Part 5: Monitoring by other agencies

Effectiveness of controls over the taxi industry.

In this Part, we discuss the role played by agencies other than the Authority, in monitoring and enforcing compliance of the taxi industry. While the CVIU has a clear legislative role, other agencies (such as local authorities and airport companies) have introduced their own measures to address problems with the taxi industry that they consider are not adequately addressed by the Authority.

Monitoring by the Police’s Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit

While the Police’s regular staff undertake some on-road enforcement, the CVIU carries out the majority, and is the only unit of the Police that records taxi-specific information relating to on-road enforcement. Therefore, we refer to the monitoring and enforcement activities of the CVIU, rather than the activities of other parts of the Police.

When the CVIU conducts monitoring and enforcement work, taxi drivers often try to leave the area. During our fieldwork, we observed one driver, illegally parked on Auckland’s Queen Street, who drove off so quickly when he saw the CVIU vehicle that he was charged with careless driving. Because taxis attempt to avoid being checked by the CVIU, the CVIU often carries out monitoring work at the airport, where it is more difficult for taxis to get away. The CVIU told us that, even at the airport, drivers would sometimes attempt to reverse out of the waiting area in order to avoid inspection.

The CVIU reports that the rate of compliance in the taxi industry is lower than that of the trucking industry. These reports are on the basis of inspections by the CVIU’s 4 Vehicle Safety Officers (VSOs) and other staff. VSOs are experienced mechanics who conduct detailed inspections of the roadworthiness of vehicles, while other CVIU staff focus less on detailed mechanical inspection and more on the driver.

Of the taxis and shuttles inspected by the VSOs in 2003-04, 38% were free of faults, compared with 69.7% of trucks and 40.3% of buses. The CVIU advised that this low level of compliance by taxi and shuttles was detected through targeted stops, rather than random stops. Figure 10 illustrates the type of faults found by the CVIU’s VSOs for taxis and shuttles during 2003-04.

Figure 10
Types of faults found by Vehicle Safety Officers for taxis and shuttles during 2003-04

Type of fault (including examples of items for each type) Number (%) of taxis and shuttles inspected found with that fault
Lighting (headlamps, indicators) 30 (19%)
Exterior (door hinges, mirrors) 20 (12.7%)
Towing connections (drawbar, spare wheel) 2 (1.3%)
Tyres (tyre depth, mudguards) 27 (17.1%)
Interior (windscreen, seatbelts) 13 (8.2%)
Motive (exhaust, transmission) 1 (0.6%)
Suspension (shock absorbers, airbag) 3 (1.9%)
Steering (steering wheel, power steering) 1 (0.6%)
Brakes (handbrake, linings) 4 (2.5%)
Passenger Service Vehicle breaches (signs, taxi meter sealed) 5 (3.2%)
Expired Certificate of Fitness 1 (0.6%)
Certificate of Loading breaches 1 (0.6%)

More than one-third (36.1%) of the taxis and shuttles inspected by VSOs in 2003-04 were ordered off the road, or to cease operating as a taxi or shuttle, as the result of an inspection. This compares with 16.8% of trucks and 36.3% of buses. However, the 158 taxi and shuttle inspections made up only 1.6% of the total number of vehicles stopped by CVIU officers (the same percentage as buses), so the sample size was small compared with trucks (5546) and heavy trailers (3410).

For the 9 months starting 1 July 2004, 28.5% of the taxis and shuttles inspected by VSOs were free of faults, compared with 63.4% for trucks and 46.3% for buses. During this period, the VSOs inspected 151 taxis and shuttles, compared with 134 for the same period in 2003-04, increasing taxi and shuttle inspections as a percentage of all CVIU inspections from 1.6% (for all of 2003-04) to 2.5%.

As a result of these inspections, 33.8% of taxis and shuttles were ordered off the road or to cease operating as a taxi or shuttle until faults were remedied, compared with 22.8% of trucks and 35.3% of buses. The number of taxis and shuttles inspected is increasing, as is the number of vehicles found with faults.

In addition to the inspections conducted by the VSOs, other CVIU officers also conduct taxi inspections. While the number of taxi inspections conducted during 2003-04 was not recorded separately from a larger “commercial vehicle stopped” category, a separate code for taxis was introduced for 2004-05.

