The Licensing Committee was asked to consider a report that detailed a number of options with regard to a requirement in the Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policies in respect of the level of tint permitted on the windows of licensed Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles.
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) informed the Committee that during December 2017 and February 2018, that the Council had consulted on the proposed amendments to the Council’s policies on the licensing of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles and drivers.
The proposals related to two areas within the policies that had caused some difficulty since the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Handbook was last updated in March 2016. One of the areas of difficulty was with regard to ‘Tinted Windows’, as the Handbook stated:
“Any vehicle to be licensed for the first time, with the exception of special event vehicles, is NOT permitted to have a tint where they conceal the identity of the passenger inside. The Licensing Officer will examine a vehicle prior to test to ensure that the level of tint on the windows does not conceal the identity of passengers inside the vehicle.”
Members were reminded that at the Licensing Committee meeting held on 12th March 2018, that the Committee had considered the results of the consultation, as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report. The five options presented were discussed in detail with Members further discussing the use of the window tint meter purchased by WRS; which measured the total amount of visual light transmission through a window and any coatings on a window.
Officers were then tasked to conduct further research with regard to the precise amount of visible light to be transmitted. This research would also include testing vehicles that had been presented to Licensing Sub-Committee Hearings, with tinted windows, with the window tint meter. This was to determine the amount of visible light transmitted through the windows of those specific vehicles.
Paragraph 3.13 in the report highlighted that 9 licensed vehicles were tested and that the amount of visible light transmitted through the rear windows of each vehicle was as follows:
· 3%, 14%, 14%, 16%, 21%, 24%, 34%, 36%, 74%
Appendix 2 to the report provided summarised details of the research carried out into the policies in place at other local authorities.
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing), WRS, drew Members’ attention to paragraph 3.15 in the report, which detailed the Department for Transport’s publication “Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Best Practice Guidance”, with regard to “Tinted Windows” which stated:
“The minimum light transmission for glass in front of, and to the side of, the driver is 70%. Vehicles may be manufactured with glass that is darker than this fitted to windows rearward of the driver, especially in estate and people carrier style vehicles. When licensing vehicles, authorities should be mindful of this as well as the large costs and inconvenience associated with changing glass that conforms to both Type Approval and Construction and Use Regulations.”
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing), WRS, drew Members’ attention to paragraph 3.7 in the report and the five options for Members consideration.
Members thanked the Senior Practitioner (Licensing), WRS, for his comprehensive report and for the time he had taken on all of the research conducted.
Members accepted that manufacturers now fitted, factory tinted windows as standard on vehicles for environmental reasons; and noted that the Senior Practitioner (Licensing), WRS, had found it difficult trying to obtain specific information, with regard to factory fitted tinted windows, from the manufacturers he had contacted.
Further in depth discussion followed whereby Members raised a number of questions on:-
· Safeguarding for both the travelling public and licenced drivers.
· Setting an appropriate level for tinted windows, as there was quite a disparity with the vehicles that had been presented to Licensing Sub-Committee Hearings and subsequently tested using the window tint meter.
In response to Members questions, the Senior Practitioner (Licensing), WRS, clarified that any vehicles that failed the vehicle inspection test, due to the level of tint on the windows, would still be presented to a meeting of the Licensing Sub-Committee for determination.
After careful consideration of all of the five options, as detailed at paragraph 3.7 in the report, it was agreed that Option D and part of Option C be adopted as follows:
a) to remove the requirement from the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Handbook that:
“Any vehicle to be licensed for the first time, with the exception of special event vehicles, is NOT permitted to have a tint where they conceal the identity of the passenger inside. The Licensing Officer will examine a vehicle prior to test to ensure that the level of tint on the windows does not conceal the identity of passengers inside the vehicle”; and
b) that it be replaced with a requirement that the glass was to the manufacturer’s standard specification and vehicles were presented to licensing in an unmodified state. Vehicles fitted with films, foils, privacy glass (entirely black or reflective glass), or any other aftermarket tinting, would be referred to a meeting of the Licensing Sub-Committee; unless the films, foils, privacy glass and any other aftermarket tinting was removed and the vehicle returned to the manufacturer’s standard specification.