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How to Become a Taxi Driver

By Lace Brunsden

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Thinking about stepping into the driver’s seat as a taxi driver? The road ahead offers a mix of opportunities and challenges that are worth exploring. Whether you’re drawn to the open road, enjoy engaging with diverse passengers, or are considering the practical aspects of this career choice, delving into the world of taxi driving can offer unique insights and experiences.

Career Summary

Taxi Driver Salary

Taxi Driver Salary

The salary that you may get as a taxi driver will vary greatly depending on where you live and how you get your work. If you live in a busy city you will likely get more business while sourcing clients through a middleman will also guarantee clients but may reduce your overall pay.

According to Glassdoor, the most likely salary of a taxi driver in the United States is as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$46k)
  • Median Salary (US$59k)
  • Executive Salary (US$76k)

The average salary of all occupations in the United States is estimated to be US$ 61,900 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics. In comparison to this, the salary of a taxi driver is relatively low.

Taxi Driver Job Description

A taxi driver is responsible for safely transporting passengers to their desired destinations using the most efficient routes possible, all while providing excellent customer service. They must also handle cash or electronic payments, maintain the cleanliness and functionality of their vehicle, and adhere to local traffic laws and regulations.

Taxi Driver Career Progression

  • Entry-Level Taxi Driver: At the starting point, you’ll operate taxis, pick up passengers, and provide fundamental customer service.
  • Experienced Taxi Driver: With increased experience, you’ll become more adept at navigating routes, familiarizing yourself with passenger preferences, and building a regular clientele.
  • Shift Supervisor/Lead Driver: As a shift supervisor or lead driver, you’ll oversee specific time periods, coordinate shifts, offer support to fellow drivers, and handle any emerging issues.
  • Fleet Manager: Moving up, you’ll take charge of managing a group of vehicles, scheduling driver shifts, and ensuring proper training and vehicle maintenance.
  • Business Owner/Entrepreneur: As an entrepreneur, you’ll have the opportunity to start your own taxi business, taking charge of operations, growth strategies, and managing a fleet of vehicles.
Taxi Driver Career Progression

Pros:

  • Flexibility in work hours and shifts.
  • Opportunity to interact with diverse passengers.
  • Ability to explore different areas of the city.
  • Potential for decent earning, especially during peak times.
  • Independence and autonomy while on the job.

Cons:

  • Irregular and unpredictable income.
  • Long hours and potential for irregular sleep patterns.
  • Exposure to traffic congestion and stressful driving conditions.
  • Dealing with difficult or unruly passengers.
  • Wear and tear on the vehicle leads to maintenance costs.

Useful Skills to Have as a Taxi Driver

  • Strong navigation skills.
  • Effective communication with passengers.
  • Patience and calmness in traffic.
  • Customer service etiquette.
  • Basic vehicle maintenance knowledge.

Popular Taxi Driver Specialties

  • Airport Shuttle Driver
  • Ride-Hailing App Driver (Uber, Lyft, etc.)
  • Wheelchair Accessible Taxis
  • Pet-friendly Taxis
  • Minivan or Multi-Passenger Taxis

How to Become a Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver 7 Steps to Career

Step 1: Obtain a Driver’s License

If you don’t have a driver’s license, obtain one from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The process of obtaining a driver’s license in the United States can vary from state to state, but generally follows these steps:

  • Meet Eligibility Requirements: Make sure you meet your state’s minimum age requirement (usually 16 or 18 years old) and have the required documents, such as proof of identity and residency.
  • Enroll in Driver’s Education (Optional): Some states require new drivers, especially teenagers, to complete a driver’s education course. This course usually includes classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training.
  • Apply for a Learner’s Permit: Apply for a learner’s permit at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. You’ll need to pass a written knowledge test covering traffic rules, road signs, and driving laws.
  • Complete Driver’s Education (if required): If your state requires a driver’s education course, make sure to complete both the classroom and behind-the-wheel portions.
  • Complete Required Hours of Practice: Many states have a minimum number of hours or miles that you need to practice driving with your learner’s permit before you can progress to the next step.
  • Schedule and Pass the Driving Test: Once you’ve practiced enough and feel confident, schedule a driving test at the DMV. Pass the driving test to demonstrate your ability to safely operate a vehicle.
  • Apply for a Provisional or Full License: Depending on your age and state regulations, you’ll receive either a provisional (intermediate) license or a full, unrestricted driver’s license.
  • Adhere to Any Restrictions: If you have a provisional license, there might be certain restrictions, such as driving curfews or limits on the number of passengers you can have.
  • Maintain Good Driving Behavior: Abide by traffic laws and drive responsibly to maintain a clean driving record.

