29 juin 20

COVID-19 safety advice for taxi, ride hail, rental and car share users

As economies across Europe gradually reopen after the coronavirus pandemic, fleet and travel managers face the challenge of advising their employees on how to travel safely by taxi, ride hailing or car share services.

With fears over the transmission of COVID-19 on public transport, such as buses, trams and trains, many employees are looking to travel by taxi, ride hailing, car hire and car share services. However, the prospect of multiple travellers using the same car during the course of a day brings its own risks, for which different companies and trade organisations have developed their own solutions.

Taxi safety charter

In the UK, three of the leading taxi dispatch software providers – Autocab, Cordic and iCabbi – have created a charter of best practice for taxi firms to follow, as a way to reassure their passengers and drivers. More than 190 taxi firms across the country have already signed up to the charter, which calls for:

●       Hand sanitisers to be available to all drivers and customers

●       Drivers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE)

●       Passenger areas of the vehicle to be wiped down and sanitised regularly

●       Vehicles with a shield installed will have it regularly cleaned and sanitised

The charter also calls for card payments, wherever possible, to avoid having to handle cash.

Safa Alkateb, CEO at Autocab said: “We’re encouraging the entire industry to get behind the Charter – by signing it, private hire taxi operators can guarantee they are providing a cleaner and more hygienic way of travelling.”

Safety screens debate

Addison Lee, one of London’s biggest private hire operators with more than 4,000 cars in the UK capital, has provided its drivers with protective equipment such as masks, gloves, hand sanitiser and disinfectant, and is ensuring its vehicles undergo an electrostatic antimicrobial cleanse. It has also launched a major programme to install partition screens between the driver and passenger seats as a physical barrier against the spread of the virus.

Liam Griffin, CEO Addison Lee, said: “We know that across the industry drivers have started to install a variety of home-made partitions. By implementing a single, tested model in each of our vehicles, we can ensure that the solution we are providing is safe and effective for both passengers and drivers.”

However, Green Tomato Cars, a private hire firm with 600 hybrid and zero emission cars in London, has dismissed partition screens as “collection points for germs [that] reduce airflow,” and expressed concern that retro-fitted screens give a false sense of security to drivers and passengers. Instead, the company is ensuring the electrostatic cleaning of all of its cars, the same process used by commercial airlines, while providing hand sanitiser and face masks for all drivers.

Face masks for drivers and passengers

Ride hailing giant Uber has made face masks compulsory for both driver and passenger, and said passengers can no longer sit in the front seat, reducing the capacity of its cars.

The UK government also recommends using a mask when riding in a taxi or private hire vehicle; sitting in the back seat on the other side of the car from the driver in order to maximise social distancing; and washing or sanitising hands for at least 20 seconds after a journey.

Car share complications

Disinfection is more complicated for floating car share operators, with vehicles not returned to a station between hires. Fleets with pool cars face similar challenges.

Zipcar has said it has enhanced its cleaning protocols and techniques: “paying close attention to the hard surfaces people touch, such as steering wheels, door handles, mirrors and key fobs.” It is also asking its customers to bring their own disinfectant wipes to clean a car after use, and to use anti-bacterial gel before and after each drive.

Rental and hire cars

For the vehicle hire sector, the BVRLA has issued guidance that: “All vehicles should be subject to additional cleaning once returned from any customer and before being hired to another.”

It also says that vehicles rented by anyone who has subsequently developed the symptoms of COVID-19 should be isolated for 72 hours before being hired out again.

Is the journey essential?

Despite these efforts and initiatives, the World Health Organisation (WHO) still advises against all non-essential travel, and asks employers to: “Consider whether a face-to-face meeting or event is needed. Could it be replaced by a teleconference or online event?”

If employees do have to travel, the WHO also suggests issuing them: “with small bottles of alcohol-based hand rub. This can facilitate regular hand-washing.”

Authored by: Jonathan Manning