Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs
- Taxi drivers and chauffeurs may work any schedule, including
full-time, part-time, night, evening, weekend, and seasonal
- Many taxi drivers like the independent, unsupervised work
of driving their automobile.
- Local governments set license standards for driving experience
and training; many taxi and limousine companies set higher standards.
- Job opportunities will be good because of the need to replace
the many people who work in this occupation for short periods
and then leave.
Anyone who has been in a large city knows the importance of taxi
and limousine services. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
help passengers get to and from their homes, workplaces, and
recreational pursuits such as dining, entertainment, and shopping,
as well as to and from business-related events. These professional
drivers also help out-of-town business people and tourists get
around in unfamiliar surroundings. Some drivers offer sight-seeing
services around their city.
At the beginning of their driving shift, taxi drivers usually
report to a taxicab service or garage where they are assigned
a vehicle, most frequently a large, conventional automobile modified
for commercial passenger transport. They record their name, the
date, and the cab’s identification number on a trip sheet. Drivers
check the cab’s fuel and oil levels and make sure that the lights,
brakes, and windshield wipers are in good working order. Drivers
adjust rear and side mirrors and their seat for comfort. Any equipment
or part not in good working order is reported to the dispatcher
or company mechanic.
Taxi drivers pick up passengers by “cruising” for fares,
prearranging pickups, and picking up passengers from taxistands
in high-traffic areas. In urban areas, the majority of passengers
flag down drivers cruising the streets. Customers also may prearrange
a pickup by calling a cab company and giving a location, approximate
pickup time, and destination. The cab company dispatcher then
relays the information to a driver by two-way radio, cellular
telephone, or onboard computer. Outside of urban areas, the majority
of trips are dispatched in this manner. Drivers also pick up passengers
waiting at cabstands or in taxi lines at airports, train stations,
hotels, restaurants, and other places where people frequently
Some drivers transport individuals with special needs, such as
those with disabilities and the elderly. These drivers, known
as paratransit drivers, operate specially equipped vehicles
designed to accommodate a variety of needs in nonemergency situations.
Although special certification is not necessary, some additional
training on the equipment and passenger needs may be required.
Drivers should be familiar with streets in the areas they serve
so that they can use the most efficient route to destinations.
They should know the locations of frequently requested destinations,
such as airports, bus and railroad terminals, convention centers,
hotels, and other points of interest. In case of emergency, the
driver should know the location of fire and police stations as
well as hospitals.
Upon reaching the destination, drivers determine the fare and
announce it to their riders. Fares often consist of many parts.
In many cabs, a taximeter measures the fare based on the distance
covered and the amount of time the trip took. Drivers turn on
the taximeter when passengers enter the cab and turn it off when
they reach the final destination. The fare also may include surcharges
to help cover fuel costs as well as fees for additional passengers,
a fee for handling luggage, and a drop charge—an additional flat
fee added for use of the cab. In some cases, fares are determined
by a system of zones through which the taxi passes during a trip.
Each jurisdiction determines the rate and structure of the fare
system covering licensed taxis. Passengers generally add a tip
or gratuity to the fare. The amount of the gratuity depends on
the passengers’ satisfaction with the quality and efficiency of
the ride and the courtesy of the driver. Drivers issue receipts
upon request by the passenger. They enter onto the trip sheet
all information regarding the trip, including the place and time
of pickup and dropoff and the total fee; these logs help taxi
company management check drivers’ activity and efficiency. Drivers
also must fill out accident reports when necessary.
Chauffeurs operate limousines, vans, and private cars
for limousine companies, private businesses, government agencies,
and wealthy individuals. Chauffeur service differs from taxi service
in that all trips are prearranged. Many chauffeurs transport customers
in large vans between hotels and airports as well as bus or train
terminals. Others drive luxury automobiles, such as limousines,
to business events, entertainment venues, and social events. Still
others provide full-time personal transportation for wealthy families
and private companies.
At the beginning of the workday, chauffeurs prepare their automobiles
or vans for use. They inspect the vehicle for cleanliness and,
when needed, vacuum the interior and wash the exterior body, windows,
and mirrors. They check fuel and oil levels and make sure the
lights, tires, brakes, and windshield wipers work. Chauffeurs
may perform routine maintenance and make minor repairs, such as
changing tires or adding oil and other fluids when needed. If
a vehicle requires a more complicated repair, they take it to
a professional mechanic.
Chauffeurs cater to passengers by providing attentive customer
service and paying attention to detail. They help riders into
the car by holding open doors, holding umbrellas when it is raining,
and loading packages and luggage into the trunk of the car. Chauffeurs
may perform errands for their employers such as delivering packages
or picking up clients arriving at airports. To ensure a pleasurable
ride in their limousines, many chauffeurs offer conveniences and
luxuries such as newspapers, magazines, music, drinks, televisions,
and telephones. Increasingly, chauffeurs work as full-service
executive assistants, simultaneously acting as driver,
secretary, and itinerary planner.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs occasionally have to load and unload
heavy luggage and packages. Driving for long periods can be tiring
and uncomfortable, especially in densely populated urban areas.
