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If you’re a taxi driver, you never know who might get into the back of your cab. Whether it’s a family with kids, a political figure or a circus clown, your job is to get them where they need to go with minimal hassle. Taxi drivers generally use a meter to determine fares, and may pick up passengers who have requested a cab through the central dispatch or people waiting for a ride at airports, train stations and hotels. In big cities, cab drivers frequently pick up passengers who hail them on the street. (These days, passengers may even “e-hail” cabs using smartphone apps.) Meanwhile, pre-arranged trips are the domain of chauffeurs. These drivers may work exclusively for one individual, company or government agency, or they may be hired for single trips. Chauffeurs still drive the stretch limos we all associate with the profession, but they also commonly drive other luxury cars, SUVs and vans. Companies that provide chauffeurs tout their customer service, so a pleasant demeanor is an especially important quality for these employees. Aggressive drivers with a lead foot or a tendency to tailgate and cut off other drivers need not apply.
As demand for public transportation grows, it also increases for taxis. That’s because people who regularly take the train or bus are more likely to also use taxis than those who get around in their own cars. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment among taxi drivers and chauffeurs to increase 15.5 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Metropolitan areas experiencing population growth should provide the most job opportunities.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs earned a median of $10.97 an hour, or $22,820 per year, in 2012. The highest-paid drivers made $37,200, while the lowest-paid brought home $17,050. A steady gig driving people in the financial investment and motion picture and video industries can bring in as much as $50,000 per year, but these jobs are hard to come by. New York City and Las Vegas have the highest levels of employment in this occupation, and the pay is good in those cities – around $15 or $16 an hour, on average. However, the two highest-paying metropolitan areas for taxi drivers and chauffeurs are Nassau, N.Y., and Elizabethtown, Ky., which pay close to $17 an hour.
The company that hires you will likely schedule a short training period, which may last anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks. The training covers safety, traffic laws, local street layout, company or city policies and how to operate meters if they are used. Local regulations typically determine how taxi drivers are trained, while chauffeurs are usually trained by their company, which often places an emphasis on customer service. A regular driver’s license is a baseline job requirement; some states or cities may also require a taxi or chauffeur’s license, known as a “hack” license. Limousine drivers who transport 16 or more passengers at a time must have a commercial driver’s license.
Barriers to entry are low in this occupation. Generally, you don’t even need a high school diploma, although many drivers have one. Good driving skills and a clean driving record are at the top of employers’ lists, and you may be asked to submit to a criminal background check and drug test. Since drivers are the face of the company they work for, demonstrating your professionalism and customer service skills will go a long way with potential employers. “The quality we look for that you can’t teach, that needs to be in your DNA – that’s being a nice person,” says Robert Alexander, president and CEO of RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, which is based near Washington, D.C., and operates a fleet of more than 110 cars, vans, limousines and minibuses. “We’re in the service business, so we need people who want to make other people happy. You can teach someone to say, ‘Yes ma’am, no ma’am,’ and find their way around the city, but we need someone who really wants to please other people.” Employers also want to know that you have map reading skills and a solid sense of direction, as drivers are expected to know their way around and navigate the most efficient routes to frequented destinations such as airports and convention centers.
Last updated by Katy Marquardt.