Since 1850, the Public Carriage Office’s Conditions of Fitness have set the standards to which all purpose-built taxicabs licensed for use in London must conform.
Naturally, they have been adapted and updated over the years to reflect the move from horse-drawn Hackney carriages to the first motor cabs, and remain subject to revision in order to reflect the changing demands of taxi trade. On this page you can read the conditions which were in force in September 1971, just as the FX4 was about to find that it had the market to itself.
PCO Conditions of Fitness for taxis
Every cab must comply in all respects with the requirements of any Acts and Regulations relating to motor vehicles in force at the time of licensing.
The steering wheel must be on the offside of the vehicle.
The steering mechanism must be so constructed or arranged that NO overlock is possible and that the road wheels do not in any circumstances foul any part of the vehicle.
The steering arms and connections must be of adequate strength and as far as possible protected from damage by collision.
Brake and steering connections
Where brake and steering connections are secured with bolts or pins, the bolts or pins must be threaded and fitted with approved locking devices and they must be so placed that, when in any position other than horizontal, the head of the bolt or pin is uppermost.
The vehicle must be capable of being turned on either lock so as to proceed in the opposite direction without reversing between two vertical parallel planes not more than 28ft apart.
The wheel turning circle kerb to kerb on either lock must not be more than 25ft in diameter.
All tyres at normal pressure under load must be approved as having a suitable minimum circumference for correct operation of the taximeter.
All brakes must act directly on the wheels of the vehicle.
The brakes of one of the braking systems must be applied by pedal and, with the exception of the stop-light switch, no brake mechanism may operate any other separate mechanism.
The pedal-operated braking system must be so designed that notwithstanding the failure of the brakes on the front or rear pair of wheels there must still be available for application, brakes on the other pair sufficient to bring the vehicle to rest within a reasonable distance.
Cable connections are not permitted in the pedal-operated system and only if specially approved in the handbrake system.
Every vehicle must be fitted with an efficient suspension system so designed and constructed that there is no excessive roll or pitch.
Every vehicle must be so constructed or adapted that a failure of a spring, torsion bar or other similar component of the suspension system is not likely to cause the driver to lose directional control of the vehicle.
When the vehicle is complete and fully equipped for service and loaded with weights placed in the correct relative positions to represent the driver and a full complement of passengers and luggage and is placed on a plane surface, it must not overturn when the plane is tilted to either side to an angle of 40° from the horizontal.
If a roof rack is subsequently fitted the vehicle must be re-submitted for this test.
Note: For the purposes of this Condition 140lb shall be deemed to represent the weight of one person and 140lb the weight of a full complement of luggage.
For the purposes of conducting tests of stability the height of any stop used to prevent a wheel from slipping sideways must not be greater than two-thirds of the distance between the surface upon which the vehicle stands before it is tilted and that part of the rim of that wheel which is then nearest to such surface when the vehicle is loaded.
If the vehicle is submitted with a roof rack half the luggage is to be on the roof.
Bolts and nuts
All moving parts and parts subject to vibration connected by bolts or studs and nuts must be fitted with an approved locking device.
Fuel tanks must not be placed under the bonnet and must be adequately protected from damage by collision.
All fuel tanks and all apparatus supplying fuel to the engine must be so placed or shielded that no fuel overflowing or leaking therefrom can fall or accumulate upon any part or fitting where it is capable of being readily ignited or can fall into any receptacle where it might accumulate.
The filling points for all fuel tanks must be accessible only from the outside of the vehicle and filler caps must be so designed and constructed that they cannot be dislodged by accidental operation.
A device must be provided by means of which the supply of fuel to the engine may be immediately cut off. Its situation together with the means of operation and ‘off’ position must be clearly marked on the outside of the vehicle. In the case of a petrol engine, the device must be visible and readily accessible at all times from outside the vehicle.
Adequate lighting must be provided for the passengers’ compartment and must be capable of being controlled by passengers and driver. Adequate lighting must be provided in the driver’s compartment.
All electrical leads and cables must be adequately insulated and where liable to be affected by exposure to water, petrol or oil, must be adequately protected.
All electrical circuits must be protected by suitable fuses.
Batteries must be so palced and protected that they cannot be a source of danger.
An appliance for extinguishing fire must be carried in such a position as to be readily available for use and such appliance must comply with the requirements relating to fire extinguishing appliances for use on public service vehicles.
The exhaust pipe must be so fitted or shielded that not inflammable material can fall or be thrown upon it from any other part of the vehicle and that it is not likely to cause a fire through proximity to any inflammable material on the vehicle. The outlet must be placed at the rear of the vehicle on the offside and in such a position as to prevent fumes from entering the vehicle.
The body must be of the fixed-head type with a partially glazed partition separating the passenger from the driver.
The overall width of the vehicle exclusive of driving mirrors must not exceed 5ft 9in.
The overall length must not exceed 15ft.
