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Taxi drivers and chauffeurs pick up and drive people to their destination in cars, limousines, or vans. Except for a small number of chauffeurs employed in private service, most charge passengers a fee.
Taxi drivers, also known as cab drivers, drive taxicabs, which are custom automobiles modified for transporting passengers. Taxi drivers take passengers to such places as airports, convention centers and hotels, or places of entertainment. Drivers collect fees from passengers based on the number of miles that are traveled or the amount of time spent reaching the destination. They record on a log, or trip sheet, the length of each trip, the point of pick-up, and the destination.
At the start of their driving shift, cab drivers usually report to a cab service or garage where they are assigned a cab. They are given a trip sheet, where they record their name, date of work, and cab identification number. They check the cab's fuel and oil levels, and make sure 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 parts not in good working order are reported to the dispatcher or company mechanic.
Taxi drivers pick up their passengers in one of three ways. Customers requesting transportation may call the cab company and give a place and an approximate time they wish to be picked up, and their destination. The cab company dispatcher then relays the information to a driver by two-way radio. In urban areas, drivers may cruise streets and pick up passengers who hail them, or "wave them down." Drivers also may get passengers by waiting at cab stands or in taxi lines at airports, train stations, hotels, and other places where people frequently seek taxis.
Drivers should be familiar with streets in the areas they service so they can use the most efficient route to destinations. They also should know the locations of frequently requested destinations, such as airports, bus and railroad terminals, convention centers, hotels, popular restaurants, sport facilities, museums, art galleries and other points of interest. Locations of the fire and police departments, as well as hospitals, should also be known in case of emergency.
Upon reaching the destination, drivers determine the fare and announce it to the rider. Fares often consist of many parts. One part is called a "drop charge," which is a flat fee just for using the cab. Another part of the fare is based on the length of the trip and the amount of time it took. In many taxicabs this is measured by a taximeter, a machine which drivers turn on as soon as passengers enter the cab and turn off when the destination is reached that displays the fare as it accrues. The fare may also include a surcharge for additional passengers or for handling luggage. In addition to paying the fare, most passengers will give the driver a tip. The amount of the gratuity depends on the passengers' satisfaction with the quality and efficiency of the ride and courtesy of the driver. When passengers request, a driver issues a receipt. Drivers enter onto the trip sheet all information regarding the trip, such as place and time of pick-up and drop-off and total fee. They also must fill out accident reports when necessary.
Chauffeurs drive passengers in private automobiles, limousines, or vans owned by limousine companies. Chauffeurs drive many types of passengers. Many transport travelers and other persons between hotels and airports or bus and train terminals in large vans. Others are hired to drive luxury automobiles, such as limousines, to popular entertainment and social events. Still others are employed full time by wealthy families and private companies to provide personal transportation.
At the start of the work day, chauffeurs make sure their automobile is ready for use. They inspect it for cleanliness and, when needed, vacuum the interior and wash windows, the exterior car body, and mirrors. They check fuel and oil levels and make sure the lights, tires, brakes, and windshield wipers are in good working order. Chauffeurs may perform routine maintenance and make minor repairs, such as changing tires or adding oil and other fluids when needed. If more serious repairs are needed, the chauffeur takes the vehicle to a professional mechanic.
Chauffeurs often strive to pamper their passengers with attentive service. They assist riders into the car, usually holding the door, holding umbrellas when raining, and loading packages and luggage into the trunk of the car. They may perform errands for their employers, such as delivering packages or picking up items. They also may meet persons arriving at airports. Many chauffeurs offer conveniences and luxuries in their limousines to insure a pleasurable ride, such as newspapers, music, drinks, televisions, and telephones.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs occasionally have to load and unload heavy luggage and packages. Driving for long periods of time can be tiring, especially in densely populated urban areas, and driving in bad weather, heavy traffic, or mountainous and hilly areas can be nerve racking. Sitting for long periods of time can be uncomfortable. Drivers must be alert to conditions on the road, especially in heavy and congested traffic or in bad weather, to prevent accidents and to avoid sudden stops, turns, and other driving maneuvers that would jar the passenger.
Work hours of taxi drivers and chauffeurs vary greatly. Some jobs offer full-time or part-time employment; in others hours are very flexible. Hours can change from day to day or be the same every day. Drivers sometimes must report to work on short notice. Chauffeurs who work for a single employer may be on call much of the time. For those who work for a limousine service, evening and weekend work is common.
