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COVID SCREENS - WHAT’S


At the start of 2020, the most awful year we have experi- enced in a long time, with lockdowns, infection rates climbing, drivers becoming ill, infected, or worse and the trade being decimated with no support at all, one of the first things required was some drastic form of action.


As a result, many drivers wanted to install Covid protection screens in their vehicles for added protection and to prevent the spread of the virus. There were some awful sights, including shower curtains, bits of plastic, even cling film wrapped between the two posts behind the front seats.


Many councils allowed anything, since something was better than nothing. In fact, some councils even paid for these cheap screens that were and are not actually fit for purpose, but at least they did something to support and assist, which was far better than those that refused to allow anything to be installed.


One of the first to adopt a specific criterion as such was Transport for London; this criterion included many impossible requirements such as “obtain a certificate of compliance from the vehicle manufacturer to verify the installation did not materially affect the structural integrity of the vehicle,” and “must be MIRA approved” at a minimum cost of over £2,000 per vehicle type.


OK, not exactly fit for purpose, but this was only London right?...wrong!!


The Government decided to copy and paste this as “gov- ernment guidance” which was then copied by many other councils including Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and others.


What’s the problem with the TfL condition being national guidance?


Actually, there are a few issues with this: for a start, it referred to MIRA approval, but on further enquiries, MIRA was ONLY testing to TfL conditions and requirements. They had not been contacted by any other local authority at all, and they were aware that the “vehicle manufacturer certification” was “obviously almost impossible to obtain”.


So why were other councils using TfL conditions?


Why not, right? After all, why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already written it?


For a start, TfL operates under its own unique transport act, the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. For example, they do not have external licence plates; they have window stickers known as “roundels” to identify the PHV as being licensed.


26


According to the HSE Commissioner, taxi and private hire drivers are responsible for their own health and safety at work, and that of their passengers. This may include carrying out their own risk assessments, which could lead to the conclusion that the installation of such measures is necessary.


This means that any attempts to prevent these measures from being adopted or implemented could be a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act: https://bit.ly/3cwoe1c


APRIL 2021


Glasgow and Edinburgh run under a different act of legislation again, and as such should not be copying anything from the London transport legislation.


Cardiff seemed to mirror most of the LGMPA 1976, so again, should not have been referring to the London transport legislation or local conditions.


Wakefield Council currently still will not allow the installa- tion of such protection devices at all.


So, what is the issue?


Let us not pull any punches here: people are literally dying from Covid, the government guidance is to take any measures necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, and yet we have such a mixture of opinion amongst local authorities, and very little support, with the exception of the Scottish Government who actually released quite a substantial amount of funding for this and other Covid prevention measures.


What has changed?


Once the issues caused by this disparity around the UK came to light, the DfT appointed the TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) to review the guidance on the instal- lation of Covid screens into vehicles. We were delighted to be invited to assist and support this review, which also included motor vehicle manufacturers, insurers, the Institute of Licensing, various local authorities, and various other stakeholders.


The result was the release of updated government guidance which was released in early March 2021: https://bit.ly/3cwIhN3


This new guidance removed the requirement for MIRA testing, and reduced the requirement for “vehicle manufac- turer certification” to read “where possible”, and allowed for this to be obtained from a local dealership instead of an actual vehicle manufacturer.


Why is this such an issue?


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