Taxi drivers and chauffeurs take people to and from their homes, workplaces, recreational activities, and business events. The majority of these workers drive taxis. Usually, taxi drivers own their own vehicles or rent them from a fleet. Renters report to a garage where they are assigned a vehicle. There are three ways that cab drivers locate fares: through a dispatcher when customers call for service, picking up passengers at cab stands or taxi lines, and in large cities, by “cruising” around town looking for fares, although this is illegal in some places.
At the final destination, the cab driver announces the fare to his passenger. The fare is determined by a taximeter measuring time and distance. There may also be surcharges for additional passengers, luggage, etc., and the passenger will usually add a tip for the driver.
Chauffeurs drive limousines, vans, and private cars. They sometimes work for hire, but they also work for government agencies, businesses, and the wealthy. Unlike taxi service, chauffeur services are all prearranged. Some chauffeurs bring passengers to and from hotels and transportation terminals, while others drive luxury automobiles such as limousines. Chauffeurs must provide impeccable customer service. Many limousine drivers offer amenities to enhance the passengers’ experience, such as music, television, and telephone.
Drivers who transport people with special needs, i.e. the disabled or elderly, are called paratransit drivers. They drive specialized vehicles that serve a wide variety of nonemergency needs.
It may be stressful and tiring to drive long distances in traffic, and sitting for most of the day can be difficult and uncomfortable. Loading and unloading heavy items can add to the stress. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs are at high risk for robbery, since they often carry large amounts of cash. These drivers also incur a rate of work-related injury and illness much higher than the national average.
Work hours for taxi drivers and chauffeurs vary, but they often must report for duty on short notice. A chauffeur with one employer may be on call much of the time. A taxi driver has a much less structured work schedule than a chauffeur. Taxi drivers work free of supervision and may take breaks when they do not have passengers. Full-time taxi drivers usually work one shift a day, from eight to twelve hours. Most taxi companies offer twenty-four-hour service, so drivers work all hours of the day and night and especially long hours during holidays, weekends, and special events.
TRAINING AND ADVANCEMENT
Little formal training is required for taxi drivers and chauffeurs, but many have a high school diploma or GED, as drivers need to communicate, read maps, and do basic math. Most limousine and taxi companies give their drivers on-the-job training. Drivers transporting the disabled or elderly may require special equipment training.
Limousine or taxi drivers must first have a regular automobile driver’s license. In some states, they may need to have a chauffeur’s license or “hack” license. If a driver transports sixteen or more passengers (including the driver), he or she must possess a commercial driver’s license with a passenger (P) endorsement.
Most urban areas have taxi commissions that set requirements for drivers, license cabs, and set allowable rates. In most places, a medallion is required to certify a legally recognized cab. Drivers accruing too many complaints may lose their medallions. Some places require classroom instruction for drivers or a demonstration of proficiency in English.
Chauffeurs and taxi drivers should be able to get along with a variety of people. They need to be patient, tolerant, and level-headed while in traffic. Dependability, responsibility, and self-motivation are also key.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs have limited opportunities for advancement. Some operators can purchase their own vehicles and become independent owner-drivers. This requires a special permit that may be difficult to acquire, but these permits may be bought or rented from drivers leaving the job.
JOB OUTLOOK AND EARNINGS
In the near future, employment of taxi drivers and chauffeurs is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be plentiful because many drivers work for short periods and then leave because job requirements are not difficult to meet. Those with good driving records, the ability to work flexible schedules, and good customer service skills will have the best prospects. There will be increased business due to growth in tourism and business travel, increase in the number of elderly people needing transportation, and federal regulations that require more services for the disabled. Although opportunities will vary with the economy, rapidly growing metropolitan areas will likely offer the best job opportunities.
Earnings of taxi drivers and chauffeurs vary greatly due to a number of factors, but the median annual wages for these workers is about $21,500, ranging from below $15,000 to greater than $34,000. Many taxi drivers must pay a fee to lease their vehicles, and taxi drivers depend only on fares and tips for their livelihood, so good customer service is invaluable. Most chauffeurs and taxi drivers receive no benefits.