Taxi Driver

The Job and What's Involved

London TaxiTaxi drivers pick up passengers and drive them to their destination, in a licensed vehicle, charging a fare and taking payment. There are strict rules about who can be a taxi driver, where and how they can operate, and how to get a licence to carry members of the public for money.

In the UK, there are two categories of licensed vehicles - hackney carriages (also known as black cabs) and private hire vehicles (PHVs), also known as minicabs.

Hackney carriages can display a taxi light, pick up people on the street, be pre-booked, or wait at a taxi rank. People can 'hail a cab' by waving at them from the pavement. Fare rates are set by the local authority and vehicles can only pick up people within the geographical boundaries of the authority.

Minicabs are not allowed to pick up people who hail them in the street; they have to be pre-booked through a minicab office. They are linked with the office by radio, which enables them to pick up jobs. They pay a commission to the minicab office for fares they collect.

Most types of cab have a taximeter in the front that passengers can read as the journey progresses and the fare increases. Taxi and minicab drivers need to:

  • Pick up passengers, listen to where they want to go and take them there by the quickest route.
  • Give assistance to passengers, as needed, to help them get into and out of the vehicle.
  • Help to load and unload a passenger's luggage.
  • Set the taximeter at the start of the journey, or (with some minicabs) agree a fixed fee for the journey.
  • Take the fare at the end, and issue change and a receipt if it is needed.
  • Collate their fares and balance the books at the end of each shift or working day.

Drivers are responsible for keeping their vehicles in safe working order. Self-employed drivers also have to keep their own accounts and deal with tax returns. If doing contract work (for example, transporting people with disabilities or special needs for the local authority or health service), they may need to provide more direct assistance to passengers and with any special equipment being transported.

Licensed drivers can work independently and may be able to choose the hours they work. Some work part time in addition to another job or while studying. Most work is available on Friday and Saturday nights. Full-time drivers often work between 40 and 60 hours a week.

Drivers sit at the wheel of their vehicle for most of their shift. During the summer months it can be hot if the taxi/minicab does not have air conditioning.

The starting salary is around £11,000 a year. Some drivers may earn less, especially if they work part time. Drivers usually have to pay for driver licensing, fuel, car insurance and maintenance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The taxi and private hire industries employ about 255,000 people in the UK. Self-employment in common in this occupation. The use of taxis is growing, and expected to rise by 25% over the next decade. There are opportunities throughout the UK but most work is in large towns and cities; there can be competition for business in certain areas.

Taxi and private hire drivers must be licensed by the local authority. Drivers can then either drive their own vehicle and cover their own costs, or drive for an operating company. If they work for an operating company, they use either their own vehicle or one of the company's vehicles and pay a commission for the hire of a radio, which is used to alert them to jobs.

As well as driver licensing, the vehicle being used also needs to be licensed, but several licensed drivers can use the same vehicle. In some areas there are waiting lists to gain a hackney licence plate for a vehicle, but there is usually no limit to the number of minicab licences available.

Education and Training

There are no formal qualifications to become a driver. Although each licensing authority has its own conditions for granting a driver's licence, all expect applicants to:

  • Pass an enhanced criminal record check.
  • Be over the age of 21 (18 in Northern Ireland).
  • Pass a medical assessment.
  • Have held a full driving license for at least 12 months (3 years in London).

In some areas they may also have to pass a driving assessment and/or a test on their knowledge of local routes. The knowledge-based test for 'All London' licences can take on average 40 months to complete but can be started from the age of 18. The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has recently developed a Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Test Assessment, which is used by some licensing authorities as a requirement.

People under 25 years of age may find it costly to get insurance in this industry, as it covers the safety of the passengers as well as the vehicle.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

In some areas, the local authority runs training schemes to help prospective drivers meet the requirements of their licence. These typically cover:

- How to apply for a licence
- Radio procedures
- Customer care
- Disability awareness
- Basic mechanics
- Relevant law
- Local geography

There is also an EDEXCEL Level 2 BTEC Award in Transporting Passengers by Taxi and Private Hire - a short training programme for prospective or existing drivers.

It may be possible to work towards the NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Road Passenger Transport, specialising in either Taxi or Private Hire.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Taxi drivers need:

  • To be experienced, safe drivers with quick reactions.
  • A good memory to be able to remember local routes - and in some cases to take a 'knowledge' test - to make sure they take the shortest route.
  • Strong verbal communication and interpersonal skills.
  • A polite and approachable manner with passengers from diverse backgrounds.
  • An awareness of disability issues.
  • To be calm enough to drive safely, even when the customer is in a hurry or traffic is congested.
  • The ability to deal calmly but assertively with the occasional angry, hostile or drunken passenger.
  • To be able to handle money, as well as accounts if self-employed.
  • The ability to plan and manage their own time.
  • An awareness of local licensing regulations, as well as insurance requirements.

Your Long Term Prospects

If an individual starts by driving a vehicle owned by someone else, taking only part of the profits, they can progress to buying and driving their own cab.

It is also possible to gain an operator's licence and set up a company employing other drivers, either working as a driver or a booking agent. Taxi drivers may also become chauffeurs or limousine drivers.

Get Further Information

Driving Standards Agency (DSA), Stanley House,
56 Talbot Street, Nottingham NG1 5GU
Tel: 0115 901 2618
Website: www.dsa.gov.uk

GoSkills, Concorde House, Trinity Park,
Solihull B37 7UQ
Tel: 0121 635 5520
Website: www.goskills.org

Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA),
213 Kenton Road, Harrow HA3 0HD
Website: www.lphca.co.uk

Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA),
Taxi House, Woodfield Road, London W9 2BA
Tel: 020 7286 1046
Website: www.ltda.co.uk

National Private Hire Association (NPHA),
8 Silver Street, Bury BL9 0EX
Tel: 0161 280 2800
Website: www.phtm.co.uk

The National Taxi Association (NTA),
Infirmary Street, Newtown,
Carlisle CA2 7AA
Tel: 01228 598740
Website: www.national-taxi-association.co.uk

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