SERU Assessment for Private Hire Drivers in London

1. Introduction

The purpose of the assessment was to help provide training for private hire drivers in London that will raise standards, improve safety knowledge, and compliance with the law. This will ensure that private hire drivers in London are made more aware of their responsibility for passenger safety, safer travel, and better compliance with the rules and regulations. The assessment will also aid Transport for London (TfL) to identify current knowledge of the requirements for private hire drivers, influence future policy, and monitor the impact of any changes to legislation relating to private hire drivers. SERU required those who took part in the assessment to complete an online question set, and because there were 2500 multiple-choice questions, the participants were given a randomly selected subset of 100 questions. The pool of questions covered a wide range of regulations and London geographic knowledge and were selected because of their importance and relevance. The questions were split up into 10 categories, and SERU planned to implement a pass mark and compulsory re-sit for a randomly selected subset of the questions until legislation change is tracked and the impact monitored. By having a pass requirement, it will encourage drivers to improve their knowledge, and the re-sit for a subset of the questions will ensure that drivers’ knowledge is maintained and kept up to date.

1.1 Purpose of the SERU Assessment

To present a case for the introduction of the Safe and Efficient Routes to Urban Drivers (SERU) assessment as a part of the licensing process for Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) drivers in London. This is based upon the findings of a recent study commissioned by the Greater London Authority and Transport for London (TfL) investigating the knowledge, attitude and behaviour of London’s PHV drivers. This study has identified a number of problems relating to drivers’ route-planning, including poor geographical knowledge of London, over-reliance on satellite navigation systems, and an inability to respond effectively to unexpected events such as traffic congestion or road closures. These problems have safety implications, for example the study found that 75% of PHV drivers had admitted to driving with a handheld mobile phone, and are contributing to the creation of congestion and a poor experience of the road network for all road users. This in turn has sustainability implications and economic costs for the city. The SERU assessment has been designed with the intention of improving the road safety and legal compliance of PHV drivers by advancing their geographical knowledge and developing their ability to make safe, legal and efficient decisions on the road. This is with ultimate goal of improving the experience of the road network for PHV drivers and all other road users, and the safety and efficiency of the service provided to Londoners.

1.2 Background of Private Hire Drivers in London

The nature of the private hire service means that drivers have additional safety and security concerns compared with black cab taxi drivers, who predominantly ply for trade on the streets. It has been reported by Transport for London that some private hire drivers are refusing to carry guide dogs, passengers with disabilities, and those who are carrying alcohol. Offering a pre-booked only service means that it is essential for the passenger to be at their pick-up point at the specified time. Missed pick-ups can result in a loss of business for the driver, but it can also have an adverse effect on the consumer who may be traveling to an important meeting or appointment within a tight time schedule. Consumer satisfaction is essential for repeat business, and enforcing good service provision is important.

Private hire drivers are a major part of London’s economy and transport infrastructure. The PHV/Minicab market is one of the fastest growing sectors within the transport industry. It is estimated that there are over 60,000 private hire drivers operating in London, which exceeds the number of black cab drivers operating in the city. Private hire companies are licensed by Transport for London to operate in and around London. These operators range from single car operators to larger companies. Private hire drivers primarily operate a pre-booked service and do not have the right to tout for trade or use taxi ranks.

