Cab drivers will need a driving licence issued by an EU country to qualify for a Y-plate tag, under new rules to be introduced in the coming days.
The new rule is part of a broader reform of Y-plate rules that seeks to enforce higher standards for light passenger transport services, such as ride-hailing services Bolt, eCabs or Uber.
Currently, drivers from non-EU countries can qualify for a Y-plate tag if they have a driving licence from their home country, provided they obtain a Maltese or EU driving licence within a year.
The existing system has sparked complaints about poorly trained drivers and also led to illegal online services selling suspected counterfeit Y-plate tags for €500.
Under the new laws, to be introduced through legal notices in the coming days, Y-plate tag holders will need to present a driving licence issued in Malta or another EU member states when applying to obtain - or renew - their permit as light passenger vehicle drivers.
Tougher Y-plate tests
Apart from revising eligibility criteria, obtaining a Y-plate tag is also going to get tougher, with the course and exam that candidates must undertake to obtain a tag being reformed as of July 17.
Transport Malta has frozen all pending applications until that date, the Transport Ministry said in a statement announcing the changes.
The ministry said that enforcement officers will also be cranking up inspections of Y-plate vehicles, to ensure they are kept in a good state. Talks are also under way with stakeholders to set a 2025 target date for all new Y-plate vehicles to be electric.
It is the second round of Y-plate reforms announced in as many months by the Transport Ministry, following an initial raft of changes first revealed last May.
Garage rules and geofencing
Those changes, which will come into effect on July 23, will require Y-plate holders to prove that they have access to a garage where they can park the vehicle when it is not in use. Drivers will only be allowed to leave their vehicles unattended in white-boxed parking spaces for a maximum of one hour.
As of July 23, Y-plate cabs will also be forbidden from waiting for bookings within 100 metres of white taxi stands, with that distance increasing to 250 metres in key areas such as the airport, Valletta cruise port or ferry landings. The minimum distance will be enforced using geofencing technology to define virtual boundaries where ride-hailing is permitted.