Covid 19 update from CEO of Junction 21 Private Hire Chauffeur Operator Licence PO0178
Her Majesty’s Government guidance document
‘Working safely during COVID-19 in or from a vehicle’ (published 11th May 2020) by the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and in conjunction with Public Health England (PHE).
Her Majesty’s Government guidance document
‘Safer transport – guidance for operators’ (published 12th May 2020)
Department for Transport (DFT) Guidance document
‘Safer transport guidance for operators’ (published 12th May 2020).
From mid-May 2020 the UK Government have announced a return to work for those employees who cannot work from home. Junction 21 faces a specific set of challenges with regards to reassuring customers & clients and providing a safe and effective transportation service which minimises (as far as possible) the risk of the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19. This document is a suggestion of best practice based on various factors and guidelines suggested by Her Majesty’s Government departments and subject matter experts. It attempts to offer a clear approach to reducing the associated risks and aims to provide a focal point for the information relevant to our industry.
If the current Government and associated authority guidelines are understood and closely followed, travel via a professionally driven chauffeur service offers a lower-risk option than any other form of travel. The Government guidance documents and advice will continue to develop as lockdown restrictions change – this document is based on the available information correct as of 29th May 2020.
Quote from Public Health England (PHE):
“PHE recommends trying to keep 2 metres apart from people where possible, as a precaution. However, this is not a rule and the science is complex. The key thing is not to be too close to people for more than a short amount of time, as much as you can”.
Clearly a chauffeur-driven passenger cannot follow this suggestion, and neither can the chauffeur. This document aims to provide the safest possible options and alternatives for both.
Perspex/plastic partition screens have recently become available. The recent report via TfL/STAC explains that unless the screens are hermetically (airtight) sealed at all points (with no portal or opening) then they do not provide full protection from coughs or sneezes/spread of the virus. With a fully & correctly sealed unit, communication between driver and passenger would not be possible unless an intercom system was fitted. With this in mind, the majority of screens currently available do not offer realistic effectiveness. Chauffeurs and operators who choose to have these screens fitted should by all means do so, however it is vitally important that they are honest, truthful, and accurate with the facts when dealing with their clients. Chauffeurs and operators should refrain from advising their clients that they are fully protected, as this is not fact. Chauffeurs and operators should not feel pressured to install partition screens, and this document provides the validation for that choice. Some chauffeur vehicles have side air bags that deploy from the side pillars, and if fitted without consideration these screens could (potentially) interfere with air bag deployment. There is no hard evidence to prove this point, however common sense would suggest that anything obstructing an airbag would detract from customer safety, and it is strongly recommended that this is taken into consideration. It is fair to say that visiting Clients & General workforce travelling, may feel more comfortable seeing a partition and an element of reassurance may result. However, it is important that everyone is aware of the facts surrounding this.
Junction 21 now have limited availability to Chauffeur vehicles with partitions approved by our Chauffeur Insurance providers.
a) Anti-bac gel or sanitiser wipes must be readily available to both passengers and chauffeurs.
b) All vehicles should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised before after each use. Commonly used touch-points such as door handles (both interior and exterior) control buttons (front and rear) headrests, armrests, steering wheel etc. should be sanitised using an appropriate disposable cloth and anti-bacterial detergent.
c) Good care should be taken that the leather interior of chauffeur cars does not become damaged by using harsh or overly-powerful cleaning agents.
d) Large MPV’s such as the Mercedes-Benz V-Class are the default vehicle for use, as they provide the 2-metre distancing required between the driver and rear passenger seat.
e) There will be times when MPV’s are not available, and in the case that a saloon car is used (for example Mercedes-Benz E-Class) guidelines state that the passenger should sit in the rear-left seat to maximise the distance between passenger and driver. Travelling in the front passenger seat should be avoided where possible.
f) Windows should be open slightly when in use to allow ventilation and a constant flow of air through the vehicle. This reduces the risk of spreading the virus within the vehicle between occupants.
G) Handshakes as a greeting/courtesy for passengers should be avoided.
H) Carrying passenger’s luggage as a courtesy should also, where possible, be avoided.
If all members of the UK chauffeur industry and its client/passengers clearly understand and adhere to the suggested best practice guidelines stated here (which are drawn from valid Government resources) then the risks of spreading contamination can be managed and minimised. The Chauffeur services industry is still an available resource, during the current pandemic. All possible efforts should be made to raise awareness that it can be made accessible (and as safely as is possible) to the clients and customers who can benefit from its services. Valid, current, and correct information and guidance is as important as PPE and antibac gel – and must be always be available to operators, chauffeurs, and passenger(s).
In the case where there is little or no passenger movement required, then discreet and secure delivery services can be made available via our industry, and for urgent or sensitive courier services for clients who cannot entrust their valuable items to a standard courier service. Travel via a professionally driven chauffeur car service, which closely follows the suggested Government and associated authority guidelines, will always afford a lower-risk option than traveling by train, bus, coach, or standard Taxi service.