For the 9 months starting 1 July 2004, CVIU officers (excluding VSOs) stopped and inspected 3456 taxis. While not as detailed as the statistics collected by the VSOs, the information recorded by the CVIU officers identified particular taxi driver offences. The CVIU officers issued a total of 673 offence notices during 2003-04, a number already surpassed in the first 9 months of 2004-05 (1000).

This supports the CVIU’s then National Manager ’s belief that the CVIU has significantly increased the number of inspections conducted since 2003-04. While 2004-05 is not complete, Figure 11 illustrates the 10 most common offence notices recorded for 2003-04, as a percentage of the total number of offence notices issued, and Figure 12 does the same for the 9 months starting 1 July 2004.

Figure 11
Ten most common offence notices for taxi drivers for 2003-04

Offence Number (%) of offence notices
Taxi inconsiderately stopped “in road” 487 (72%)
Driver used stand that was full 31 (4.6%)
Taxi displaying unregistered fares 18 (2.7%)
Taxi meter not sealed 18 (2.7%)
Driver operating a taxi without an Area Knowledge Certificate 15 (2.2%)
Driver’s behaviour unacceptable 12 (1.8%)
Driver identification not displayed 11 (1.6%)
Taxi not displaying operator information 11 (1.6%)
Driver not in attendance of taxi 10 (1.5%)
Taxi signs not illuminated at night 10 (1.5%)

Figure 12
Ten most common offence notices for taxi drivers for the 9 months starting 1 July 2004

Offence Number (%) of offence notices
Taxi inconsiderately stopped “in road” 769 (77%)
Driver accepted hire within 20 metres of stand 85 (8.5%)
Taxi not displaying operator information 31 (3.1%)
Driver used stand that was full 26 (2.6%)
Driver’s behaviour unacceptable 16 (1.6%)
Driver operating a taxi without an Area Knowledge Certificate 11 (1.1%)
Taxi meter not sealed 8 (0.8%)
Fares/charges not displayed inside taxi 7 (0.7%)
Driver not in attendance of taxi 7 (0.7%)
Driver failed to stop for an Enforcement Officer 4 (0.4%)

Figures 11 and 12 show that the majority of offence notices issued by CVIU officers for taxi-related offences are for inconsiderate stopping “in road”. The other offences relate to matters for which the Authority is responsible, such as Area Knowledge Certificates and driver identification cards.

CVIU officers noted that, when they stop a driver, they have no way to check at the roadside that the driver has the Area Knowledge Certificate(s) required for the area(s) where they are operating. A possible solution is to require the Area Knowledge Certificate(s) held by a driver to be printed on their driver identification card, as their passenger endorsement is. According to the CVIU, this information used to be recorded on driver licences.

The Transport Services Licensing Act 1989 provides that the content of a driver identification card is subject to the Land Transport Act 1998, and Rules made under that Act. Including additional information on the driver identification card would assist the CVIU and the Authority to ensure that drivers are operating in accordance with their area knowledge and other requirements. This solution is preferable to requiring the information to be included on driver licences, as the format of the driver licence is specified by statute, making a change more difficult.

Recommendation 49
We recommend that Land Transport New Zealand modify the driver identification card to include details of the driver’s Area Knowledge Certificate(s).

There are many commercial arrangements that can be made between a driver and a vehicle’s owner, some of which will require the driver to hold a passenger service licence. As a result, the CVIU has a checklist (using a questionnaire produced by the Authority) to help determine whether a driver should hold a passenger service licence.

During the CVIU’s on-road inspections, we observed that some officers did not check whether a driver held a passenger service licence, along with a passenger endorsement. The CVIU stated that it is difficult and time-consuming for staff to check at the roadside whether a person holds the appropriate licence because there is no reliable database of transport service licence holders that the Police can easily access.

Section 5(2) of the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989 states that “every person commits an offence who carries on any transport service otherwise than under the authority of the appropriate licence.” The inability to easily check whether a person holds the appropriate licence has additional importance as the Land Transport Amendment Bill proposes to empower the Police, in certain circumstances, to seize and impound any vehicle used in an unlicensed transport service.

A solution, suggested by some taxi organisations, is having a standard contract between drivers and passenger service licence holders, clarifying their relative responsibilities, so the status of drivers can be easily determined.

The CVIU has access to some of the Authority’s data, but would like the ability to have on-line access to an accurate database of all transport service licence holders. We understand the Authority will consider this ability as part of the Operator Safety Rating System (see Part 8).

