Fears grow criminals posing as taxi drivers
Unlicensed operators are posing as genuine taxi drivers as a result of a legal glitch that could allow criminals to operate fake taxis.
Taxi operators and unions are demanding a total overhaul of taxi industry controls to enhance public protection.
A TV3 investigation has revealed the ease with which fake taxis can operate on Irish streets.
A fake taxi roof sign was obtained for as little as €200 – and a fake taxi was able to operate from city centre ranks without being either detected or challenged.
The investigation, conducted over the past 12 months, found that on all occasions when a garage owner, who agreed to pose as a legitimate taxi driver for the purposes of the investigation, drove, he was not detected or challenged.
No fares were accepted as part of the investigative operation.
Taxi groups said they were shocked and said their greatest fear was the obvious risk to which members of the public were being exposed.
The Department of Transport insisted that “the regulation of the taxi industry, including issues relating to taxi signage, is a matter for the regulator, the National Transport Authority (NTA)”.
However, the NTA admitted that it faces inherited problems over taxi signs, their design and distribution.
“The design of the currently used taxi roof signs in Ireland dates back many years,” a spokesperson said.
“Because of this, the NTA does not own the design of the sign and cannot legally control or prevent sign manufacturers’ from making a taxi sign.”
As a consequence, the supply of taxi signs cannot be either restricted or controlled.
Effectively, anyone can purchase a taxi sign.
However, anyone caught using a fake taxi sign or posing as a licensed operator can face heavy fines.
The NTA pointed out that “it is an offence to operate a vehicle with a sign saying ‘taxi’ or ‘tacsaí’ unless the vehicle is licensed as a taxi”.
Anyone found guilty of such an offence can be fined up to €5,000 in the district court.