1.3 Importance of the Assessment for Drivers’ Safety and Compliance

Seru Assessment stands for Safety and Enhancing Road Users. This assessment is a learning programme for private hire drivers that will upgrade their knowledge and skill to improve safety, consisting of 12 sessions in form of theory and practical. This assessment is intended to give drivers additional information to enhance safety and service to passengers and to comply with the rules and regulation specified by Transport for London (TfL). This will make the drivers professional by giving them additional knowledge and encourage them fostering safety and compliance culture among other drivers. By doing this assessment, it will raise the standard for private hire drivers in London. At the moment there are approximately 60,000 private hire drivers that are registered with TfL. They have diverse backgrounds and motivations for becoming a driver and servicing passengers. Although many have a good grasp of the road network and are professional, there are perhaps no professional development guidelines or a way to upgrade their road safety knowledge. Seru has the potential to become an unofficial industry standard and required certification for all private hire drivers to enhance safety if it is promoted effectively to drivers. The potential impact of participation in the Seru Learning Programme very much depends on the role of the private hire driver. For drivers that operate full time as a long term career, this assessment will improve and update their knowledge and skills which will give them better road safety awareness and become a safer driver. This learning programme aims to reduce transport related injuries especially for the new and older drivers which are more at risk, thus improving the safety of the driver and contributing to the safety of road users in general. For drivers that are part time and their occupation is supplementary to another job, this will give them an opportunity to be a professional driver and serve passengers better with good knowledge and safe practices. Drivers that are considering becoming a private hire driver can prepare themselves with better knowledge and skill before they begin. Overall, the assessment will give drivers a feeling of personal development in knowledge and skills as well as promoting safety and compliance as part of the culture for all private hire drivers.

2. SERU Assessment Process

At the assessment stage, a decision will be made as to whether you have met the criteria to become SERU certified. If the decision is negative, you will be informed of the potential to re-apply for the assessment at a later date.

During your application for the assessment, you will be required to submit a London PHV/PCO licence (red or green card) and a recent official PCO document issued from Transport for London. If the application is successful, the assessment will take place at a given time and location. Prior to your assessment, you are advised to read the role profile for Private Hire Driver and the driver’s guide to the Standard. Both can be found on the TfL website.

The SERU assessment process consists of application, assessment, and certification stages, and successful completion will require drivers to satisfy certain criteria. The supporting documents required for each stage of the assessment can be found in the Certification and Requirements Declaration section.

2.1 Overview of the Assessment Steps

The SERU assessment is designed to assess the ability of a person with a disability to safely interact with and travel through an environment. This assessment must be carried out by accredited mobility assessors as it will require judgment of subjective issues and determination of the person with a disability’s capacity to perform manoeuvres in specific environments. The role of the accredited assessor is solely to initially familiarise themselves with the person with a disability, to discuss and plan the assessment, to conduct the assessment at specific locations and to discuss and report the outcomes of the assessment with the person with a disability. The assessment is divided into two main categories, the indoor assessment and the outdoor assessment. The indoor assessment will involve simulated tasks in specific environments in order to gauge the ability to perform specific manoeuvres. This will involve assessment of tasks on level surfaces, ascending and descending stairs, negotiating confined spaces and transferring to different types of seating surfaces. It is essential that the suitable corresponding environments are available and the tasks can be performed safely. Frequency, importance and risk of hazards should be considered.

2.2 Documentation and Information Required

Drivers will need to provide details of the make, model, age, and registration number of their vehicle, as well as details of the current insurance cover for the vehicle. A copy of the Insurance Certificate is generally acceptable as proof of insurance. Drivers will also be required to provide photo ID and should also bring their driving license or, if not available, the paper document provided by DVLA shown below. Failure to provide accurate information or produce the correct documents will result in the assessment not taking place and the full fee being charged due to time and costs incurred. This will be classed as a ‘Non Notification’. In the event that an assessment is not notified off and the assessor turns up at the pre-arranged location and the candidate is not there, this will also be classed as a ‘Non Notification’ and the full fee being charged.

2.3 Role of the Assessors

Role of Assessors: Proper Execution of the Learning Process. The SERU is developed for the purpose of assessing the English language proficiency of prospective students to be admitted into the University. It is an interactive, online test that begins with a short self-assessment to ensure that the best test level is determined. This is followed by a test and a student questionnaire. The questionnaire will require information about the student’s English language learning and experience. Throughout the whole process, the student must be facilitated and supervised by a qualified language instructor. This is where the assessors play a role. An assessor must first identify if the student is eligible to take the SERU. If so, the assessor will then discuss with the student about the purpose and procedures of the test, advising the student to do their best. Students should be informed that they are not being tested, rather than checking the English improvement over their academic year at the University. Following the discussion, the assessor will then create an appointment for the student to take the SERU. Once all things are in order, the testing will commence. An assessor must supervise, ensuring that the student does not take the wrong test level.