Recommendation 50
We recommend that Land Transport New Zealand consistently check whether a driver has, or is operating under, a passenger service licence, using the checklist and questionnaire available.

It should be possible to determine, during checks at the roadside, whether a taxi driver either holds a passenger service licence, or is operating under one. We understand that, before the 1989 reforms, every vehicle licensed under a transport service licence had to display a vehicle authority sticker, which included details such as the licence the driver held or was operating under.

If reintroduction of the vehicle authority sticker is impractical, another option for assisting roadside monitoring of taxis could be to require drivers to have a copy of their passenger service licence certificate, or the one they are operating under, in their taxis. This could be easily updated if the driver changes employer, and would be accessible to Enforcement Officers on request. By whatever means, compliance monitoring needs to be conducted easily, for it to be effective.

Recommendation 51
We recommend that Land Transport New Zealand require drivers to have evidence in their taxi of their passenger service licence, or the one they are operating under.

Respective roles of the Authority and the CVIU

The CVIU’s management and some regional CVIU staff, along with some Authority staff, believe that the CVIU should have sole responsibility for on-road taxi monitoring and enforcement. They believe that the CVIU is better equipped to carry out enforcement.

The CVIU has the power to stop vehicles, while Authority staff can carry out enforcement work only with stationary taxis; for example, when they are at a taxi rank. The CVIU has access to a dedicated prosecution section. CVIU staff work shifts, and are already out on the road, while Authority staff work office hours and spend a large amount of time in the office. In addition, the CVIU sees its role as enforcement because it has access to more intelligence information with which to direct its resources.

Within the Authority there is a range of views on the organisation’s enforcement role, compared with the role of the CVIU. One view is that the Authority is responsible for licensing and otherwise protecting entry to the taxi industry, and monitoring those in the industry, while enforcement is seen as more of a Police role. In this view, the roles are complementary. Another view is that the move to “willing compliance” places the emphasis on education rather than entry controls and monitoring, with the occasional prosecution to show that the Authority “has teeth”, while the Police focus on enforcement. In this view, there is duplication of the enforcement role.

As described in Part 1, it is the Authority’s view that it should concentrate on its “gatekeeper” role, monitoring and auditing taxi organisations and removing unfit and improper people or organisations from the industry. Accordingly, the Authority considers that the Police should be the agency to enforce individual driver compliance.

CVIU staff we spoke to were willing to take on the entire enforcement role, and did not consider that matters such as taxi cleanliness were too trivial for them to spend time enforcing. The Authority supports this position.

In 1996, the then Transport Committee reported on the Inquiry into Truck Crashes.20 While the report related to trucks, the report made findings of relevance to the Authority and the CVIU’s respective audit and enforcement activities for the taxi industry. Of particular importance was the Committee’s recommendation that there be “a clear division of responsibility between the audit functions of the [Authority] and the enforcement functions of the Police”.

There has been little improvement. The roles of the Authority and the CVIU continue to overlap, resulting in duplication of effort.

Recommendation 52
We recommend that Land Transport New Zealand and the Police clearly define their respective responsibilities for audit and enforcement activities.

The issue of limited resources was consistently raised as a reason for the Authority’s inability to monitor the taxi industry; an argument that has some merit when considering the wide range of the Authority’s responsibilities. Nevertheless, we consider that the Authority could target its resources better by introducing a tool similar, but less sophisticated, to the Operator Safety Rating System (see Part 8), while the system is developed and its feasibility assessed. The Authority notes that the system is being prepared in stages, and will initially be used as a targeting tool. However, our concern is that the system will first target goods service vehicles, so a similar tool for taxis is some years away.

Authority interaction with the CVIU

We expected a high level of interaction between the Authority and the Police. To assess the level of interaction, we met with staff from the CVIU in each of our fieldwork locations. We found that:

  • There were regional differences in the level of communication and co-operation between the CVIU and the Authority, and in the CVIU’s views of the usefulness of the Authority’s monitoring.
  • The effectiveness of the relationship between the Authority and the CVIU was determined by the personalities involved, which directly affected the level of co-ordination and co-operation possible.
  • At each fieldwork site, the CVIU thought that a lack of resources significantly affected the Authority’s effectiveness.
  • The Authority’s Vehicle Compliance Officers were highly regarded, and routinely used by the CVIU as part of its enforcement activities.
  • The CVIU’s management believed that the Authority does not monitor the taxi industry, so the CVIU does. To record the resource used in this work, the CVIU Charter in the 2004-05 New Zealand Road Safety Programme includes a performance measure that, each year, the CVIU will inspect 10% of the taxi fleet in each of its operating areas. The CVIU in Auckland has an officer dedicated to taxi stops and inspections, because taxis have been identified as a risk area requiring CVIU attention. Results of CVIU checks to date suggested significant industry non-compliance with Rules and Regulations.
  • CVIU staff complained that they do not receive notification from the Authority when those in the industry have their licence, or approval, suspended or revoked.