Step 2: Undergo a Criminal Background Check

Most areas require a background check, including criminal history, to ensure the safety of passengers. Criminal background checks for becoming a taxi driver typically involve reviewing your criminal history to ensure the safety of passengers and the general public. The exact process and criteria can vary based on local regulations, but here’s generally what you can expect from a criminal background check to become a taxi driver:

  • Check for Convictions: The background check will likely review your criminal record for any convictions, including both felonies and misdemeanors. This can include offenses such as theft, assault, drug-related charges, or violent crimes.
  • Review of Driving Records: In addition to criminal history, your driving record will be checked for violations such as DUIs (driving under the influence), reckless driving, or repeated traffic offenses.
  • Sex Offender Registry Check: Most background checks include a check against the sex offender registry to ensure that the applicant is not listed as a registered sex offender.
  • Fingerprinting: Some locations might require you to undergo fingerprinting as part of the background check. This allows authorities to accurately match your fingerprints with criminal databases.
  • Duration of Look-Back Period: The background check will typically consider your criminal history within a certain timeframe, which varies by jurisdiction. This period could be, for example, the last 5, 7, or 10 years.
  • Local vs. National Checks: Some background checks might focus solely on local criminal databases, while others could extend to state and national databases for a more comprehensive search.
  • Disqualifying Offenses: Certain serious crimes, especially those involving violence, sexual misconduct, or drug trafficking, may result in automatic disqualification from becoming a taxi driver.
  • Appeal Process: In some cases, applicants might have the opportunity to appeal any disqualifications or discrepancies found during the background check.

Step 3: Complete a Taxi Driver Training Program

Some locations might require you to complete a training program that covers local traffic rules, passenger safety, and customer service.

Where Can I Complete a Taxi Driver Training Program

Taxi driver training programs can be offered by a variety of institutions, including:

  • Local Driving Schools: Many local driving schools offer specialized taxi driver training programs. These programs cover the necessary skills, local regulations, and customer service aspects of taxi driving.
  • Community Colleges: Some community colleges offer vocational or short-term courses in transportation services that might include taxi driver training.
  • Online Courses: There are online platforms that provide taxi driver training courses, allowing you to learn at your own pace and convenience.
  • Taxi Companies: Some taxi companies offer their own training programs for new drivers. These programs are often tailored to their specific needs and operating procedures.
  • Certification Agencies: In some areas, there might be certification agencies that provide taxi driver training to meet regulatory requirements.

How Long Does a Taxi Driver Training Program Take?

The duration of a taxi driver training program can vary depending on the specific curriculum and the institution offering the program. Generally, these programs can range from a few days to a few weeks. Online courses offer more flexibility in terms of scheduling, while in-person programs have set class hours.

The training program duration will also depend on the content covered. Basic training might cover topics like local traffic rules, safety regulations, customer service skills, and basic vehicle maintenance. More comprehensive programs could include additional hours of training for driving in various conditions, dealing with challenging passengers, and emergency procedures.

Step 4: Pass a Medical Exam

Many jurisdictions require you to pass a medical examination to ensure you are fit to drive a taxi.

