Concerns have been raised that a council’s policy on low-emission vehicles and the impact of Covid-19 means Nottingham is struggling to fill 200 vacant black cab driver positions.
Nottingham City Council wanted around 400 of its fleet to be upgraded to low-emission vehicles by the end of June 2020.
Drivers have had to take out loans to buy the new cars, which can cost between £ 36,000 and £ 70,000.
Some drivers left the trade or refused to upgrade, with some challenging the decision in court.
The board says Hackney drivers have been aware of the proposed changes since 2017/18 and have had more than 18 months to purchase the new vehicles.
The council says the changes are worth it, as the new vehicles will improve air quality and make the city a cleaner and greener place to visit.
On Monday, councilors agreed to give former hackney driver’s license holders an extension to apply for new ones before opening the system to new applicants.
Mohammad Yousaf, 65, has been a taxi driver in Hackney for 30 years and is paying off a loan of £ 44,000 on the new vehicle he bought.
He said: “The council forced us (to buy these cars) because it is their policy, and we had no choice. I paid £ 44,000 – it’s like another house.
“You have to pay installments – and you have a family to look after as well. On average, I get a job at this rank every two to two and a half hours.
“We rely on people traveling and people not traveling, so I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am still in the dark.
Imran Majeed, 54, has been a taxi driver for 26 years and bought an electric taxi worth £ 70,000. He has to repay £ 650 per month.
He said: “I got to this grade at 9:30 am this morning and I still have no job and it is 11:00 am. I think more people will leave the profession.
To date, there are 177 drivers with compliant vehicles.
About fifty drivers left the business, informing the local community that they did not wish to renew their licenses and obtain the new vehicles.
Thirty-three vehicles were refused a license because they did not comply and the drivers appealed the decision to the district court.
The outcome of these appeals will be heard in January 2022.
In addition, 160 permits have expired or been refused (and have no pending appeals) without any vehicle request that complies with the policy.
The council says the change of vehicle associated with loss of business due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic means there are now around 243 permits up for grabs.
At the council’s regulatory and appeals committee on Monday, September 6, councilors agreed to give former hackney driver’s license holders an extension due to Covid-19 and a downturn in business.
They have until the end of September to express their interest, then three more months to either register a compliant vehicle or confirm that they have ordered one.
From October 1, the licenses will then be open to the general public with the hope that the board can reach 420.
Cllr Sally Longford (Lab), portfolio holder for climate change, carbon reduction and sustainability, said in July this year: “The past year has been difficult for everyone and we understand the impact on taxi drivers in Nottingham.
“We have worked closely with trade to explain our plans for moving towards a low emission vehicle fleet and this is a key part of our broader carbon neutrality ambitions.
“We are not going to reverse our policy on clean vehicle requirements as it helps us meet our obligations under the Clean Air Act to improve air quality and provide health benefits,” and that would be unfair to those who have already invested in new vehicles.
“We are all committed to improving the quality of the city’s taxi service and the quality of the air, and these changes will benefit both local business and our residents in the long run.”