The National Transport Authority (NTA) is proposing new regulations to ease some of the obligations placed on small public service vehicle (SPSV) licence holders in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NTA has begun a public consultation process to take on board any concerns or feedback before implementing these regulations.
The proposed regulations would address fees for the application and renewal of SPSV licences, and the maximum age limits of vehicles that may be used as SPSVs. The proposed regulations reflect the NTA's intention to mitigate some of the harsh economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on providers of transport services, which have been recognised as an essential service throughout the pandemic.
SPSV Licence Fees
Using its powers under the Taxi Regulation Acts 2013 and 2016, the NTA has specified the fees to renew SPSV licences under the Taxi Regulation (Small Public Service Vehicle) Regulations 2015 (2015 Regulations). SPSV licences can be renewed for six- or twelve-month periods, unless the vehicle in question has reached the tenth anniversary of its initial registration, in which case the licence must be renewed every six months at pro rata rates. To help the SPSV industry through the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure a supply of SPSVs into the future, the Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan announced in his 2021 Budget speech that funding would be made available to the NTA to waive and reduce standard vehicle licence renewal fees for the calendar year 2021.
The NTA has now announced the draft Small Public Service Vehicle (Emergency Measure COVID-19) (Fees) Regulations 2020 to implement the waiver and reduction of the renewal fees specified in the 2015 Regulations for the calendar year 2021.
SPSV Age Limits
The Taxi Regulation Acts 2013 and 2016 also empower the NTA to specify the types and age of vehicles which may be used as SPSVs, which it also does in the 2015 Regulations. The 2015 Regulations provide the maximum ages beyond which a vehicle may not be licensed as an SPSV of the relevant vehicle licence category. An SPSV operator may not renew the licence for a vehicle which has passed this age limit; instead the operator must purchase a new vehicle, on which they must undertake both a roadworthiness test (the NCT) and an SPSV initial suitability test.
On 19 May 2020, the NTA introduced a temporary amendment to the age limits for SPSVs which is effective until 31 December 2020. In light of the continuing pandemic, and to mitigate the adverse economic consequences to the SPSV industry resulting from the spread of COVID-19, the NTA has proposed a further exceptional provision, the draft Small Public Service Vehicle (Emergency Measure COVID-19) (2) Regulation 2020, which would extend the maximum permissible age requirements by a year, up to and including 31 December 2021. Vehicles that already received an extension under the first amendment will not receive a further extension under the second amendment.
Both new regulations are open to public consultation through the NTA website. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Thursday, 12 November 2020. The results of the public consultations will be published on the NTA website. It will be interesting to see whether concerned stakeholders seek further concessions due to the recent introduction of nationwide level 5 COVID-19 restrictions.
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