A chauffeur is a professional driver tasked with getting his or her client to their chosen destination by motor vehicle. A chauffeur may or may not work in the full-time employment of the client whilst carrying out their driving duties.
The chauffeur’s role is both a practical one and an ornamental one. Practical in the need for driving their client to a destination (or series of destinations), and ornamental in the respect that the client is seeking to make more of an impression when they arrive at their destination. In addition to driving duties, the chauffeur must open car doors for the occupants and assist them with their luggage.
Large corporations often make use of full-time chauffeurs for their top CEOs and executives because it alleviates them of the need to drive so they can carry on with their work or simply relax whilst travelling. In this instance, the company provides and insures the vehicle to enable the chauffeur to complete his or her duties.
Many chauffeurs have their own businesses, offering their services to clients on a short-term or ad hoc basis. In this case, the business owner (often the chauffeur) will need to provide the vehicle and maintain it.
Whilst a chauffeur’s vehicle could be absolutely anything, it tends to be the higher specification executive saloon or luxury sedan that is favoured by clients for their accommodating interior space and level of comfort.
According to The Payscale Report, chauffeur salaries for drivers in full-time employment range from £19,636 to £29,957 (UK, 2009). Remuneration for drivers with their own businesses can vary greatly, depending on the demand for their service and the geographical region of operation.
Jobs are typically priced per day, and can run from £200 up to £2,000, depending on the type of vehicle used and the client’s exact requirements.
- To ensure the occupant arrives safely and on time at their destination.
- To find a suitable area to park on arrival at a busy urban area.
- To assist occupants with their luggage and any heavy belongings.
- Must ensure that the vehicle is taxed, insured and serviced appropriately.
- To dress appropriately - suitable attire is usually a black suit, white shirt and black tie.
- To engage in dialogue with vehicle occupants (if desired by the customer).
- To handle all administrative paperwork and promotion of their own business (if self-employed).
There are no formal academic qualifications required to be a chauffeur, although there are some laborious non-academic documents candidates will need.
Firstly, a driving license relevant to the country of work is required before the driver can drive on a public road. The vehicle must also have a valid tax document on display, and must have a complete roadworthiness inspection carried out in line with local laws. In the UK this is an MOT, but regulations vary in other regions.
In addition to these standard items, chauffeurs require a Private Hire License and Private Hire Car License (Hackney Carriage License). These are available from the candidate’s local district council office, subject to criteria being met. It is essential that those applying for this license are what the council deems to be ‘of fit and proper standing’. Those with previous criminal convictions will find it difficult to apply.
- A good knowledge of the local roads can be a real benefit for short travel assignments.
- Good anticipation, positional sense and spatial awareness make for a safer all-round driver.
- Attentiveness to a customer’s demands in terms of knowing when to offer advice and when to remain quiet.
- Tidy appearance and a genteel manner are likely to encourage repeat business from first-time clients.
- Good administrative skills are required to handle customer invoicing and end-of-year accounts.
Working ConditionsBecause of the fact that much of the time is spent driving between destinations, chauffeurs can enjoy their own company in their own space for much of the day as a lot of time is spent driving to appointments and waiting for clients.
The downside to this is that chauffeurs will face the usual logistic hurdles that UK road travel throws up: bad road manners on the part of other road users, endless speed cameras, poor road surfaces, adverse weather conditions and regular traffic jams.
There is also an additional pressure brought about by the constant need to be at a particular destination on time. A chauffeur can never be late, regardless of circumstances.
It should be noted that for those who enjoy the simple pleasure of driving, this can be a very rewarding job as there is the possibility for the candidate to have the opportunity to drive a car which would normally be beyond their means. After all, a few hours in a Bentley Arnage is not a bad way to while away your working day.
Although the basic requirement is a domestic driving license, those candidates who wish to join established executive chauffeur businesses will find that potential employers tend to want that little bit more. Some look for drivers with past professional driving experience, whilst others will demand that new recruits take some form of training to learn the finer points of being a chauffeur such as issues surrounding presentation, conversation and conduct.
It is difficult to pin-point a specific market leader here in the UK because there are several tiers or sectors within which the various companies operate. For example, a chauffeur business which only operates Rolls Royce vehicles (of which there are several in London) for special occasions is not in direct competition with the corporate chauffeur firms who pander to mid-size companies with 5-day hire programs.
It is possible to begin as a “one man band” with a single vehicle and grow the business from there, and this is how many of the larger chains and independents began trading.
A career in this industry can deviate depending on the goals of the individual. It is possible to buy a novelty stretch limousine (for example, a converted Humvee), enabling a chauffeur to run a business specialising in hen nights, for example. Creating a market niche can be profitable for those who are not afraid to sidestep the default white shirt, black tie and silver Mercedes E-Class.
Those who wish to pursue the traditional black tie approach can profit from ‘corporation hopping’, much as in any other commercial job role. Candidates are free to follow the vacancies and potential openings at other organisations in the hope that the new job may offer better remuneration or bonus prospects.
Terry Moxley is a chauffeur for A1 Chauffeur Hire, a successful chauffeur business which operates across England from its base in Canterbury.
What made you decide to get into this career?
What I do is not “taxi” work; it is chauffeur hire. I like to be driving a nice car, and this job allows you to have one for the job, and also for most of the time if you are a self-employed chauffeur.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of ‘exercise'?
No, every day can be different. Different passengers, different destinations - no two jobs are the same.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
Mostly airport runs for people who do not want to use the typical minicab. Or weddings, which is the other “big one”.
What do you like most about the job?
I am in charge of my own destiny, plus I enjoy driving very much.
What do you like least about the job?
Two things, usually, and both fairly typical; traffic jams (a constant hassle to modern motoring), and sometimes rude passengers. You tend to come across both on a regular basis.
What are the key responsibilities?
Making sure you drive safely and keep your passenger happy; making sure they have something to drink (usually just water!); making sure that your car does not break down and that it is serviced regularly. And of course getting to the pickup point and drop-off points on time.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands such as A-Levels?
None. Just proper vehicle insurance with public liability insurance. You must also contact your local council to apply for a Private Hire License and a Private Hire Car License.
What is the starting salary and how does this increase over time with promotion?
This can differ hugely. I’ve always been self-employed, so I’m afraid I don’t know salaries relevant to drivers in full-time employment.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Always look smart - you will typically be wearing a dark suit and black tie; make sure your car is clean inside and out; and always, always open doors for passengers!
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
Being able to liaise and interact with passengers and, perhaps more importantly, knowing when to keep quiet! You should also always make sure you are polite.