Inside dimensions of the passengers’ compartment:
The vertical distance between the point of maximum deflection of the seat cushion when a
passenger is seated to the roof immediately above that point must not be less than 38in.
The width across that rear seat cushion must not be less than 42in.
Any curvature of the floor of the passengers’ compartment must be continuous and must not exceed ¾in at the partition and 2in at the base of the rear seat when measured between the centre line and the sills.
The door and doorway must be so constructed as to permit an unrestricted opening across the doorway across the doorway of at least 21in when the door is opened to its normal limit.
The height of the doorway from the top of the sill must not be less than 47in.
Where a boot-lid is fitted it must be hinged at the top.
The top tread of the lowest step for any entrance, or where there is no step the floor level itself at the entrance, must not be more than 15in above the ground when the vehicle is unladen.
All steps, or where there are no steps the outer edge of the floor at each entrance, must be fitted with non-slip treads.
The measurements from the upholstery at the back to the front edge of the seat must not be less than 16in in the case of the back seat and 14in in the case of the front seat.
The width of each front seat must not be less than 16in.
The vertical distance between the highest point of the undeflected seat cushion and the top of the floor covering must not be less than 14in.
Where seats are placed facing each other there must be a clear space of 19in between any part of a front seat and any part of any other seat which faces it. This measurement maybe reduced to 17in provided adequate foot room is maintained at floor level. Where all seats are placed facing to the front of the vehicle there must be a clear space of at least 26in in front of part of each seat squab.
Front seats must be so arranged as to rise automatically when not in use. They must be symmetrically placed and at least 1½in apart. When not in use, front seats must not obstruct doorways.
Suitable means must be provided to assist persons to rise from the rear seat.
The drivers’ compartment must be so designed that the driver has adequate room, can easily reach and quickly operate the controls and give hand signals on the offside of the vehicle.
The controls must be so placed as to allow reasonable access to the driver’s seat and, when centrally placed, must be properly protected from contact with luggage.
The driver’s seat must be designed to accommodate the driver only.
An offside door must be fitted to the driver’s compartment.
The driver’s forward and rear visibilty and wiping of the windscreen must be in accordance with the Society of Motor Manufacturers’ & Traders’ Standard No 5 “Code of Recommended Practice for Driving Vision”.
The vehicle must be fitted with adequate devices for demisting, defrosting and washing the windscreen and with a sun visor adjustable by the driver.
Direction indicators of an approved type must be fitted.
Every cab must be provided with an approved means of communication between the passenger and the driver. When a sliding window is fitted at the rear of the driver’s compartment, the maximum width of the opening must not exceed 4½in.
Windows must be provided at the sides and at the rear.
Passenger door windows must be capable of being opened easily by passengers.
An adequate heating system must be fitted for the driver and passengers and means provided for independent control by the driver and passengers.
The windscreen and all windows and glass partitions must be toughened glass in accordance with the latest British Standard at the time of approval.
Passengers’ doors must be capable of being readily opened from inside and outside the vehicle by one operation of the locking mechanism.
Double catches of approved type must be fitted to all doors.
Fare table frame and number plate
A frame must be provided for the fare table and interior number plate and fitted in an approved position. The words “The number of this cab is -” are to be shown above the position for the interior number plate.
The flooring of the passengers’ compartment must be covered with non-slip material which can easily be cleaned.
Provision must be made for carrying luggage and an efficient method of securing it must be provided.
If it is intended to carry luggage on the roof, a fixed roof-guard rail of approved type must be fitted.
A deep-toned horn of approved pattern must be fitted.
A taximeter of an approved type must be fitted in an approved position.
A ‘Taxi’ sign of approved pattern, clearly visible both by day and by night when the cab is not hired, must be fitted.
Where apparatus for the operation of a two-way radio system is fitted to a cab, no part of the apparatus may be fixed in the passengers’ compartment.
No fittings other than those approved may be attached to or carried upon the inside or outside of the cab.
Letters and figures must be white on a black background, or comply with regulation 7a of the Road Vehicles (Registration & Licensing) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 1967, relating to reflex-reflecting plates.
No printed, written or other matter by way of advertisements may appear on the outside of the cab. Suitable advertisements may be allowed on the inside of cabs, subject to the approval of the Assistant Commissioner.
Cabs, including all fittings, etc, must be well maintained and kept clean and in good working order. The vehicles will at all times be subject to test and inspection and should it be found that a cab is not being properly maintianed or that any part or fitting is not in good working order, a notice will be served on the owner prohibiting him from using the vehicle until the defect has been remedied.
Certificate of insurance and form of holder
A current certificate of insurance as required by any Acts or Regualtions relating to motor vehicles, with an addition certifying also that the policy to which the certificate relates complies with the requirements of the London Cab Order 1934, must be carried in a holder securely affixed to the cab in an approced position.
NB: The above Conditions of Fitness were in force at September 1971. Several Conditions have since been revised.
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