Taxi drivers pick up passengers and transport them as quickly as possible to their destination, whilst ensuring that the safety and comfort of the passengers are maintained.
At one time or another, the likelihood is that we have all depended upon the services of a taxi driver. Any major city or town in the United Kingdom simply needs taxis and even small villages depend upon private hire vehicles or minicabs from time to time. Taxi drivers are responsible for picking up passengers from various points, including their own homes or entertainment venues including restaurants and nightclubs, and transporting them to their required destination.
They will be expected to transport the passenger in a safe manner but they will also be required to travel as quickly as possible without breaking the law or making the journey dangerous. Taxi drivers will either drive a hackney carriage, which are most common in large towns and cities, or a private hire vehicle, which are common in smaller towns and villages where the demand for taxis is generally lower. As such, taxi drivers may pick up passengers in a spontaneous manner or they may pick up passengers who have booked their services well in advance. The distances travelled by taxi drivers vary widely. Many passengers simply need to be transported from one location in a town to another, whilst some will require longer journeys, for instance those travelling from their homes to an airport.
The precise salary earned by a taxi driver will differ depending upon the number of hours worked per week. However, drivers who work approximately forty hours per week can expect to earn between £12,000 and £20,000 per year. Taxi drivers who have several years’ worth of experience can expect to earn slightly more than this figure.
The typical tasks performed by taxi drivers include:
- Listening to the operator working in the taxi office over a radio system
- Reacting to job requests from the operator
- Travelling to pre-determined locations to pick up passengers who have pre-booked
- Picking up fares at taxi ranks
- Being flagged down in the street
- Helping passengers to get in the vehicle and assisting them with their luggage and belongings
- Driving in a safe manner
- Making sure that the correct payment is given at the end of the journey
- Helping the passengers to get out of the vehicle
- Maintaining the quality of the vehicle and making sure it is fit to travel on the road at all times
- Keeping accurate records and performing administrative tasks, including filling out trip sheets
- Keeping up-to-date with changes in traffic legislation and knowledge of the local area
Taxi drivers do not need to hold any specific qualifications. However, they will need to hold an operator’s licence, which can be obtained by visiting the unit responsible for licensing at the local council. Alternatively, operators’ licences can be obtained from the Public Carriage Office, which is situated in London. In order to be considered worthy of one of these licences, individuals will need to meet certain criteria.
They will need to pass a criminal records check, have held a full driving licence for one year, pass a medical test, be over the age of twenty-one, and, finally, individuals will need to pass a thorough geographical test. In some places, it may be necessary for individuals to take a separate driving test prior to gaining the relevant licence.
Taxi drivers will need to possess the following skills:
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- A warm, approachable manner
- Competent driving skills and a good knowledge of the road and traffic systems
- Good geographical knowledge
- Sensitivity and the ability to deal with customers from various backgrounds
- Time management skills
- Good numeracy skills and familiarity with handling money
- Good technical knowledge of vehicles
Taxi drivers spend most of their time in their vehicles driving on the road, often in heavy traffic. Full-time taxi drivers work for approximately forty hours per week but many drivers work for longer than this. Evening and weekend work is common, as is work during public holidays. Many taxi drivers enjoy their work but some find it frustrating dealing with passengers who are drunk and disorderly. Furthermore, it can be boring when taxi drivers experience quiet periods.
No formal work experience is required prior to becoming a taxi driver. However, as with all jobs, it is worth finding out as much information as possible before making any major decisions. You could try shadowing a taxi driver for a few days or even just having an informal chat with a driver to see if the job would be right for you.
Many taxi drivers are self-employed but others choose to work for an operating company. Some of these companies are large, whilst others are relatively minor. These taxi drivers will rent the vehicle from the operating company but will usually need to cover their own costs.
Many taxi drivers choose to adopt more senior positions within operating companies. This will mean that they stop driving and focus more upon the business side of the industry. Others become chauffeurs, who provide services for the government, wealthy individuals and large businesses. Chauffeurs generally provide a more formal service and this can be an interesting and rewarding change for taxi drivers accustomed to dealing with drunk and angry customers on a Friday and Saturday night.
About UK Taxis
Quite a bit of UK taxi business is taken up by airport transfers. With many airports located way out of the main city area, taxis are a popular means of transport for many travelers. This Stansted airport taxis guide gives a good overview of services offered, rules and approximate costs.
Taxis around the Globe
Interestingly, each country has its own taxi service regulations and standards. Taxis in New York and what services are on offer may differ from taxi services provided in Chicago, let alone terms used (taxicabs, taxis, cabs, etc.).
Also known as…
- Cab Driver
What’s it really like?
Phil aged 52 is a taxi driver who became involved in the industry almost by accident whilst between jobs.
Phil previously drove a Tonka truck as an excavation driver and whilst waiting to be transferred to a local building site decided to make a bit of extra cash as a private hire driver. More than twenty years on, he is still working as a driver. Although he did not have to undergo the conventional type of training required by black cab drivers, he knows his area like the back of his hand.
Phil very much enjoys the flexibility offered by his job. Being a keen fisherman, he likes being able to arrange fishing trips at times when those in a traditional nine to five job are stuck working hard in the office. This type of work does, however, mean that you are not paid when you are not working, so a balance obviously has to be struck. The downside of the job is the long unsociable hours: holidays like Christmas and New Year are often the busiest times for taxi drivers and despite the fact that higher fares are charged, this does not always compensate for having to be apart from one’s family. Another negative is dealing with drunk passengers, especially those who are sick in the taxi, refuse to pay or try to start a fight.
Phil spends a large part of his working day sitting around waiting for work which is obviously frustrating and can be demoralising. He has found that with the credit crunch, many people are cutting down on the number of taxis taken in an attempt to economise. The smoking ban has also meant that the pubs are less busy and consequently, there are fewer customers for Phil and his fellow drivers. Because of this, Phil has been thinking about a change of employment for some time but has not yet decided which direction this will take him in.
The firm which Phil works for currently has 1,500 drivers on its books but is seeking to increase this number to approximately 2,000 which will make it even harder for Phil to earn a good living. When asked what advice he would give to those thinking of becoming a taxi driver, Phil said that although this may sound very negative he would advise them to give serious consideration to their prospects. If they are determined to take up driving as a career then his tips would be that they should always be pleasant and keep their taxi spick and spin – drivers do not have much choice over which customers to take but customers have plenty choice over which taxi to use. Secondly, they should always trust their instincts. It is a sad fact that taxi drivers are occasionally subjected to severe physical attacks, so they should not be afraid to turn passengers away if they feel at risk.