Borders taxi drivers facing new medical checks

Stock image: by Ian Georgeson Photography.
Stock image: by Ian Georgeson Photography.

Proposed new medical tests for taxi drivers in the Borders look set to prove unpopular within the trade.

Scottish Borders Council’s civic government licensing committee will be recommended today, November 17, to give the go-ahead for drivers to undergo a medical every five years to ensure that they are fit to drive taxis and private-hire cars.

Among the conditions to be checked for will be drug and alcohol dependency, cardiac-related illnesses and sleep disorders.

The council set up a working group to put together a formal policy regulating drivers after guidance was issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and Scottish Government last year.

The aim is that medical rules regulating cabbies are brought into line with those for bus and lorry drivers.

The policy recommends that all drivers aged 45 and over are reassessed every five years and that those aged 65 and over are tested annually.

Brian Hunter, owner of Hunter’s Cabs in Selkirk for the last 15 years, has no problem with the principle behind the proposal – to ensure the safety of passengers – but he believes that it will be unpopular with most drivers as they will have to pay out the estimated £100 cost of the test themselves.

Mr Hunter said: “It won’t affect me personally because I have an HGV licence anyway, and I already need to pay for the test, but I don’t think this will be very popular with the trade.

“Drivers already have to pay to license their car every year and pay for their badge and operating licence, and this is just an added cost on top of that in addition to ongoing maintenance costs

“There is also the issue of the cost of fuel. When you take on a school contract, for example, you have to state a set price up front for the length of that contract, and that doesn’t take into account the fact that fuel prices fluctuate. A lot of drivers will see this as just another extra financial burden.”

A report to tomorrow’s committee meeting at the council’s Newtown headquarters says: “There is a risk that the introduction of this policy will not be well received by the taxi trade and is likely to attract criticism.”

“However, the introduction of a policy on medical assessment is desirable in the interests of ensuring public safety.”