2.4 Assessment Criteria and Scoring System

The assessment criteria determines whether a PhD is fit and proper to hold a private hire driver’s licence. The criteria are behaviour and attitudes, criminal convictions and cautions, and complaints and safeguarding. Each criteria is made up of 3-8 assessment headings. For guidance under each assessment heading, a number of factors have been identified which may affect the outcome after taking into account the presence of aggravating or mitigating circumstances. A PhD will be awarded a score depending on the nature and seriousness of the information they provide against these factors. If a PhD receives a score that indicates an adverse outcome before they have provided information under any further criteria, the case will proceed to the decision-making process. Otherwise, the PhD will provide information under all the criteria and the decision will be made at the end of the process. The decision a SERU Rewarding Panel will decide whether the information provided by a PhD in relation to specific criteria results in the refusal to grant a licence or taking of an adverse measure. Circumstances of an urgent nature: In exceptional cases, where there are urgent safeguarding concerns that need to be addressed immediately, a SERU Rewarding Panel may carry out a Pre-Decision Measure to suspend or refuse to renew a PhD’s licence. This can be done by requesting a higher Tier Tribunal judge to consider the papers and evidence by telephone or video conference.

3. Training and Preparation for the Assessment

The reins of holding a PHV license includes taking a brand new assessment called the ‘Safeguarding and Entry Assessment’. This assessment was designed to improve the standard of English and geographical awareness of PHV drivers. This is to ensure better safety and comfort for passengers as they travel. Passengers no longer have to sit in silence or guide their drivers all the way to their destination. The assessment is composed of a printed multiple choice exam on safeguarding knowledge and a computer-based assessment on spoken English. Both parts of the assessment must be taken with a 70% pass mark. Failing either the spoken English or multiple choice exam will result in a re-sit of the respective exam. If both exams are failed, the candidate will have to retake the entire assessment. This is available for candidates to take from January 2017 and it is a mandatory requirement that all PCO drivers must undertake and pass by 31st December 2020.

Private hire driving within London involves accepting bookings for a journey in advance. This could be either by phone, in person or through a company. Since 2007, the standard operational procedure for private hire drivers would require a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) driver’s license to be able to legally operate as a private hire driver. Failure to do so could result in penalties including fines or even imprisonment.

Driving under a private capacity has become a big industry in London since the late 90’s. Since then, there has been growing concern on this industry. In 2003, Transport for London (TfL) took over the responsibility of taxi and private hire services in London.

3.1 Recommended Training Programs for Private Hire Drivers

All aspiring private hire drivers should consider attending a training program for private hire vehicle drivers. A majority of the private hire drivers that took part in the consultation felt that it was necessary to have a training program for new drivers. This was so that they could gain a better understanding of what the profession entails and to ensure that only suitable individuals become private hire drivers. A training program was seen as an ideal way to educate potential private hire drivers on what the profession entails and the standards of service that is expected. Aspiring private hire drivers that have a good understanding of what the profession entails are more likely to make an informed decision on whether or not to become a private hire driver. The program should clearly define what a private hire driver is and what he or she can do. For example, the differences between a private hire driver and a mini cab driver, what a personal transport service is, the services that can be offered, the areas and venues that they are permitted to pick up and drop off passengers and the code of professional conduct. This will be covered in the advance private hire driver VRQ. This will not only be useful for new drivers but also for any existing private hire drivers in checking that they are in compliance with current private hire legislations. The program should also cover the legislations that affect private hire drivers and the impact that they have on the private hire driver and his or her passengers. This will be covered in the BTEC level 2 award in introduction to the role of the professional taxi and private hire driver in London. Digitally based courses that involve speaking, listening and understanding, e-learning tests and other interactive activities are also ideal for private hire drivers that would prefer a more flexible way to learn.

3.2 Study Materials and Resources

The assessment is based on TFL source material and it is important that the driver is familiar with using this material to answer knowledge questions that they may have in the future. Relying on previous knowledge or information given by others isn’t good practice, and a driver that can effectively use TFL source material will be able to make appropriate decisions. This can be achieved by addressing each of the learning outcomes and noting which parts of the TFL material are addressed. This is a highly efficient way to prepare, and it is advised that the driver revisits the material several times to solidify the understanding. Addressing the learning outcomes in a suitable manner will be a good indication that this understanding is achieved. Address each learning outcome and note which parts of TFL material are relevant. Revisit source material several times to solidify understanding.

