Some taxis in Southampton will now be required to have working card machines for customers and drivers will be subject to random drug screening under new rules.

The card machine move applies to hackney carriages in the city after concerns were expressed by the industry.

Members of the city council’s licensing committee heard the requirement would prevent a “minority” of drivers who used the lack of a card machine to refuse short trips.

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A new drug testing policy for all taxi drivers in the city will also come into force.

Councillors approved the changes to the local authority’s rules for taxis, along with adding the previously stand alone policy on taxi cameras into the main policy document.

Phil Bates, licensing service manager, told the committee at a meeting on Wednesday, June 26, that the card machine policy had been successfully trialled within the docks.

He said the request to bring in the change had come from the trade during forum meetings.

Another change means customers paying by card must be able to identify the vehicle, or driver, or registered limited company that took the payment on their bank statements.

A further consultation would be needed to introduce the card machine requirement for private hire vehicles.

On the subject of implementing a drug testing policy, Mr Bates said: “Very rarely, thankfully, we get some information that suggests a driver might be taking some drugs.

“Without any policy, it makes it very difficult for officers to be able to follow a process that satisfies keeping the officer safe and offers protections for the drivers as well.”

Senior licensing officer Russell Hawkins said they did not think there was a “big problem” but the team was not “sitting on our hands”.

“What we are looking to do is be able to screen and test as we see fit during operations or during periods of time that we see fit,” Mr Hawkins said.

“That won’t be every time a driver comes into us. It won’t be every time a driver renews.

“It may be at random roadside when we are conducting test purchases. It may be when we have got specific intelligence. Those situations will come to us as they arise.”

He told councillors they were not being presented with the specifics of how the licensing team would carry out screening and testing, instead the mechanism of being able to do it as part of the policy.

“It is a job for us to ensure public safety,” Mr Hawkins added. “It is a job for us to ensure the drivers are fit and proper and it’s a safeguard the public should expect us to be aware of and deal with.”

A consultation on the changes saw them all supported by at least 63 per cent of respondents.

The committee also approved a slightly amended style of door sticker for private hire vehicles.

A full switch to the new layout, which has a border line and rounded corners, will be left for the trade to communicate with the council when they believe the old stickers should be replaced.

For the time being, both sticker designs will be permitted.