Taxis and private hire vehicles

Any hackney carriages (taxis) or private hire vehicles (minicabs) that wish to operate in Dacorum must be licensed by us. Separate licences will be required for vehicles, drivers and operating companies.

The purpose of licensing is to ensure the safety of the public, by checking that the drivers are fit and proper, and that the vehicles they drive are safe, suitable and reliable.

Potentially, any vehicle and driver that can be hired to carry up to eight passengers for reward will be required to be licensed, subject to a small number of exemptions. The majority of chauffeur driven hire cars, executive hire vehicles, stretch limousines, and small school transport vehicles are required to be licensed, in addition to vehicles used for more general taxi work.

What's the difference between a hackney carriage and a private hire vehicle?

Legally, hackney carriages and private hire vehicles are treated as two separate entities, and the way in which they can operate is very different. We are required to set the standards and conditions that apply to each type of vehicle, which are generally used to give each a different appearance.

Both types of vehicles must display plastic 'plates' issued by us on the back of the vehicle, and in the front windscreen. Yellow plates are issued to hackney carriages, and white plates to private hire vehicles.

Drivers of both types of vehicle must also wear their licence 'badge' while working. In Dacorum, all drivers' badges are printed on white PVC cards, in a yellow surround for hackney carriage and a blue surround for private hire.

The table below summarises some of the main differences between the two types of licensed vehicles.

Differences between hackney carriages and private hire vehicles
Feature Hackney carriage Private hire vehicle
Appearance Motorised or horse-drawn vehicle, with capacity for one to eight passengers.
New vehicles must be able to carry wheelchairs. Where a licence has been in place continuously since 2004, a saloon car or MPV may also be used.
Only hackney carriages may use the word 'taxi' or 'cab' on the vehicle or in advertising.
Motorised vehicle, with capacity for one to eight passengers.
Saloon cars, MPVs, or minibuses may all be licensed as private hire vehicles.
Purpose-built taxis (such as traditional London taxis) cannot be licensed for private hire.
Plates Displays a yellow rectangular plastic plate on the back of the vehicle, and a smaller plate in the front windscreen.
Hackney Carriage licence plate
Displays a white rectangular plastic plate on the back of the vehicle, and a smaller plate in the front windscreen.
Some vehicles may be exempt from having to display the back plate.
Private Hire Vehicle licence plate
Roof signs Must display a roof sign bearing the word 'Taxi'. No roof signs permitted.
Door signs If working for a company, may optionally display the company's signs on the front door. Must display their operating company's signs on the front doors.
Maximum fares Hackney carriages must have meters fitted, and may not charge more than the maximum fares set by us. There are no maximum fares. All fares are set by the operator, and can be agreed at the time of booking.
Use of taxi ranks Hackney carriages are entitled to use taxi ranks around the borough, where they can sit and wait for a fare. Private hire vehicles cannot use ranks.
Hailing Hackney carriages can be hailed, or flagged down, anywhere in the borough. Private hire vehicles cannot be hailed or flagged down.
Pre-booking Hackney carriages can undertake pre-booked work. Private hire vehicles can only undertake pre-booked work through a licensed operator.
Contract work Hackney carriages can undertake contract work. Private hire vehicles can undertake contract work through a licensed operator.

The information on the plates and badges is very important if you wish to make a complaint as it’s the best way to identify a particular driver or car. Each plate on a vehicle has an individual number, as do the drivers' badges. The vehicle plates also state the maximum number of passengers permitted in the vehicle, and this number should never be exceeded as it may void the motor insurance for the journey.

Criteria for drivers and vehicles

All drivers licensed by us have to pass a stringent knowledge test covering all areas of the borough. They also have to be medically fit and undergo a criminal records check to ensure passenger safety as much as possible. The vehicles are required to undergo an annual MOT and Compliance test which not only tests for mechanical fitness but for the overall condition of the vehicle. Vehicles are expected to be in very good condition, and cars and drivers should be clean and presentable at all times. Licensing officers carry out random checks on vehicles and drivers all year long to ensure they continue to comply with these requirements.

Please be aware that it is very dangerous to get into an unlicensed vehicle for a journey that you pay for. You could not guarantee the safety of the vehicle or driver and the driver will not be insured in the event of an accident. If a Private Hire Vehicle picks you up without a booking, they will also not be insured and are acting illegally.

Contact us

For more information about taxi and private hire licences, please phone 01442 228225 or 228487, or email

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Page Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2023 at 01:44 PM