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UNITE VIEWPOINT


DEADLY WEAPONS AND BAD DECISIONS: IF I HAD A HAMMER


Once again I have to thank you very much for your kind appreciation and the various emails that I’ve received providing tangible confirma- tion from different areas nationally that the problems faced by the trade are fairly universal. Most involve an intrepid bunch of inexperienced


council officers and councillors who insist on meddling in areas of licensing in which they possess absolutely no experi- ence or expertise. What makes matters even worse is that this group seems impervious to any criticism, however construc- tive, and more so time and again they ignore the stark warnings and rational safety arguments of the experienced trade.


With a self-asserted sense of entitlement born of impunity, they continue to spread their (over) regulatory madness in order only (as far as I can see) to impede and prevent respon- sible operators, proprietors and drivers from running a safe and cost effective business. This is of course, the polar oppo- site of what their regulatory role should be! If in doubt, ask the DfT...!


The darker side of this is that some of their ill-conceived and poorly thought out regulatory madness actually places the trade at risk of inherent danger.


This month we examine one such danger, that of the glass hammer or rescue hammer (take your pick). For the uninitiat- ed, they are not made of glass, but instead are constructed from toughened steel. These hammers are exceptionally effective at their proposed purpose, i.e. they will smash or shatter a pane of toughened laminated glass mostly in one blow from the hammer’s ‘needle point’. There are numerous videos on the web which stand testament to this effective- ness. One such video shows a demonstration where with one blow of the hammer, a three inch diameter hole is punched in a half inch thick pane of glass. Imagine in your mind substitut- ing the pane of glass in the demonstration for a driver’s head, in order to appreciate the real potential danger(s) posed.


These are sometimes located on buses and trains for the proper purpose of breaking windows in an emergency. Now it should be stressed here that where these are provided on mass public transport (buses and trains), a number of mitigat- ing circumstances exist and must be considered. In most cases they are provided in passenger compartments that are totally separate to, or are located a long way away from, the driver. For example, on a train the driver is housed totally sep- arate to/from the passengers in a different compartment and


70


on a bus, the driver is encapsulated in a tough- ened glass or poly- carbonate safety “pod”.


In addition to this, on alter- native forms of mass public transport, there is the added mitigation of what could be called a ‘balance of power’ i.e. if Mr or Mrs Raving Lunatic (who may or may not be heavily intoxicated) were to grab the hammer and decide to attempt to attack the driver, then either this would not be possible as the driver is inaccessible or, any would-be assailant would be taken down by other unrelated passengers on the service. This ‘balance of power’ does not exist in a taxi or private hire vehicle - even when it is an MPV or minibus - as even when a group is travelling together, they are normally related in some way, even by friendship, and are generally of a similar intoxication level to other passengers within their group.


In making these assertions, I probably need to restate my experience and expertise here. Well, I have approaching 35 years experience in the cab trade and also hold a category ‘D’ driving licence for buses and coaches, together with a driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).


Let us now turn to the requirement for these hammers in taxis and private hire vehicles by some Local Authorities. Firstly would it be churlish here to ask for the council officers and licensing councillors to publicly state their experience and expertise!?


In a taxi or private hire vehicle, even an MPV or minibus, the driver is almost always located ‘cheek by jowl’ with the passengers. Incidentally and ironically, where they are not in the same compartment as the driver i.e. purpose built or black cabs for example in London, no such requirement for a ham- mer is made – so what does that say about the reasonableness or necessity of such a requirement in the provinces? Yes, you’ve got it – the ‘Inexperienced Meddlers’ at work once again!


Let us consider the potential and very real scenario of an MPV in use as a hackney carriage, which on a Saturday night picks up five intoxicated youngsters. At some point during the jour- ney, a row erupts over the fare or the route taken or anything else for that matter... what’s to stop one of the intoxicated


FEBRUARY 2021


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