel safely moving forwards.
The impact on transport due to COVID-19
Coronavirus can be limited if more people choose to walk or cycle, rather than rely on public or private hire transportation. Although, this isn’t possible in every scenario and it is accepted that these services are essential for many. Hands should be washed and sanitized regularly, especially when getting in and out of a taxi. Private hire drivers should ensure vehicles are thoroughly wiped down before each journey commences.
Social distancing should still largely remain in effect where possible. There should be some sort of barrier between the private hire driver and customer when inside a taxi e.g. clear plastic perpex screens. Avoiding the busiest routes and the rush hour will reduce congestion and minimise potential contact with others.
Anyone who is experiencing any coronavirus symptoms should not travel whatsoever, as they are putting the general public at risk. This also applies to anyone who is self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms. Those who have been advised to self-isolate by the NHS test and trace service should do so.
It goes without saying that anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus should self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days, starting from the day the test was taken. If you are using a taxi or private hire vehicle, you should wear a face covering. Those that do not wear a face covering may be refused entry by a taxi or private hire operator. If you’re unable to maintain a 2-metre distance, the risk can still be reduced by maintaining a 1-metre distance where possible.
It’s always a good idea to check with your driver if they have put in place any additional safety measures before travelling. Contactless payments are highly recommended, alternatively check to see if you’re able to pay online in advance. Be aware of any surfaces you touch and remember not to touch your face. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
Finally, on completion of the journey, ensure you wash or sanitise your hands as quickly as possible. This will ultimately keep both passengers and private hire taxi drivers safe through reduced infection transmission.