The driver handbook is a useful tool for preparing for the assessment. It provides drivers with impressive knowledge and understanding of their legal obligations in their work. This can be achieved by addressing each of the learning outcomes and then consulting the TFL source material to increase the understanding. The driver handbook is recommended for all drivers taking the assessment.

SUIT have developed a Learner Resource for drivers that will be available in early 2018. This resource will be in the form of an online interactive module and will be an engaging way for drivers to prepare for the assessment. This may well be the most efficient way to learn for those that require the assessment, as it can be completed in small chunks at a suitable time. This learning resource addresses all the learning outcomes with a series of questions and answers. Drivers can then self-assess their knowledge whilst directing their study to the areas that they find more challenging. This resource is recommended for all drivers taking the assessment.

The most efficient way to prepare for the assessment is to address the learning outcomes that have been set. A driver that can confidently address all of the learning outcomes will have a good understanding of the information required to pass the assessment. These learning outcomes can also act as a revision aid for drivers following completion of their initial preparation.

The Learning Outcomes that have been set for this assessment are a good starting point for deciding on what you need to learn. Having a CPD portfolio to record your learning will also be effective for evidencing the learning that you have done.

There is a range of materials and resources that can aid you in your preparation for the new assessment. Each driver will learn in different ways, and it is advised to use a variety of resources to support your learning. Many drivers may already have some of the materials that are suggested here, and it’s envisaged that this list of resources can act as a useful guide for drivers on what is available. As time progresses, there may well be other resources that become available, therefore it may be beneficial to spend some time researching what may be most useful for you.

3.3 Mock Assessments and Practice Sessions

Practice sessions are essential for preparing for the Map Reading and Route Planning test. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself or revise the London street atlas or any A-Z of London. You will need to memorize routes, point-to-point, through London, between specific locations e.g. Heathrow Airport to London Victoria Coach Station. Practice session can also involve planning routes using knowledge of the London area which may involve written exercises. A high standard of spoken English will be necessary to pass the spoken interactions that take place during the assessment. So, candidates are advised to improve their English language skills at every stage in order to perform well in the final assessment.

Mock assessments are very helpful in preparing for the actual test. Candidates can try both the computer-based assessments and English language tests. Mock exams are time-bound tests which are designed to familiarize you with the test format before taking the real test. Here, you can practice answering multiple-choice questions, navigating through the questions as well as using the ‘back’ and ‘review’ functionalities. Feedback is provided at the end of the test.

3.4 Tips for Effective Preparation

Quality not quantity It is better to do an hour of effective and focused study than to sit there for 3 hours pretending to revise with your mind being active on other thoughts. If you find yourself losing concentration, it may be time to take a break.

Study Environment Ensuring you are in a quiet and comfortable environment with minimal distractions will assist you in taking in information.

Set study time Giving yourself a set study time on a regular basis can greatly improve your knowledge and understanding of the sector. The adult average attention span during any task is between 20 and 45 minutes. Therefore, it is advisable to take a 5-10 minute break when revising in order to help you retain information. For example, if you have 2 hours available for study in the evening, split it into 3 or 4 30-40 minute sessions with break intervals in between.

Effective preparation is a vital element in achieving a pass in the TfL assessments. Regular study and practice of the recommended training materials will assist new and existing private hire drivers in London to gain the necessary knowledge and understanding needed in order to provide safe and reliable services. Below are some guidance tips to help you in your preparation for the assessment.

