The NZ Transport Agency is welcoming a significant improvement in the standards of vehicles and driver safety in Auckland's taxi industry over the past four years.
Andy Thackwray, Regional Manager in Auckland for Access and Use - the NZTA's regulatory group - says the greatest improvement in Auckland has been in the area of vehicle standards - in 2007 faults were found in nine out of every 10 taxis inspected, and in 2010 that figure has reduced to just one out of 10.
Mr Thackwray said over the past four years, vehicle crashes involving taxis in the city have reduced by 43%.
An NZTA educational programme designed to review taxi companies and provide plans for improvement shows on average that companies now operate at a compliance level of 79%, a significant improvement on the level of 58% recorded a year ago.
The improvements are matched by a reduction of approximately 60% in the number of taxi-related complaints received by the NZTA from the public. The number of Court prosecutions against drivers and companies has also dropped, from 117 in 2008-09 to 14 in 2009-10.
Mr Thackwray says the improvements reflect the positive response of the taxi industry to the NZTA's ongoing efforts to keep the industry informed of its obligations, as well as an effective enforcement effort targeting repeated non-compliance.
"The industry has certainly responded positively to our efforts to raise standards, and the evidence is clear that compliance, and in particular safety standards, has improved," says Mr Thackwray.
"The taxi industry will be under intense scrutiny this year as the Rugby World Cup gets closer. One of the first impressions of New Zealand for the many fans arriving at Auckland International Airport will be hopping into a taxi - the chances are now better that the taxi will be safe and clean."
In 2007 teams of dedicated taxi enforcements officers were established in Auckland and Wellington to raise standards in the industry. Mr Thackwray says the impact on the industry was felt almost immediately.
"Taxis were inspected day and night, warning and infringement notices were issued and where necessary, Court prosecutions were commenced."
In the first two years, the main focus of taxi enforcement teams was the standard and safety of vehicles. From 2009, officers extended their operation to include the hours drivers worked and the accuracy of their work-hour logbooks. Drivers are required by law to work no more than 13 hours in a 24 hour period, and no more than 70 hours before taking a 24 hour break.
Mr Thackwray says despite the success of the past four years, there is still an opportunity to lift standards for further improvement.
"The NZTA has a good relationship and continues to work co-operatively with the industry," Mr Thackwray says. "Education and collaboration are our preferred methods of operation, but if they fail will not hesitate to take further action in the courts against companies and drivers in pursuit of those improvements."