Detailed PCO License Guide

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What is a PCO License?

A Private Hire Vehicle Drivers License or PCO Licence is required by taxi drivers, chauffeurs, or minicab drivers to provide their services in the UK legally. Anyone who wants to work as a private hire for chauffeur companies or transport companies like Uber, or offer his services, needs the PCO License. The application process for a new license is more extensive and complex than the renewal of an existing license. However, you must be careful in both cases because mistakes can increase costs. Let us look at how you can apply for a new PCO license and the requirements. Our guide will provide you with all the required information and also some valuable tips to avoid trouble.

The Application Process for PCO Licence

PCO driving licences are issued by the Public Carriage Office (PCO), which is a subdepartment of “Transport for London” or TFL. Any vehicle that can accommodate up to eight people and be hired with a driver requires a PCO license. These include limousines, minicabs, and taxis. All “private hire drivers” should have a PCO licence. The operators who offer these services should have licenses and only hire people with PCOs. The Public Carriage Office has implemented these regulations to ensure that private drivers provide high customer service standards and that their passengers are safe. If you intend to start your career as a private hire driver, you need the PCO License.

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Eligibility Criteria for PCO License

  • You can only apply for a PCO license if you are 21 years or older.
  • Your DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority), or EEA(European Economic Area), or Northern Ireland driving licence should be at least three years old.
  • Your health condition must comply with specific standards. A practising GP will perform your medical check-up.
  • Your criminal record will be checked to ensure you have not been involved in any illegal activities. (DBS Check)
  • You must know the basics of navigation and be able to perform route-finding and map-reading skills.
  • Your English language proficiency must be good enough for effective communication with passengers.

Documents Required with PCO Application

The following documents need to be submitted with your application:

  • Passport
  • Copy of your valid driver’s license.
  • Your national insurance number.
  • Evidence of your address, such as utility bill or bank (not older than three months)
  • Your tax registration check code.
  • TFL-approved English language proficiency test – B1 or higher.
  • DVLA code is also known as “Electronic Counterpart Code” (this can be generated online)
  • Additional documents (in case there is a change of name or you have lived in another country in the last three years)

Complete/Enhanced DBS Check

TFL (Transport for London) requires an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) test if you want a PCO licence. Once cleared, you receive the DBS certificate, which is only valid for three months. It is better to sign up for the “DBS update service”, which keeps your certificate updated in their database. Any employer can access the information with your consent, and you will not have to renew it after every three months. The fee for a DBS check is £52, whereas the update service costs only £13.

Medical Examination

It is a requirement for a PCO license that you should be medically fit and should clear DVLA’s “Group 2 standards”. Download and print the “TPH/204 medical form”. Fill it out carefully and take it to the nearest GP, who will sign and confirm that your medical information is correct.

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Additional Checks

It will be checked if you are legally authorized to work in the United Kingdom. After you have submitted all the documents for your PCO, you will have to complete an online form on the official website. TFL will check the information, and they will inform you if any other document is required.

HMRC Registration

If you are a new applicant, you need to complete HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) tax check. You will have to use your ID and password (Issued by the government) to get your unique nine-character code which will be valid for 120 days. The code is a mandatory requirement for PCO license processing.

Safeguarding Awareness Course

Before taking the English proficiency test, you must take the “Safeguarding awareness training course, ” which is available online. The course provides important information regarding protecting vulnerable adults and children from abuse and harm.

TFL English Test

Your English proficiency should be sufficient to communicate effectively, which requires taking the TFL English test. These include two different assessments, including SERU and a speaking/listening assessment. SERU stands for safety, equality, and regulatory requirements, while the latter assessment evaluates your conversational skills.

TFL topographical test Once all the documents have been submitted. You will also be asked to take the TFL’s topographical test to see if you can easily navigate and understand maps. This test is not required if:

  • You already have a license, are applying for renewal, and have previously cleared this test.
  • You are a licensed London taxi/cab driver
  • You are an authorized tourist guide in London.

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How much does the PCO Application Cost?

The entire PCO application and documentation can cost you somewhere around £500. However, the cost may vary if you have to take a few courses or if you fail a test. The total cost includes the following:

  • Non-refundable Application Fee: £124
  • Grant of Licence: £186
  • Medical Fee: £80 (Depends on your GP)
  • DBS Check Fee: £52
  • Topographical Assessment Fee: £36 (£16 for Every Retake)
  • SERU Assessment Fee: £36
  • English Language Assessment Fee: £36
  • *Post Office Charges for “Check and Send”: £7.15 (Debit/Credit Card Charges will be Different)

Time Taken for a PCO License?

The complete processing time for a new application can vary from 12 to 16 weeks, so it’s best to gather all your documents first and then apply for the license. Suppose you fail to submit a particular document or you submit the wrong document. In that case, the processing time will increase, and your application may also get refused, resulting in wasted time and money.

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What is the Validity of the PCO License?

The validity of a PCO license is three years. It’s best to check your validity, but ideally, you should receive a renewal pack by post four months before your PCO’s expiry. The renewal of an existing PCO license can take around eight weeks. Remember that driving without a valid PCO license is illegal, so preparing for its renewal before its expiry is always a good idea. You will also have to retake the DBS check and the medical check for renewal. If you do not renew your PCO license within three months of its expiry, you will be removed from TFL’s database, which implies that your application will be treated as new, and you will have to provide all the documents mentioned above. The total renewal fee can cost you around £170. Renewal of PCO license requires:

  • A Recent Photo
  • A correctly Filled Renewal Form
  • Valid Medical Form
  • DBS Check
  • Renewal Fee

What if the PCO Application is Refused?

In case of refusal, you will be notified via email by TFL. The notification may include confirmation of refusal and reasons for refusal. It will also include information about your right to appeal and what you can do about it. Usually, the appeal time is within 21 days of refusal.

Useful Tips

  • Read all the requirements carefully and save processing time by arranging all the necessary documents before applying for a new PCO or renewal.
  • When selecting a GP, make sure they offer eye tests. Otherwise, you’ll have to get it done from elsewhere, which will increase your cost.
  • You will have to fill out the “Living and working abroad form” if you have stayed outside the United Kingdom in the last three years.
  • As of July 2021, Passports or ID cards from Swiss and EU EEA nationals are no longer acceptable, and you need a valid immigration status to work.
  • Once you start the PCO application online, you cannot press the “Go Back” button. Therefore, reading and filling out the form at every step is essential.