During this period of great uncertainty about what our daily routines will look like once the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions are lifted, one of the biggest concerns is around public transportation. The Government has advised citizens to walk or cycle where possible, and limited services are in place from the majority of public transport providers. However, this will only increase demand on the few buses and trains running each hour, making social distancing that much harder and leaving people with few options if they have to make long journeys to their place of business.
This puts a great deal of pressure on private hire cars to get people from A to B, which has led to taxi drivers being understandably concerned about remaining safe on the job. However, with no sector-wide guidelines formally in place—and social distancing one of the hardest safety measures for taxi drivers to achieve—many PCO companies have been taking their own measures to ensure driver safety. Both Uber and Addison Lee, for example, are introducing partition screens in their vehicles, with the former also suspending its Pool service. On a wider level, guidance has also been issued around how to best clean and sanitise cars.
At Hirebrid, we take the safety of our customers extremely seriously and are doing everything we can to respond to the current situation. When PCO drivers come to our office to collect their vehicles, we now provide face masks and hand sanitizer as standard. We also conduct a thorough deep-clean of all of our vehicles once they have been returned, using a steam cleaning process which gets rid of 99% of bacteria. If you are still concerned about what measures you can take to maintain social distancing and keep you and your passengers safe, particularly if you hire your PCO car rather than own it outright, read on to learn more about what steps you can take.
Encourage social distancing
This is, of course, easier said than done, especially in a relatively small vehicle. However, there are steps that drivers can take to maintain an appropriate distance from their passengers. Firstly, in accordance with the regulations around the number of people allowed in a PCO car at any given time, this means not allowing passengers to occupy the front seat.
Some PCO companies are fitting partition screens, much like the ones in London Black Cabs, but an update on the wider guidance has not been issued by the UK Government for taxi drivers as a whole since lockdown measures began.
Monitor passenger behaviour
Despite the relaxation of lockdown measures in certain parts of the United Kingdom, social distancing measures remain in place, including those around public transport. The GMB Union reports that, with regards to private hire vehicles, passengers should only share a car if they reside in the same property, and any regular journeys for work purposes should be made by the same group of people. Government guidelines also suggest that passengers open their windows and face away from each other as a way of potentially stopping the likelihood of spreading the virus any further. If your passengers have any baggage which they need to store in the boot of your vehicle for the journey, ask that they load it in themselves. If this is not possible, such as in the event that a bag is too heavy, be sure to use hand sanitiser after handling their baggage.
Implement basic safety measures
For your own safety, as well as that of your passengers, TFL guidelines have recommended that all PCO drivers wear non-medical face coverings for all journeys. Uber has provided more than a million of single-use masks to its drivers, while encouraging the use of homemade masks in accordance with Transport For London’s instructions. Your passengers should also wear masks, in line with the Government guidelines on how to safely use public transport during this period of the pandemic.
If possible, you could also offer hand sanitiser to passengers. At the very least, be sure to keep a bottle for yourself with you at all times. Beyond giving your car a thorough clean after each passenger has disembarked, drivers should also wipe door handles and passenger seatbelts. It is also recommended that you minimise the number of cash payments you take and insist on prepayments or card transactions only.