THREE in every four taxi drivers have failed the so-called 'area knowledge' test, suggesting they do not know their way around.
New figures from the National Transport Authority (NTA) show that just 27pc of existing drivers taking the test passed, with success rates even lower for those hoping to enter the industry.
And the NTA has prosecuted 56 drivers so far this year for a range of offences including not having a taxi or drivers' licence, hiring a taxi to a person who did not have a licence or refusing to take a fare. Another 164 on-the-spot fines of €250 have also been imposed on drivers who broke the rules.
In May 2009, a new skills development programme was introduced for entry into the taxi industry, designed to improve standards.
It is comprised of two modules. The industry knowledge section features 54 multiple choice questions while the second module is area-specific, comprising questions related to the county in which the applicant wishes to work, including locations of places of interest and routes from one place to another.
The NTA figures show:
• 2,479 new entrants sat the test so far this year. Just 638 passed the 'area knowledge' test, or 25pc.
• Of these new entrants, 1,385 passed the 'industry knowledge' test, or 55pc.
• Some 124 existing drivers sat the 'area knowledge' test, with just 34 passing (27pc).
• The pass rate for the 'industry' test was 68pc.
• Another 24 people hoping to become dispatch operators sat a new test introduced this year, with five – or 21pc – passing.
"We acknowledge that the area knowledge test pass rate amongst existing licence holders is poor.
"At 68pc, the pass rate for the industry knowledge test is much better. It is important to note that these tests are voluntary for existing drivers. Also, and equally importantly, all current drivers passed the gardai's area knowledge test when they joined the industry. We will be looking at the content of the test in the future," a spokeswoman for the NTA said.
Other data released by the authority shows that 351 complaints have been made against taxi drivers so far this year.
Most (131) relate to the conduct or behaviour of the driver, followed by overcharging (105), matters relating to hiring a taxi (97), with 18 related to the condition of the vehicle.