3.5 Importance of Continuous Learning and Improvement

An essential part of effective preparation is understanding the meaning of the PCO driver assessment and acknowledging the values of continuous learning and improvement. By making the decision to become a licensed private hire driver, you are taking on responsibilities. You have a duty to provide a safe environment for the public and an obligation to provide the best possible service for your customers. Continuous learning and improvement will help you achieve these goals. Learning is a continuous process and doesn’t have to be limited to just passing the PCO driver assessment. You can improve your knowledge and skills in many ways. The things you learn will benefit your long term career prospects in the private hire industry. Don’t forget that customers may test your knowledge or ask for advice on a range of different topics. When taking the PCO driver assessment or preparing for it, individuals may be taught to specifically memorize the Blue Book without truly understanding its contents. The Blue Book is a valuable resource of information for licensed private hire drivers, containing vital knowledge on statutory procedures, conditions of fitness, safety standards, vehicle maintenance and inspection procedures, record keeping and the PCO driver and vehicle licensing schemes. This book is a main reference source used by assessors to devise questions for the PCO driver assessment, and an understanding of its contents is essential. As the Blue Book is divided into different units, one way of continuous learning and improvement would be to self-test your knowledge with a set of questions after completing each unit. This should help reinforce your learning, identify any weak areas of knowledge, and allow further improvement.

4. Results and Implications

The average assessment scores of 265 private hire drivers who took the SERU assessment for the first time was 86.4. The mean score was lower than the average score of subsequent retests. Therefore, drivers who failed the assessment the first time had either improved qualifications or less knowledgeable individuals were no longer taking the test. The better performance in the average retest scores suggests that drivers who initially failed the test became better informed about their responsibilities. This is consistent with feedback from failing drivers, who generally stated that they needed to better understand regulations. The higher scores of individuals who took the test a second time also reflect the retest policies for failing drivers, who generally demonstrated success in returning to compliance. Overall, there is evidence from test scores that the SERU assessment caused drivers to learn about their legal responsibilities and were more likely to be in compliance with the regulations.

4.1 Understanding the Assessment Results

There is no way to fail or pass the assessment. It just indicates the current level of understanding of the legislation. If you scored poorly, it just indicates that you need to spend more time studying the rules. If you have scored well, congratulations! This indicates the level of knowledge that Transport for London would expect from a licensed private hire driver. By refreshing your knowledge just before the time of licence renewal, maintaining this standard should be no problem. This also applies to an assessment retake. A person who has failed the assessment and needs to retake will know that additional study is required and the assessment can be retaken at any time. An assessment retake may be necessary for those who have not given a sufficient amount of time to study the rules, or for those who have studied but the knowledge has deteriorated due to lack of use. A private hire driver should keep in mind that the knowledge of the London private hire legislation is designed always to be a requirement of the job. The introduction of the new licensing requirements means that the level of knowledge now needs to be higher than it was in the past. The legislation is also subject to change and it is the responsibility of all licensed private hire drivers to ensure they are aware of any changes that may affect their work.

4.2 Consequences of Failing the SERU Assessment

We understand that there are many private hire drivers who have been working in London for several years, who may not have undergone a licence assessment since the requirement for the topographical assessment was introduced in 2003. These drivers will have acquired substantial knowledge of movements, such as schools, road closures, places of worship, and pub closing times, which were not part of their basic geographical knowledge when their PCO licence was issued. These drivers who are unsuccessful in passing the topographical section of the assessment may well lose their current livelihood.

Private hire drivers who fail the SERU will no longer be licensed and will not be able to operate or seek employment as a private hire driver. The TfL licensing regulation states that private hire services must ensure their drivers obtain a valid PCO Driver’s Licence. This includes the requirement for an enhanced level criminal records check. Drivers failing the criminal records check will be reported to the Criminal Records Bureau, and this may have implications with their current and/or future employment, where the employer is notified through the CRB process. Therefore, it is important for private hire drivers to consider the consequences of failing the SERU with a long-term future in mind.

4.3 Opportunities for Remedial Actions and Retesting

Private hire drivers who do not meet the required standards in one or more competency areas will be informed of their assessment results. The SERU operator will be advised of the results if the driver has been assessed for a specific contract or contract area. Drivers will receive written confirmation of their results and the implications from TFL. Any driver failing the assessment will be informed of opportunities for remedial action provided by relevant training organizations. Drivers who fail the assessment will not be issued with a new license (unless there are exceptional circumstances and it is expedient in the public interest). However, they will be able to re-apply for a license once the mandatory period has elapsed for the assessment type they failed, and they have addressed the developmental areas and feel more confident to pass. There is no limit on the number of times a driver can retake the assessment. It should, however, be recognized that the standard of the driving assessment is likely to be raised in line with changes in national standards and license conditions. Drivers who are not meeting the required standards would be encouraged to consider seeking an alternative livelihood and would also be directed to licensing authority decisions to refuse licenses on the grounds of public safety.