In Auckland, Palmerston North, and Christchurch, we accompanied CVIU staff during their on-road inspections.

In Auckland, our observation over a Thursday evening and early Friday morning revealed that, among other non-compliance, illegal parking by taxis in the Central Business District was endemic. At the airport, the standard of vehicles was noticeably higher than in the city, as a result of the airport company’s quality controls (see paragraph 5.39). While the vehicles at the airport often had faults, they were less serious than those found in taxis in the city.

In Palmerston North, inspections were carried out on a weekday afternoon. Almost every inspection found either vehicle faults, or a driver who was non-compliant with their logbook obligations. In Christchurch, inspections were also conducted on a weekday afternoon. Fewer faults were detected there than in Palmerston North, although the inspections conducted in each area had a different emphasis.

In Wellington, CVIU staff reported widespread industry non-compliance. Areas of non-compliance included logbook omissions, and deficient signage and lighting. In one document made available to the Authority, the CVIU reported drivers who were operating taxis with expired passenger endorsements, expired driver licences, or expired driver identification cards. Although current endorsements, licences, and driver identification cards are fundamental to the legal operation of a taxi, the Authority relies on the driver and the taxi organisation to take responsibility for keeping them current.

The Authority believes that the CVIU is inflating the level of non-compliance found, by being overly meticulous in the matters identified, and suggests that the types of non-compliance identified are not safety concerns. As illustrated by Figures 10, 11, and 12, some of the matters identified by the CVIU are not related to safety (for example, incorrect or misplaced fare schedules that are obscured from a prospective passenger’s view, in breach of a Rule). Others are safety concerns, and together they highlight industry non-compliance that must be addressed. That drivers are found operating without current endorsements, licences, and driver identification cards is cause for concern.

Monitoring by councils and airport companies

In the absence of adequate monitoring by the Authority, a number of other agencies have introduced their own measures to address problems that they have with the taxi industry. For example, to address overcrowding problems with taxis in Auckland’s Central Business District, the Auckland City Council has introduced initiatives to reduce taxi congestion, improve the standard of taxis in the inner city, and improve taxi driver behaviour.

Section 49 of the Transport Services Licensing Act 1989 gives councils the ability to refuse to register a passenger service on the basis that “it is contrary to sound traffic management or any other environmental factor identified by the regional council as being of importance to its region.” The Auckland City Council is examining whether it can encourage the regional council to use section 49 to prevent more taxi organisations from setting up to operate in central Auckland. The Auckland City Council is also reviewing its bylaws with a view to introducing quality standards for taxi organisations using its ranks.

The Wellington City Council reports numerous problems with taxis as a result of the rapid growth in taxi numbers. Media reports cite physical fights between drivers competing for space at taxi ranks at peak times. The Council reported that Wellington had 300 taxis before the 1989 reforms, while Authority records indicate 1488 taxis by 2004. The Council reports that it has attempted to establish dialogue with the taxi industry, but has not been particularly successful, because of the fragmented nature of the industry and differences of opinion between the Council and factions within the industry. For example, the Council will not provide more taxi stands because it believes there are too many taxis.

Some airport companies have introduced quality standards for taxis using airport ranks and facilities, and carry out enforcement activities to control the fleet. For example, Auckland International Airport requires taxi organisations to tender to use its ranks. Taxi numbers are limited, and there are controls on the age of the vehicle, driver presentation, and English language skills. Non-compliance is penalised using a demerit points system. Airport staff advised us that they hope imposing these conditions will increase the quality of the taxi fleet at the airport, and provide inbound tourists with a positive first impression of Auckland. Nevertheless, they consider that the Authority is ultimately responsible for ensuring that a taxi driver’s endorsements and licences are current.

20: Report of the Transport Committee on the Inquiry into Truck Crashes, First Session, Forty-fourth Parliament, I. 13B, New Zealand House of Representatives, 1996.

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