The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 makes provision for the exemption of vehicles used for “exclusive hire”. Section 22(c) of the 1982 Act states that any vehicle “…while it is being used for carrying passengers under a contract for its exclusive hire for a period of not less than 24 hours” does not require a private hire car or taxi licence in Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s taxi and private hire best practice guidance defines ‘Exclusive hire’ as being “a hiring in which the vehicle is hired as a whole by a single person or group.” This definition needs to also be read within the context of the legislation that limits the exclusive hire to apply to contractual arrangements and the period of exclusive hire must be for a period of not less than 24 hours.
The rationale for the “exclusive hire” exemption is set out in the Act’s explanatory notes that states:
It is not the intention of the taxi and private hire car licensing system to apply to a vehicle used for carrying passengers for hire and reward under contract for its exclusive hire for periods of not less than 24 hours and sub-paragraph (c) specifically exempts such vehicles – on the argument that longer hires are likely to be the subject of informed individual inspection and negotiation – e.g. company hires – where there is not the same need to protect the casual hirer.
The exemption clearly envisaged the need to exempt chauffeur type services provided on strict terms (i.e. not casual hirers) and lasting for longer periods.
The obvious danger with this exemption is the ability for it to be abused in order to circumvent the licensing regime and public safety safeguards. For example, school transport contractors could benefit from this exemption leaving drivers of “exclusive hire” cars potentially unchecked, or certainly to the level that a normal taxi or private hire car drivers would have been.
The best practice guidance for taxi and private hire car licensing in Scotland seems to be aware of the potential for the exemption to be abused warning licensing authorities “…the use of unlicensed individuals or firms to provide transport services, particularly to vulnerable groups, should be carefully considered.” The guidance suggests that safeguarding implications for passengers/users of vehicles undertaking “exclusive hire” work should be considered during procurement/tendering processes as an alternative approach to the normal licensing regime: “Considering the wide range of factors that this covers (road worthiness, accessibility requirements, criminal records checks, driver training etc), the use of licensed drivers and vehicles may be more efficient.”