TRAINEE mini-cab drivers who spend months committing the streets of Watford to memory will be able to get on the road sooner with the introduction modular test that will allow them to do The Knowledge in stages.

It is hoped the new test, which was brought in at the beginning of this month, will help private hire vehicle operators having problems recruiting staff.

Under the old system, drivers could take up to three months to pass their test before being allowed on to the road.

Now candidates will take the test in three stages an hour's driving test; an initial theory test, in which applicants have to describe 14 out 15 routes from Watford Town Hall to local landmarks correctly; and a final theory test.

Those who pass the first two stages will be granted a three-month licence, allowing them to get onto the road and start earning a living.

After ten weeks, they will take the final theory test before being granted a full licence.

The old test will still apply to black cab, or Hackney carriage drivers, who are the only drivers allowed to be hailed by people in the street.

Councillor Derek Scudder, Watford Council's portfolio holder for town services, said: "This modest change was introduced at the request of private hire vehicle operators who have found difficulty in recruiting drivers to work for them.

"The test has been designed to be flexible to help applicants get into work more quickly, without removing the safeguards for the public that underpins our licensing controls."

Mr Ian Percival from the Watford Private Hire Drivers Association, which represents 280 drivers, said: "Thew new test is not easier. Drivers do not want the test to be any easier. The drivers on the road at the moment want to maintain and improve standards."

He added: "The new test is designed to get people on the road and working more quickly."

Licences are only granted to drivers who have held a clean driving licence for a least two years with no relevant criminal convictions.

June 21, 2002 13:00