A medical exam for becoming a taxi driver is designed to ensure that you are in good health and physically capable of safely operating a vehicle and providing transportation services to passengers. The specific requirements and process can vary based on local regulations, but here’s generally what you can expect from a medical exam to become a taxi driver:

  • Physical Assessment: The medical exam will involve a physical assessment conducted by a medical professional. They will evaluate your overall health and any existing medical conditions.
  • Vision Test: A vision test will likely be conducted to ensure that your eyesight meets the minimum requirements for safe driving. You might be asked to read letters or identify shapes on an eye chart.
  • Hearing Test: Your hearing will be assessed to ensure that you can hear adequately for safe driving and communication with passengers.
  • Blood Pressure Check: Your blood pressure will be measured to ensure that it is within acceptable ranges for safe driving.
  • Medical History: You might be required to provide information about your medical history, including any existing medical conditions, medications you’re taking, and any recent surgeries or illnesses.
  • Medication Review: The medical examiner might review any medications you’re taking to ensure they won’t affect your ability to drive safely.
  • Functional Abilities: The examiner might assess your physical capabilities, such as mobility, strength, and range of motion, to ensure you can operate a vehicle safely.
  • Mental Health Evaluation: Some medical exams might include questions about your mental health to ensure that you’re mentally fit for the demands of driving and interacting with passengers.

Depending on the outcome of the exam, you might receive a medical certificate indicating that you’ve passed the exam and are medically qualified to drive a taxi.

Step 5: Get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Depending on the area and the size of the vehicle you’ll be driving, you might need to obtain a CDL with a passenger endorsement. You need a regular license first. Once you have that, the steps to getting your CDL are as follows:

  • Study for Written Tests: Study the CDL manual and relevant materials for the written knowledge tests, which cover general knowledge, air brakes, combination vehicles, and any necessary endorsements.
  • Apply for a CDL Learner’s Permit: Visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency to apply for a CDL learner’s permit. You’ll need to pass the written tests to obtain this permit.
  • Practice Driving: While holding the learner’s permit, practice driving commercial vehicles under the supervision of a licensed CDL holder.
  • Complete CDL Training (Optional): Consider enrolling in a CDL training program offered by a certified driving school. This training can help you gain practical skills and preparation for the skills test.
  • Pass Skills Test: Schedule an appointment to take the skills test, which typically includes a pre-trip inspection, basic control maneuvers, and an on-road driving test.
  • Obtain CDL: Upon passing the skills test, visit the DMV or equivalent agency to obtain your CDL. You might need to pay fees and provide the necessary documentation.
  • Endorsement Tests: In order to get the passenger endorsement, you’ll need to pass additional written and sometimes practical tests for each endorsement.

Step 6: Meet Vehicle Requirements

Vehicle requirements for taxi drivers can vary depending on local regulations, the taxi company’s policies, and the type of service you’ll be providing. However, here are some common vehicle requirements that taxi drivers might need to meet:

  • Vehicle Age and Condition: Many jurisdictions have rules regarding the maximum age of vehicles that can be used as taxis. Your vehicle must also be in good working condition and well-maintained.
  • Vehicle Type and Size: Your car should be an appropriate type and size for taxi services. It should have sufficient passenger and luggage space to accommodate customers.
  • Safety Features: The vehicle must meet safety requirements, including functioning seat belts, airbags, working lights, and other safety features mandated by local regulations.
  • Meter and Fare Display: Most taxis are required to have a working fare meter that calculates fares based on distance and time. The meter should be visible and accurate.
  • Taxi Sign: A visible taxi sign or roof light is often required to indicate that the vehicle is available for hire.
  • Insurance: Taxis typically require commercial auto insurance that covers passengers and liability.
  • Clean and Presentable: Your car should be clean, both inside and outside, to provide a comfortable and pleasant experience for passengers.
  • Accessible: Depending on local regulations, your vehicle might need to be accessible to passengers with disabilities, including having space for a wheelchair or other mobility devices.
  • Vehicle Documentation: You’ll need to provide proper vehicle registration and documentation as required by your local transportation authority.
  • Regular Maintenance: Regular maintenance of your car is essential to ensure its safety, reliability, and comfort for passengers.
  • Livery License or Decals: Some areas require you to display a livery license or decals that indicate you are authorized for public transportation.
  • Emergency Equipment: Depending on regulations, you might need to have emergency equipment such as a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and reflective triangles.
  • Payment Options: Many taxis now accept various forms of payment, including credit cards and digital payment methods, so having the necessary equipment for electronic transactions might be required.

