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Number of wheelchair accessible vehicles significantly increased in 2017

NTA Taxi Stats for 2017 published

The number of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) in the Small Public Service Vehicles (SPSV) fleet has increased significantly in 2017. SPSVs include taxis, hackneys and limousines.

There are now 1,555 WAVs in service in total, up from 1,254 the previous year. This represents an increase of almost 20%.

From a peak of 1,600 wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV) in 2008, the number of accessible hackneys and taxis reduced by 47% to 850 at the end of June 2014.

To tackle this, in July 2014, a grant scheme and training were introduced to assist licence holders in the purchase and use of wheelchair accessible vehicles. The scheme has been running on an annual basis since then. Overall, WAVs now constitute approximately 7.6% of the SPSV fleet and the NTA remains focused on increasing this percentage to 10% by 2020.

The total number of SPSVs dropped slightly last year to 20,581 from 20,804 the previous year. The number of licenced SPSV drivers has also fallen marginally. In 2017 there were 26,012 licence holders compared to 26,420 in 2016.

This shows the continued stabilisation of SPSV vehicles and drivers continuing in the market since 2015, after a marked decrease from 2008, when licensing fees were increased from €3 to €250 for a 5-year driver licence and increased driver and vehicle standards and regulation were introduced nationwide. Compliance activity increased significantly in 2017. NTA continues to focus on education, deterrence and enforcement measures to maintain high levels of compliance by SPSV operators with the regulatory framework.

During 2017, NTA’s compliance team comprised 24 authorised officers who engaged in compliance activities across the country.  All members of An Garda Síochána are warranted to undertake the same compliance activities nationwide.

Compliance activities include vehicle and driver licencing checks, roadside vehicle and driver audits, issuing fines and prosecuting offenders in the District court, together with investigating consumer complaints and participation in multi-agency compliance operations (e.g. with An Garda Síochána (Roads Policing and Immigration), the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection).

Since July 2015, Compliance Officers have been able to undertake real-time mobile checks of SPSVs observed operating. This bespoke tool has enabled Compliance Officers to check each SPSV remotely, including the licence and registration status of both driver and vehicle licence in real time, and then focus comprehensive face to face audits on vehicles and drivers where potential compliance issues are identified. This system has resulted in a marked increase of authentications of SPSVs observed operating with a minimum of disruption to compliant operators and their passengers.

Over 150,000 mobile checks were undertaken in 2017, up dramatically from 90,000 in 2016.

1,512 on the spot fines were issued, compared to 1,099 in 2016. The total number of cases that resulted in a prosecution increased from 208 to 262, with a 95% success rate in those prosecutions

Anne Graham said: “The increase in wheelchair accessible vehicles is very encouraging. We are aware that for many people with restricted mobility, getting a taxi where and when they need it can be a real challenge.

“The increase of 300 vehicles is significant step in the right direction, but clearly more needs to be done. For that reason, we will continue to operate our WAV grant scheme so that this number can increase further in the coming years.

“While the overall decline in licenced vehicles and drivers has slowed, it would still be a concern that numbers are down.

“Taxis and hackneys provide a vital service and form a crucial component of the overall public transport offering in Ireland. If there are fewer drivers and fewer vehicles, there is a risk that reliability and predictability will suffer.

“We are keen to increase the numbers of drivers, and that is why in February, we launched a recruitment campaign to attract people into the industry. The response has been positive, but we need to continue to be pro-active in that regard.

“Last year we recruited over 800 new drivers into the sector, and we would like to double that in 2018.

“We would encourage anybody who is interested in working as an SPSV driver to check out www.taxidriver.ie for details as to how they can make it happen.”

To view the full Taxi Statistical Bulletin click here.