How Do You Become A London Cab Driver?

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As a side gig or a full-time career, driving a taxi is increasingly being seen as a good move. Uber needed to run a campaign to attract more drivers due to demand.

There are about 260,000 licensed private hire vehicles in the country. 58,000 of those are licensed as taxis. The word licensed is crucial here, as there are still many rogue cab drivers working without licenses.

Operating a taxi without a valid license equals driving without insurance. Hire & reward drivers must be insured to provide cover in the event of an accident. And there are some other steps to take before anyone can drive a taxi for a living.

What are the options for potential cab drivers?

While this article is aimed at London, most of the topic is relevant to any major UK city. When people think of London taxis they will automatically recall the famous black cab. Strangely, there is no restriction on colour, black is chosen largely for recognition by customers.

Many cab drivers choose to rent their vehicle from carlease.deals or other rental options rather than buy once they have their license. This is due to the high cost of buying a new London cab.

There are strict vehicular requirements for working with other taxi firms too. To be licensed as a taxi driver, your vehicle will need to be up to scratch.

Options for driving a taxi in London are:

  • Public hire taxi
  • Private hire taxi
  • Rideshare

Public hire taxi

The only real option for public hire is the famous London cab (although the vehicle itself doesn’t matter) – this is known as a Hackney cab. Only Hackney cab license holders may pick up passengers in the street or at taxi ranks.

Private hire taxi

Any driver who accepts bookings ahead of time will need a private hire taxi license. These drivers cannot be hailed in the street. All bookings must be prearranged by mobile app, telephone, email, or SMS.

Rideshare drivers

For many, rideshare starts and stops with Uber. But, Londoners have a variety of options when booking a rideshare. Lyft, Ola, Didi, and Free Now, are just some of the alternatives to Uber.

Rideshare drivers are classed as private hire as they too take bookings in advance only. Uber cannot be hailed on the street, and they definitely cannot wait in line at taxi ranks.

How do you start as a taxi driver in the UK?

Becoming a licensed taxi driver anywhere in the country means meeting certain criteria. Applicants should expect a background check. They must meet age limits too.

In London, the minimum age to be a taxi driver is 21. In other parts of the UK, the limit is just 18. A full driving licence is mandatory too.

The local licensing authority must be applied to for a taxi license. Paperwork will have to be provided, and you will need a suitable car. Your vehicle must meet the licensing authority’s standards. Plus, you will need appropriate insurance. In most cases, this will be private hire insurance, but for Hackney Cabs, it will be public hire cover.

To obtain a Hackney cab licence you will have to pass the Knowledge Test. This is the test that makes London cab drivers the best. 

Is it easier to work for Uber or become a black cab driver?

Working for Uber or any private hire cab company is an easier option than getting a Hackney Cab licence. That isn’t to say that all these drivers perform a valuable service in UK cities. But, it is far easier to obtain a private hire license than one for a Hackney carriage.

This is even truer for someone looking for a side hustle rather than a full-time job. Just recently, Uber had a driver shortage that needed addressing. Shortages of cab drivers mean a good opportunity for plenty of bookings.

Hackney cab drivers have to go through a lengthy learning process and pass the Knowledge before they can start to work. Studying for years puts off many from becoming black cab drivers.

What is the Knowledge?

People like Uber because they know the drivers have been vetted, licensed, and hold private hire insurance. This makes passengers feel safer. Similarly, black cabs are popular because passengers know the driver is a professional and is highly knowledgeable about the area.

Getting a Hackney cab licence requires passing a test known as the Knowledge. This has been in place since 1865 and takes 3 to 4 years to pass. Anyone who drives a London cab will have had to memorise 20,000 landmarks and 25,000 streets in the city. This makes becoming a London cab driver a daunting task.

What sort of earnings do taxi drivers make in London?

Potential earnings may depend on what route is taken. For instance, Uber drivers are paid the minimum wage but this can rise due to peak times and surge pricing.

London cab drivers get to keep all their money, minus tax of course. And private hire drivers typically pay an agreed percentage to the cab firm they work for.

One thing that all these taxi drivers have in common is outgoings. Fuel, road tax, and repairs, all need to be paid for by the driver. There are tips and tricks to save fuel, but it is a major expense for taxi drivers.

Insurance is vital, and this too must be paid for by the driver. Fortunately, the introduction of telematics and usage-based insurance helps taxi drivers to lower their premiums through careful driving patterns.

What are the essentials for any taxi driver in the UK?

Being properly licensed is a requirement of the law. And abiding by the terms of that license is crucial too. If a private hire driver was caught picking up passengers without a booking, they would be breaking the law. They would also invalidate their insurance.

The second essential is insurance. To drive on the roads in the UK requires insurance. To drive for a living requires a particular type of insurance. Drivers must understand the need for Uber-specific insurance or private hire versus public hire.

How to be successful as a London taxi driver

Passengers expect a safe and pleasant journey. Knowing how to drive commercial vehicles safely is a must. With usage-based insurance, you will be penalised for harsh braking and hard cornering. But, rewarded for safe driving.

Courteous service along with a clean vehicle will help Uber drivers toward a 5-star review. And for black cab drivers, a comfortable and pleasant ride will improve the chances of a tip.

All taxi drivers need to understand how to deal with unpleasant customers. Unfortunately, not every passenger will be a dream ride.

Having a clean, safe, insured vehicle is the first step to being successful.

Summary

Driving a cab can be a great side gig or a main job. Cab drivers get to choose their own schedules, which suits night owls or those with other commitments.

Being licensed is essential, and insurance is a must. However, apart from the mandatory requirements, you are free to choose your route to being a cab driver. Private hire or Hackney carriage, it’s your choice.