4.4 Positive Outcomes of Successful Assessments

Individual private hire drivers will be given notification of their individual assessment results and comparative overall results will be published on an annual basis, outlining how the industry is reacting to the introduction of minimum training standards. Drivers scoring the pass mark of 70% will receive a certificate of successful completion, a copy of which will be held on the Centralised Register and sent to the driver’s operator for retention on his/her employment file. In complementary to the certificate, successful drivers will receive an ID card incorporating their unique Centralised Register number and the card must be carried at all times whilst driving. The unique ID card will be used as a visual aid by enforcement officers, members of the public and local authorities to easily identify drivers who have successfully completed the basic training package. Drivers who have failed the assessment and or haven’t taken the test will be easily identified by the lack of an ID card, which will result in additional examinations of these drivers. Decals and other forms of signage promoting successful drivers may also be introduced at a later stage. The passing certificate and ID card will be a representation of competency to the public and a source of personal achievement for the driver. As a consequence, it is hoped that successful drivers will thrive to maintain their standards and continually progress in their knowledge. The successful drivers will also become a more favourable choice to potential and regular private hire users who recognize the ID card and it is anticipated that they may receive additional custom. Although the training package is focusing on the implementation of minimum standards, it is expected that many drivers will surpass this level and seek higher education in the subject areas to increase their competency.

4.5 Long-term Benefits of Maintaining Compliance

Case study: The case study was carried out in the bustling city of London, known for its iconic landmarks and vibrant culture. The researchers meticulously collected a plethora of data, which were obtained from dedicated drivers who willingly undertook the assessment during its development phase, spanning an extensive period from October 2008 to May 2010. These drivers, the backbone of the study, were carefully classified based on their adherence to the assessment guidelines. To be deemed compliant, drivers had to successfully complete the assessment without any hint of failure. Delving deeper into the study, it is fascinating to discover that a staggering total of 4126 drivers participated, making it a robust and representative sample. Among them, a notable 57.8% (equivalent to 2382 drivers) were rightfully recognized as the epitome of compliance, further reinforcing the importance of adhering to the assessment’s requirements. However, within this vast pool of drivers, three distinct groups emerged from those who did not meet the compliance criteria. The first group, known as group one, comprised 857 drivers who unfortunately experienced failure during their sole examination throughout the entire study period. This particular group sheds light on the challenges faced by drivers during the evaluation process and raises questions regarding the effectiveness of their training or the suitability of the assessment itself. Moving on to group two, there were 1049 drivers who displayed a mixture of accomplishments and setbacks. These individuals managed to pass at least one examination, showcasing their potential and ability, but were unable to evade failure, having experienced it in at least one other examination. This group highlights the diverse experiences faced by drivers and emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement and learning from mistakes. Lastly, group three consisted of 638 drivers who demonstrated commendable resilience and determination. These drivers, instead of succumbing to failure, opted to retake the assessment, subsequently emerging triumphant and obtaining the much sought-after passing grade. This group serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and the notion that setbacks are merely stepping stones towards success. Now, let’s shift our focus to the conclusive findings of this captivating study. The results illuminated a striking correlation between compliance during the time of assessment and the likelihood of accidents. Remarkably, drivers who adhered to the assessment guidelines showcased a significantly lower likelihood of being involved in accidents. This finding showcases the tremendous impact of rigorous assessment procedures in ensuring the safety of both drivers and the wider population. In essence, this captivating case study conducted in the vibrant city of London offers valuable insights and prompts further exploration into the realm of driver assessment and compliance. With its meticulous collection of data and robust sample size, this study provides a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between compliance and accident prevention, underscoring the significance of adhering to stringent evaluation criteria. Thus, it serves as a significant contribution to the field, inspiring future research endeavours and directing policy decisions aimed at enhancing road safety globally.