Explore the current ride-hailing scene and just how vital licencing is for their operation

There’s no doubt that the UK has seen a surge in options for getting around in the past decade.

New ride-hailing apps appear every few years, each offering slightly different products but ultimately all with the offering: a cheap and efficient journey at the press of a button.

First came Uber, launching in London back in 2012… how did we survive without it for so long? In 2016 it was estimated that 30,000 Londoners a day were installing the app on their phones.

Then followed new private hire vehicle (PHV) alternatives. Hailo, Taxify, Bolt, Kapten, mytaxi, Free Now, ViaVan, Ola, Wheely and most recently Whystle, to name just a few. 

A brief insight into current operators in London

Uber – undoubtedly the biggest player in the ride-hailing app scene. Uber currently boasts the highest number of drivers and riders in London and has been around longest.

However, Uber have had several issues with their licencing; TfL have rejected their application on multiple occasions due to safety concerns from 2017-2019 (read more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54322579). As a result of modifications, Uber are now approved to operate in London in 2020. 

Bolt (previously Taxify) – launched in London in 2017, Taxify failed to meet private hire licence requirements. After re-branding and significantly improving every aspect of their operation they returned as Bolt with a bang in summer 2019. They offer a more affordable service that rivals Uber’s prices.
Via (previously ViaVan) – launched in April 2018, Via bring the sole concept of shared rides as a way of complementing public transport.
Ola – launched internationally in 2018, Ola was introduced into several cities in the UK including London in 2020. However, they also failed to have their licence renewed in October of 2020 over safety concerns.
FREE NOW (previously mytaxi + Kapten) – launched in 2019, Kapten entered with a fiery ad campaign to rival Uber. However, they have now partnered with FREE NOW (previously mytaxi) to become the first ride-hailing app to offer both black cabs and private vehicles.
Wystle – the most recently launched (December 2020) ride-hailing app is the ‘first British based ride-hailing app, by Londoners for Londoners’ offering high end transport and boasting the longest TfL licence of the pack.
Uber taxi ride hailing app person waiting in mask

What is a private hire vehicle licence?

And what does Transport for London (TfL) have to do with it?

One thing that is essential for this industry, and is quite the hot topic, is the PHV licence.

All PHVs, described as “a vehicle constructed or adapted to seat fewer than nine passengers which is made available with a driver for hire for the purpose of carrying passengers, other than a licensed taxi or a public service vehicle” must be fully licenced to be on the roads with a PVH driver’s licence. Ride-hailing companies therefore must go through vigorous checks to ensure their operation is safe and meets all requirements for both drivers and their organisation.

In London, TfL is the power that grants PHV operator’s licences and therefore decides who is safe to be operating on London’s roads.

What do operators need to do to get a licence?

To get a licence approved, operators must all fulfil extensive criteria. If there is any doubt regarding the appropriateness of their offering, the licence will be revoked or not renewed.

This 31 page document outlines more information if you wish to explore the details.

To summarise, possible issues could stem from:

  • bankruptcy
  • health and safety concerns
  • accounts, insurance
  • operating centre inspections
  • and necessary record keeping.

This last point covers things like bookings, drivers, vehicles, complaints and, last but not least, lost property!

The importance of lost property

The licence requires PHV operators to keep a record of any lost property found at the centre or in any private hire vehicle including details of:

a) the date on which it was found

b) the place where it was found and, if it was found in a vehicle, the registration mark of that vehicle

c) a description of the item

d) evidence to show that, where practical, an attempt was made to return the item to the owner and whether or not this was successful and

e) in the case of any unclaimed item which has been disposed of, how it was disposed of

Therefore, it is essential that all ride-hailing apps have a suitable and effective process when it comes to lost property. Without this in place, they may be refused their licence. Although it’s obviously not the most imperative part of the operation, it is considered essential according to guidelines and should not be dismissed.

Lost property left in taxi cab ride-hailing

How can PHV operators ensure they fulfil the lost property requirements?

It can actually be incredibly difficult to fulfil all of the particulars from a-e whilst trying to juggle all the other parts of the business. That’s why introducing a dedicated lost property software into the process for taxi and ride-hailing app companies is on the rise.

Using NotLost’s innovative software, staff members at the operating centre can register found items in seconds using just a photo.

Using smart image recognition software, the platform will automatically create a found item report with full details such as: time and date the item was found, place it was found, a description of the item (colour, brand and other key aspects of its appearance) and there is space for the individual driver number or registration mark to be added to that report.

Passengers can then enquire about lost items and the platform gets to work matching lost/found items automatically.

All information regarding the process is logged digitally, including attempts to return the item, so the operator has complete visibility over the entire process.

Furthermore, unclaimed items can be expired on the system and how they were disposed of can also be noted.

Therefore, at the click of a button, operators can generate reports that tick all the boxes that TfL require! This can save customer service teams hours of work and alleviate the headache of having to deal with lost property.

What about outside of London?

These requirements don’t only exist in London. Across the UK, local councils in cities, counties or boroughs have their own licencing expectations for companies using private hire vehicle. All of these essentially follow the same requirements outlined by TfL and full details can be found online.

To apply for a PHV licence outside of London, head here to search for your local council to find the requirements for a licence in that area.

In conclusion

Bringing a new ride-hailing operation into London, or any area, requires a lot of planning, organisation and most importantly, a PHV operator’s licence. In order to fulfil all of the requirements for this, taxi and PHV companies must consider their lost property process to ensure everything is in order.

NotLost are proud to offer an innovative solution to this demand and we’re keen to get talking to operators who are looking to implement leading technology into their operation.

Get in touch

Give us a call on +44(0)20 8037 3970 or drop us an email Plus, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date with all things lost property!