Step 7: Connect with Passengers

As a taxi driver, getting passengers is essential for your business. Here are some strategies to help you attract and retain passengers:

  • Choose High-Traffic Areas: Position your taxi in busy locations such as transportation hubs, airports, train stations, bus stops, hotels, shopping centers, and nightlife districts. This increases your visibility and the chances of attracting potential passengers.
  • Utilize Taxi Stands: Utilize official taxi stands where passengers are likely to be looking for cabs. These stands provide a steady stream of potential customers.
  • Be Visible: Use a visible taxi sign or light on your vehicle to indicate that you’re available for passengers. This helps pedestrians spot your taxi from a distance.
  • Provide Excellent Customer Service: Offer friendly and professional customer service. Being polite, helping with luggage, and being attentive to passengers’ needs can lead to positive reviews and referrals.
  • Join Ride-Hailing Apps: Consider joining popular ride-hailing apps like Uber or Lyft. These platforms can help you connect with passengers who are looking for rides through mobile apps.
What’s Life as a Taxi Driver | Video by Tom the Taxi Driver

Do I Need a High School Diploma to Become a Taxi Driver?

In most cases, you do not need a high school diploma to become a taxi driver. The educational requirements for becoming a taxi driver are typically less strict than those for other professions.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Taxi Driver?

As a taxi driver, you will develop a range of skills to effectively perform your job and provide excellent service to passengers. Here are some skills you’ll likely learn and refine as a taxi driver:

  • Navigation Skills: You’ll become adept at navigating through different areas, finding optimal routes, and using GPS or maps to reach destinations efficiently.
  • Driving Skills: Your driving skills will improve as you handle various traffic conditions, weather situations, and urban environments.
  • Customer Service: Interacting with passengers requires excellent customer service skills, including being polite, attentive, and accommodating to their needs.
  • Communication: Clear communication is essential for understanding passenger requests, providing directions, and conveying information about fares and routes.
  • Crisis Management: You’ll learn how to handle challenging situations, such as dealing with difficult passengers, traffic accidents, and other unexpected events.
  • Time Management: Efficiently managing your time is crucial to provide prompt service and meet passenger expectations.
  • Local Knowledge: Becoming familiar with local streets, landmarks, attractions, and businesses will enhance your ability to provide accurate information to passengers.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: You’ll learn basic vehicle maintenance skills to keep your taxi clean, safe, and in good working condition.
  • Money Handling: Handling fares, calculating payments, and providing accurate receipts will improve your money-handling skills.
  • Safety Awareness: Ensuring passenger safety and adhering to traffic rules will become second nature to you.
  • Patience and Tolerance: Dealing with diverse passengers and traffic conditions requires patience and tolerance.
  • Situational Awareness: You’ll develop the ability to stay aware of your surroundings, anticipate potential hazards, and react appropriately.
  • Adaptability: You’ll adapt to different types of passengers, varying destinations, and changing traffic conditions.
  • Professionalism: You’ll present yourself in a professional manner, both in appearance and conduct, to build trust with passengers.
  • Ethical Conduct: You’ll uphold ethical standards, respecting passenger privacy and maintaining honesty in fare calculations.

What’s the Career Outlook for Taxi Drivers?

The career outlook of taxi drivers can vary from place to place. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for passenger drivers across the U.S. between 2021 and 2031 is expected to grow 12%. This is much faster than the average.

Taxi Driver Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Taxi Driver?