Drivers must be alert to conditions on the road, especially in
heavy and congested traffic or in bad weather. They must take
precautions to prevent accidents and avoid sudden stops, turns,
and other driving maneuvers that would jar passengers. Taxi drivers
risk robbery because they work alone and often carry large amounts
Work hours of taxi drivers and chauffeurs vary greatly. Some
jobs offer full-time or part-time employment with work hours that
can change from day to day or remain the same every day. It is
often necessary for drivers to report to work on short notice.
Chauffeurs who work for a single employer may be on call much
of the time. Evening and weekend work is common for drivers and
chauffeurs employed by limousine and taxicab services.
Whereas the needs of the client or employer dictate the work
schedule for chauffeurs, the work of taxi drivers is much less
structured. Working free of supervision, they may break for a
meal or a rest whenever their vehicle is unoccupied. Many taxi
drivers like the independent, unsupervised work of driving.
This occupation is attractive to individuals seeking flexible
work schedules, such as college and postgraduate students, and
to anyone seeking a second source of income. For example, other
service workers, such as ambulance drivers and police officers,
sometimes moonlight as taxi drivers or chauffeurs.
Full-time taxi drivers usually work one shift a day, which may
last from 8 to 12 hours. Part-time drivers may work half a shift
each day, or work a full shift once or twice a week. Drivers may
work shifts at all times of the day and night because most taxi
companies offer services 24 hours a day. Early morning and late
night shifts are not uncommon. Drivers work long hours during
holidays, weekends, and other special times when demand for their
services may be heavier. Independent drivers, however, often set
their own hours and schedules.
Design improvements in newer cars have reduced the stress and
increased the comfort and efficiency of drivers. Many regulatory
bodies overseeing taxi and chauffeur services require standard
amenities such as air-conditioning and general upkeep of the vehicles.
Some modern taxicabs also are equipped with sophisticated tracking
devices, fare meters, and dispatching equipment. Satellites and
tracking systems link many of these state-of-the-art vehicles
with company headquarters. In a matter of seconds, dispatchers
can deliver directions, traffic advisories, weather reports, and
other important communications to drivers anywhere in the area.
The satellite link also allows dispatchers to track vehicle location,
fuel consumption, and engine performance. Automated dispatch systems
help dispatchers locate the closest driver to a customer in order
to minimize individual wait time and increase the quality of service.
Drivers easily can communicate with dispatchers to discuss delivery
schedules and courses of action if there are mechanical problems.
When threatened with crime or violence, drivers may have special
“trouble lights” to alert authorities of emergencies and guarantee
that help arrives quickly.
Many municipalities and taxicab and chauffeur companies require
drivers to have a neat appearance. Many chauffeurs wear formal
attire, such as a tuxedo, a coat and tie, a dress, or a uniform
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
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
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.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs held about 188,000 jobs in 2004.
About 27 percent of taxi drivers and chauffeurs were self-employed.
Persons seeking jobs as taxi drivers and chauffeurs should encounter
good opportunities because of the need to replace the many people
who work in this occupation for short periods and then transfer
to other occupations or leave the labor force. Opportunities for
drivers vary greatly in terms of earnings, work hours, and working
conditions, depending on economic and regulatory conditions. Opportunities
should be best for persons with good driving records, good customer
service instincts, and the ability to work flexible schedules.
Employment of taxi drivers and chauffeurs is expected to grow
faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014,
as local and suburban travel increases. Employment growth also
will stem from Federal legislation requiring increased services
for persons with disabilities. Rapidly growing metropolitan areas
should offer the best job opportunities.
The number of job openings can fluctuate with the overall movements
of the economy because the demand for taxi and limousine transportation
depends on travel and tourism. During economic slowdowns, drivers
seldom are laid off, but they may have to increase their work
hours, and earnings may decline. When the economy is strong, job
openings are numerous as many drivers transfer to other occupations.
Extra drivers may be hired during holiday seasons as well as during
peak travel and tourist times.
Earnings of taxi drivers and chauffeurs vary greatly, depending
on factors such as the number of hours worked, regulatory conditions,
customers’ tips, and geographic location. Median hourly earnings
of salaried taxi drivers and chauffeurs, including tips, were
$9.41 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $7.61
and $11.94 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.43,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $15.62 an hour. Median
hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers
of taxi drivers and chauffeurs in May 2004 were:
|Taxi and limousine service
|Other transit and ground passenger transportation
|Automotive equipment rental and leasing
Other workers who have similar jobs include bus drivers and truck drivers and driver/sales workers.
|Sources of Additional Information
Information on necessary permits and the registration of taxi
drivers and chauffeurs is available from local government agencies
that regulate taxicabs. Questions regarding licensing should be
directed to your State motor vehicle administration. For information
about work opportunities as a taxi driver or chauffeur, contact
local taxi or limousine companies or State employment service
For general information about the work of limousine drivers,
- National Limousine Association, 49 South Maple Ave., Marlton,
NJ 08053. Internet: http://www.limo.org/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07