Local governments set licensing standards and requirements for taxi drivers and chauffeurs which may include minimum amounts of driving experience and training. Many taxi and limousine companies set higher standards than those required by law. It is common for companies to review applicants’ medical, credit, criminal, and driving records. In addition, many companies require applicants to be 21, higher than the age typically required by law. Most companies also prefer that an applicant be a high school graduate.
Persons interested in driving a taxicab or a limousine first must have a regular automobile driver’s license. Usually, applicants then must acquire a taxi driver or chauffeur’s license, commonly called a “hack” license. Some States require only a passenger endorsement on a driver’s license; some require only that drivers be certified by their employer; while others require a Commercial Driver’s License with a passenger endorsement. While States set licensing requirements, local regulatory bodies usually set other terms and conditions. These often include requirements for training, which can vary greatly. Some localities require new drivers to enroll in training programs consisting of up to 80 hours of classroom instruction before they are allowed to work. To qualify through either an exam or a training program, applicants must know local geography, motor vehicle laws, safe driving practices, and relevant regulations and display some aptitude for customer service. Some localities require an English proficiency test, usually in the form of listening comprehension; applicants who do not pass the English exam must take an English course in addition to any formal driving programs. Some classroom instruction includes route management, mapreading, and service for passengers with disabilities. Many taxicab or limousine companies sponsor applicants, giving them a temporary permit that allows them to drive before they have finished the training program and passed the test. Some jurisdictions, such as New York City, have discontinued this practice and now require driver applicants to complete the licensing process before operating a taxi or limousine.
Some taxi and limousine companies give new drivers on-the-job training. This training is typically informal and often lasts only about a week. Companies show drivers how to operate the taximeter and communications equipment and how to complete paperwork. Other topics covered may include driver safety and the best routes to popular sightseeing and entertainment destinations. Many companies have contracts with social service agencies and transportation services to transport elderly and disabled citizens in nonemergency situations. To support these services, new drivers may get special training in how to handle wheelchair lifts and other mechanical devices.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs should be able to get along with many different types of people. They must be patient when waiting for passengers and when dealing with rude customers. It also is helpful for drivers to be tolerant and level-headed when driving in heavy and congested traffic. Drivers should be dependable since passengers expect to be picked up at a prearranged time and taken to the correct destination. To be successful, drivers must be responsible and self-motivated because they work with little supervision. Increasingly, companies encourage drivers to develop their own loyal customer base, so as to improve their business.
Many taxi drivers and chauffeurs are lease drivers. These drivers pay a daily, weekly, or monthly fee to the company allowing them to lease their vehicles. In the case of limousines, leasing also permits the driver access to the company’s dispatch system. The fee also may include charges for vehicle maintenance, insurance, and a deposit on the vehicle. Lease drivers may take their cars home with them when they are not on duty.
Opportunities for advancement are limited for taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Experienced drivers may obtain preferred routes or shifts. Some advance to become lead drivers, who help to train new drivers, or to take dispatching and managerial positions. Many managers start their careers as drivers. Some people start their own limousine companies.
In small and medium-size communities, drivers sometimes are able to buy their own taxi, limousine, or other type of automobile and go into business for themselves. These independent owner-drivers require an additional permit allowing them to operate their vehicle as a company. Some big cities limit the number of operating permits. In these cities, drivers become owner-drivers by buying permits from owner-drivers who leave the business, or by purchasing or leasing them from the city. Although many owner-drivers are successful, some fail to cover expenses and eventually lose their permits and automobiles. For both taxi and limousine service owners, good business sense and courses in accounting, business, and business arithmetic can help an owner-driver to be successful. Knowledge of mechanics enables owner-drivers to perform their own routine maintenance and minor repairs to cut expenses.