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DRIVER SHORTAGE: Call to relax test for cab drivers in Maidstone

Friday 30th April 2021

AS COVID-19 restrictions lift, Maidstone taxi firms are facing a driver shortage.

Cabbies looked elsewhere to earn a living as trade fell away and now there are fears they will not return.

New drivers must pass challenging tests before they are granted a licence and failure rate is high.

Maidstone Borough Council Licensing Committee has been asked to consider easing an element of the test to increase the low pass rate.

This would involve removing the local knowledge routes and street test from the 63 questions.  Applicants have three attempts to pass the test and if they fail must wait six months.

One fear is that taxies from neighbouring towns with limited knowledge of this area would illegally try to fill the gaps.

Gary Jobling, director of Express Cabs in Maidstone, said his company lost around 10% of his 220 part-time and full-time drivers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “We’re hoping the borough council will do us a favour and make getting the badge a little easier. It’s a slow and difficult process getting a badge in terms of the ‘knowledge’.”

Industry sources say that drivers who were unable to make a living during the first lockdown ended up finding work in factories or warehouse. Some foreign drivers returned home.

Cab firms found contract work, school runs and airport journeys dried up during the restrictions.

Neil Cox, of Maidstone Taxi Driver Association, said there was no shortage of Hackney Carriage drivers on Maidstone streets but he felt the proposal to make the test more passable was sensible for private taxi firm businesses.