So you want to become a Taxi Driver!

Taxi drivers drive either hackney carriages ( Hacks) which can be the traditional "black cab" or other approved vehicles outside London or private hire vehicles (PH’s), also in some areas known as "minicabs".
Hackney Cabs can pick up passengers off the street, receive jobs over a radio system or receive jobs from their own mobile telephone. Most licensing authorities provide Taxi Ranks for the Hackneys to wait for a job. PH drivers can only receive pre booked jobs from their licensed office. They can be linked to their office by a radio system or a mobile telephone to receive the bookings. They can also work just from the office.

All vehicles have to be approved, licensed and plated by the local taxi licensing authority, normally the local council and undergo regular testing in addition to any MOT testing. The drivers must ensure their vehicle is in a clean and roadworthy condition. Those who are self-employed have to keep accounts and deal with tax returns. Drivers as well as vehicles have to be licensed.

Every licensing authority has its own conditions of licence. These usually include:

  • passing a criminal records check
  • being over 21 (18 in Northern Ireland)
  • passing a geographical knowledge test, in some areas
  • having a medical assessment
  • having held a full driving licence for at least 12 months (3 years in London).

There are no restrictions on the hours a taxi driver can work, although European legislation may soon change this but if you have an accident and injure someone after working excessive hours, this will be used against you in a court case. Because work varies in different parts of the country and at different times of the day, some drivers may only work a few days a week but most have to work a long week. There are firms that you have to work 8 hours a day for a decent wage but there are also others that you have to work nearer 18 hours a day. Firms can vary a lot, some may do more local work while others may do more long distance work or one could have a lot more evening work.

Some operators may implement a dress code or provide an informal uniform.

Once licensed, you have a choice of companies to work for in that licensng area, so if you are new to the trade and you find you don’t like it with the first firm you have joined, try another before saying that ‘taxi driving is not for you’.

To be a taxi driver, you should:

  • be an experienced and safe driver
  • have a good memory to get to know your area, including every street, major buildings, one-way systems and the quickest routes from one place to the next
  • be able to manage and plan your own time
  • be a good communicator with all types of people
  • have disability awareness and be prepared to assist impaired customers 
  • be calm enough to drive safely even when the customer is in a hurry and the traffic is congested
  • be able to deal calmly but assertively with the occasional angry, hostile or drunken passenger
  • be numerate enough to handle money and change and, if self-employed, to keep accounts
  • be able to understand the laws and regulations under which you hold your licence, as well as insurance requirements.

In London the geographical knowledge test is called The Knowledge and takes an average of 36 months to prepare for and pass. For more details see the Public Carriage Office (PCO) website under more links.

You should contact your local licensing authority for details of the exact requirements in your area.

You can use our web site to find out who to contact.

If you are under 25 it may be difficult to obtain the necessary insurance. There is no upper age limit for entry into this line of work and it is frequently entered as a second career.

You don’t have to have your own vehicle. Others with licensed vehicles are always on the look out for licensed drivers, (sometimes called ‘jockeys’ or ‘journey men’). If somebody has a vehicle that is licensed for 24 hours use a day and is only driving themselves for 8 hours, some make an extra income from hiring their vehicle to another driver for another 8 hours a day. This could be for a fixed fee so the more work the driver does, the more he gets or could be on an hour rate, only making extra on tips.

A good careful second driver is worth a lot to a vehicle owner.

Some will also hire out a complete licensed taxi to a driver, including the insurance.