Passenger vehicles with drivers (VTC) are going to be reduced to a minimum in the Barcelona metropolitan area, after several years of war between taxi drivers and companies such as Cabify or Uber. The Government has approved this Tuesday a new regulation that will drop about two thirds of the current licenses, which are estimated at about 4,000, while increasing the requirements to maintain the right to continue operating. The toughest condition will be that the vehicles that operate as VTC in the metropolitan area must have a length of at least 4.90 meters, which will force most drivers to change cars.
In principle, practically all of the VTC licenses were to expire in October of this year, when the so-called ‘Ábalos decree’, by the previous minister, ceased to be in force. Faced with this problem, the regional administrations have rushed to make their own regulations, most of which are provisional. This is the case of Catalonia, where the Government has agreed with the PSC on a decree that can only be extended for two years, extendable for another two, and that takes the opportunity to restrict the licenses granted while trying to maintain effective jobs in the sector.
Faced with a scenario in which the majority of licenses were going to become a dead letter, what Catalonia does is extend those that meet certain requirements, such as being already associated with a vehicle or having provided a passenger transport service with a driver during the last year. Of the current 4,000 licenses granted at the state level, only 2,700 have an assigned vehicle and, of that number, only about 1,500 have given service in the last year. Therefore, these are the ones that can be maintained from now on. The regulation affects journeys considered urban, that is, within the Barcelona metropolitan area, but not other areas of Catalonia, such as private transport between towns far from the capital.
The figure of 1,500 drivers with a VTC license is an estimate by the Department of the Territory, which has drawn up the decree and has negotiated it with the PSC. However, the forecast of the Government is that this number may still decrease in practice, due to the requirements that will be introduced so that the licenses can maintain their validity. Among the new conditions are some requirements for the car, such as the aforementioned requirement to be at least 4.90 meters long, in addition to having the ZERO or ECO label. This measure, demanded by the socialists, will force a major renovation of the VTC mobile fleet, to turn it into a service much more aimed at high-end cars or minivan-type vehicles, widely used during congresses and associated city transport to work.
New obligations for the driver are also established. From the outset, it will be harmonized with the one required for taxis, since less coverage was previously allowed. The driver must also prove that he has had the license for at least two years. The decree also allows local administrations to impose some other requirements, such as certain levels of training for workers, for example knowing the local geography or basic language skills.
The service will continue to have the differences with the traditional taxi that the Generalitat already regulated at the time, such as the prohibition of spontaneously picking up passengers and the obligation to pre-contract the service 15 minutes in advance.
The Government calculates that in Catalonia there are already some 700 drivers who have a license and who meet all the requirements, so the doubts focus on the other 700 or 800, who will have to improve in matters such as renewing the vehicle or complying with the new requirements.