PHVs and Hackney Carriages: The Consequences if Your Vehicle Classification is Not Correctly Recorded on Your Vehicle Log Book (“V5”)?

You may consider that details will be accurately recorded on such a document by the DVLA. However, if there is an error in the inputting of material, onto the V5, it will be transposed onto the Police National Computer (“PNC”). So why should this be an issue and in particular, why should it matter to taxi drivers?

In the main most Hackney Carriages and private hire vehicles are cars and easily defined by Section 185(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 as follows:-

“Motor car means a mechanically propelled vehicle not being a motor cycle or an invalid which is constructed in itself to carry a load or passengers to the weight of which unladen – a) it is constructed solely for the carriage of passengers and their effects, it is adapted to carry not more than seven passengers exclusive of the driver, and is fitted with tyres of such type as may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State and does not exceed 3050 kilograms.”

So why would the definition impact on taxis able to carry seven passengers? A log book will for certain makes of vehicle show the number of seats including the driver as nine but the body type will need to be defined as an ‘MPV’ and not a ‘mini-bus’. So why is this significant? With the plethora of speeding cameras now covering the country, many of which are average speed cameras, Police safety camera units (“PSCU”) on reviewing evidence of a speeding offence will classify vehicles as described on the PNC. This means that should a driver be prosecuted either by way of a Fixed Penalty Conditional Offer or Fixed Penalty Notice or summons it is important that the vehicle is correctly classified under UK law and EU legislation (as an M1 and not M2).

If the motor vehicle is constructed or adapted to carry more than eight seated passengers in addition to the driver it falls within the definition of a bus by Regulation 32 of the Road Vehicles (Construction Use Regulations 1986) (SI 1986/1078). Similarly if it is so constructed or adapted to carry more than eight but not more than sixteen passengers it falls within the definition of a mini-bus in Regulation 32 and if it is so constructed or adapted to carry more than sixteen passengers it falls within the definition of a large bus, again by Regulation 32 as amended. It should be noted that these definitions refer to seated passengers and their number is calculated without reference to the driver. So staff at a PSCU may regard you vehicle as a “mini-bus” and subject to a lower speed limit.

Clearly this will not impact on the majority of vehicles presently employed as either Private Hire vehicles or Hackney Carriages throughout the country. The key to this definition is seated passengers and the speed limits that are applied to such vehicles. Schedule 6 of the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 defines the speed limits for vehicles of certain classes. The schedule (item 1) details: 

“a passenger vehicle, motor caravan or dual purpose vehicle not drawing a trailer being a vehicle with an un-laden weight exceeding 3.05 tonnes or adapted to carry more than eight passengers, (i) if not exceeding 12 meters in overall length, or (ii) if exceeding 12 meters in overall length, will have speed limits of 70 miles per and 60 miles per hour on a dual carriageway throughout the country”

The significant phrase is ‘adapted to carry more than eight passengers’. There are many vehicles presently using the highways that have eight seats including Fords, Mercedes and other such vehicles. It is important they are shown as multi-purpose vehicles and not mini-buses (for the reasons detailed above). As a PSCU will only rely on the information shown on the PNC. If the vehicle has been wrongly classified showing the body type as a mini-bus but the taxation class as a diesel car, it is possible the staff will wrongly interpret the class of the vehicle. Leading in the case of a Private Hire Vehicle or Hackney Carriage, finding themselves summoned for an offence of excessive speed in surfeit of what should have been applied. PSCUs do not have the time or inclination to question or count the number of seats in a vehicle, even if the PNC suggests it may be a car

So why does this matter? It is because of the effect of the Magistrates Courts Sentencing Guidelines which may have a significant impact on the penalty received. For instance under Section 89 (10) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 any speeding offence in excess of 81 to 90 miles per hour for a vehicle subject to a 60 mile an hour speed limit attracts a heavy fine and an endorsement of between 4 and 6 points or disqualification of 7 to 28 days. Whereas the corresponding penalty for a vehicle classified to travel at 70 miles per hour would be a lower fine and an endorsement of only 3 points. This means that a vehicle wrongly classified to adhere to the lower speed limit will receive an enhanced points endorsement that may put in jeopardy any private hire or hackney carriage licence. It is frequently the case that Local Authorities taxi disciplinary committees will seek to suspend or refuse to renew private hire or hackney carriage licences for drivers who receive 6 or more penalty points in any 2 or 3 year period.

The financial consequences of such action are obvious and underline the importance of ensuring your vehicle is properly classified. The DVLA are willing and able to accept re-classification. You may have to provide evidence to the DVLA and it is important that you consult directly with your local DVLA office as to what evidence would be required for the change in any mistake on your V5.

Should you find yourself prosecuted for such an offence and believe your vehicle has been wrongly classified you should seek urgent advice. If you have unfortunately already pleaded guilty or been found guilty of an offence at Court or by way of a fixed penalty before realising there has been a mistake, there still is provision under the Magistrates’ Courts Act to rectify such an error and to have any penalty imposed suitably adjusted. However, it is important that you quickly seek advice prior to any disciplinary action by the licensing authority. Otherwise the consequences to both your taxi licence and financial well being may well be significant.

At Woodfines we are available to give expert advice should you require it. Please do not hesitate to contact us on: 01908 202150 (Milton Keynes) or 01223 411421 (Cambridge).