New taxi drivers will have to pass a council approved advanced assessment after a nationally-run test is scrapped.
Currently, new drivers have to pass the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) Taxi Test to prove to licensing chiefs at Hartlepool Borough Council they are fit for a license.
I think it’s a good thing to have that little bit of extra knowing that our taxi drivers are advanced driversCouncillor Rob Cook
But the £80 test has been blamed by the taxi trade as one of the main reasons for a big drop in the number of new drivers applying for licences.
The DSA has announced it is scrapping the test from the end of the year due to increasing demands on the service.
But the council’s Licensing Committee agreed that new drivers will still have to pass a similar assessment.
Licensing manager Ian Harrison said since the DSA taxi test was adopted by the council in 2011, the number of drivers in Hartlepool has fallen from around 610 to 450.
And the number of licence applications has dropped from 100 a year to less than 20.
Mr Harrison told the committee: “You have to find all the money needed to undertake all the various requirements and that extra £80 can be for some people the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“I think, however, the most common reason is people don’t see the need to have to pass another test when for some they have already been driving for 20 or 30 years.”
Councillors agreed to replace the taxi test with a similar type of assessment but as a compromise drivers will have 12 months in which to do it from gaining their licence.
The council’s own Road Safety Team is in talks about writing the test which it was indicated would cost £65.
Councillor Rob Cook said: “I think it’s a good thing to have that little bit of extra knowing that our taxi drivers are advanced drivers.”
Coun Paul Beck agreed saying: “To me, it would be a drop in standards if we took this away.”
Independent taxi driver Neil Handisides said cabbies were currently waiting up to six months for the test.
Mr Harrison said the new one should take only two to three weeks.