Taxi drivers can explore various job opportunities and specialties within the transportation and passenger service industry. Here are some potential job opportunities that you might find as a taxi driver:

  • Airport Shuttle Driver: Focus on providing transportation services to and from airports, catering to travelers and visitors.
  • Corporate or Executive Car Service Driver: Cater to business professionals by providing reliable and comfortable transportation for corporate events, meetings, and airport transfers.
  • Event Transportation Driver: Provide transportation services for special events like weddings, parties, conferences, or conventions.
  • Accessible Transport Driver: Specialize in providing transportation services for individuals with disabilities, offering vehicles equipped for wheelchair accessibility.
  • Carpool or Vanpool Service: Organize and operate shared transportation services for groups of commuters or travelers heading in the same direction.
  • Chauffeur Services: Provide upscale transportation services using high-end vehicles, targeting clients seeking luxurious travel experiences.
  • Pet-friendly Taxi: Especially for passengers traveling with pets, ensuring both the animals and their owners have a comfortable journey.
  • Green or Eco Taxi: Offer taxi services in a vehicle that is either hybrid, electric, or uses alternative fuel sources to reduce carbon emissions and promote environmental friendliness.
  • Delivery Driver: Some taxi drivers also offer delivery services, such as transporting packages, documents, or groceries for customers.

What Type of Companies Hire a Taxi Driver?

Taxi drivers can be hired by various types of companies and organizations that provide transportation services to passengers. Here are some examples of companies that often hire taxi drivers:

  • Traditional Taxi Companies: These companies operate a fleet of taxis to provide transportation services to passengers in urban and suburban areas.
  • Ride-Hailing Platforms: Companies like Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services hire independent drivers to provide on-demand transportation using their own vehicles.
  • Limousine and Car Service Companies: These companies offer upscale transportation services using high-end vehicles, often for special occasions, corporate events, and airport transfers.
  • Tourism and Sightseeing Companies: Companies that offer guided tours of attractions and landmarks, requiring drivers who can provide commentary and information to tourists.
  • Medical Transportation Services: Organizations that provide non-emergency medical transportation for patients who need to go to medical appointments, treatments, or check-ups.
  • Corporate Car Services: Companies that offer transportation for business professionals, executives, and clients for corporate events, meetings, and airport transfers.
  • Event Management Companies: These companies hire drivers to provide transportation services for events such as weddings, parties, conferences, and conventions.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Certain non-profit organizations provide transportation services for specific groups, such as people with disabilities, seniors, or individuals in need of assistance.
  • Hotels and Resorts: Hospitality establishments often collaborate with taxi drivers to offer transportation services for their guests.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Taxi Driver?

The work-life balance of a taxi driver can vary significantly based on several factors, including the specific type of taxi service you provide, your location, personal preferences, and the hours you choose to work. Here are some key considerations:

  • Flexible Schedule: One of the advantages of being a taxi driver is the flexibility in setting your own work hours. You can choose to work part-time or full-time, during specific shifts, or even on weekends and holidays.
  • Availability of Passengers: Work-life balance can be affected by the availability of passengers during different times of the day. Busy periods might offer more earning opportunities, but they can also be more demanding.
  • Physical and Mental Well-Being: The nature of taxi driving, including long hours on the road and dealing with traffic, can impact your physical and mental well-being. Balancing rest and self-care is essential.
  • Adapting to Demand: In some areas, taxi drivers experience fluctuating demand. During busy periods, you might need to work more to meet demand, while quieter times might allow for more personal time.

Should I become a Taxi Driver?

Becoming a taxi driver can offer a sense of freedom, flexibility in your schedule, and the opportunity to meet diverse people. It’s a chance to explore your city, develop valuable skills, and potentially enjoy a steady income. The interactions you have with passengers can be rewarding, and you might find satisfaction in providing a vital service to your community.

However, it’s also important to acknowledge the challenges. Long hours on the road, dealing with traffic, and managing different personalities can be demanding. Your income might vary, especially during slow periods, and the competition from ride-sharing services can influence the demand for traditional taxis.

Before making your decision, consider your own strengths, preferences, and priorities. Are you comfortable with a flexible schedule and the potential for busy periods? Do you enjoy driving and interacting with people? Are you prepared to handle the responsibilities that come with customer service and safety? If you answered “yes” to these questions, a career as a taxi driver might be a perfect match for you.

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Lace Brunsden

About the Author

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