ALL taxi drivers in Solihull will need to gain a specific qualification or risk having their licence suspended, in accordance with a fledgling council initiative.
From October 1, new taxi drivers will be required to complete an NVQ level 2 in Road Passenger Vehicle Driving.
Habib Chaudhry of Crown Cars said up to 30 new drivers at the Solihull-based company had participated in the course, for the last five months. "It has definitely made a big difference to drivers' people skills," he said
"I think all new applicants should do the course before they get their taxi licence as it improves knowledge and is a huge benefit to customers."
The NVQ will be delivered to all new taxi and other private hire drivers in the borough for free, in addition to existing requirements including a driving assessment and theory test.
Applicants must attend an initial two-day classroom tutorial within the first two months of receiving their private hire driver's license and will then be assessed in their workplace over twelve-months.
Those who do not attend the initial tutorials and fail to complete the NVQ within the twelve months may have their license suspended.
Cabinet member for quality for life and neighbourhoods, Councillor Mrs Diana Holl-Allen said: "Taxis play a vital role in our borough's transport system and we want to ensure that services on offer to the public are of high quality.
"Not only will this initiative work to improve taxi services, it will also give our drivers recognition for the skills that they have."
From 2010 the initiative will be rolled out to all private hire drivers in the borough - new and existing, and the course will become mandatory.