The work schedule of chauffeurs is usually dictated by the needs of their client or employer. The work of taxi drivers is much less structured. Working free from supervision, they may break for a meal or a rest whenever their vehicle is unoccupied. However, taxi drivers risk robbery because they work alone and often carry a lot of cash.
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. Because most taxi companies offer services 24 hours a day, drivers must be on duty at all times of the day and night. Early morning and late night shifts are not uncommon. Drivers also work long hours during holidays, weekends, and other special events. Independent drivers, however, can often set their own hours and schedules.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs meet many different types of people. Patience is required when waiting for passengers or when dealing with rude customers. Many municipalities and taxicab and chauffeur companies require dress codes. In many cities, taxicab drivers are required to wear clothes that are clean and neat. Many chauffeurs wear more formal attire, such as a coat and tie or a dress, or sometimes a uniform and cap or a tuxedo.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs held about 129,000 jobs in 1994. About 5 out of 9 were wage and salary workers employed by a company or business. Of these, about 31 percent worked for local and suburban transportation companies and about 21 percent worked for taxicab companies. Others worked for automotive rental dealerships, private households, and funeral homes. About 4 out of 9 were self-employed.
Local governments regulate taxicabs and set standards and tests required to be licensed as a taxi driver or chauffeur. Although requirements vary, most municipalities have minimum qualifications for age and driving experience. Many taxi and limousine companies have higher standards than the ones required by law: They ask to see a driving record and check credit and criminal records. In addition, many companies require a higher minimum age and prefer that drivers be high school graduates.
Persons interested in driving a limousine or taxicab must first have a regular automobile drivers license. They also must acquire a chauffeur or taxi driver's license, commonly called a "hacker's" license. Local authorities generally require applicants for a hacker's license to pass a written exam or complete a training program. To qualify either through an exam or a training program, applicants must know local geography, motor vehicle laws, safe driving practices, regulations governing taxicabs, and display some aptitude for being able to deal courteously with the public. In many municipalities, applicants sponsored by taxicab or limousine companies may be given a temporary permit that allows them to drive, even though they may not yet have finished the training program or taken the test. Many localities are adding a test on English usage, usually in the form of listening comprehension. Applicants who do not pass the English exam must take an English course sponsored by the municipality. Many local authorities require that applicants pass a physical exam and many take applicants' fingerprints to check for a criminal record.
The majority of taxi drivers and chauffeurs are called "lease drivers." Lease drivers pay a monthly or weekly fee to the company that allows them to lease their vehicle and have access to the company dispatch system. The fee may also include a charge for vehicle maintenance and a deposit. Lease drivers may take their cars home with them when they are not on duty.
Some taxi and limousine companies give new drivers on-the- job training. They may show drivers how to operate the taximeter and two-way radio, and how to complete paperwork. Other topics covered may include driver safety and popular sightseeing and entertainment destinations. Many companies have contracts with social service agencies and transportation services to transport elderly and disabled citizens, so new drivers may get special training on how to properly handle wheelchair lifts and other mechanical devices.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs should be able to get along with many different types of people. They must be patient when waiting for passengers or when dealing with rude customers, and driving in heavy and congested traffic requires tolerance and a mild temperament. Drivers should also be dependable because passengers rely on them to be picked up at prearranged times and taken to the correct destination. Because drivers work with little supervision, they must be responsible and self-motivated if they are to be successful.
Opportunities for advancement are limited for taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Experienced drivers may obtain preferred routes or shifts. Some advance to dispatcher or to manager jobs; others may start their own limousine company. On the other hand, many drivers like the independent, unsupervised work of driving their own automobile.
In many small and medium size communities, drivers are able to purchase their own taxi, limousine, or other type of automobile and go into business for themselves. These independent owner-drivers are usually required to get an additional permit that allows them to operate their vehicle as a company. In some big cities, however, the number of operating permits is limited and may only be obtained by purchasing one from an owner-driver who is leaving the business. Although many independent owner-drivers are successful, some fail to cover expenses and eventually lose their permit and their automobile. Independent owner-drivers should have good business sense and courses in accounting, business, and business arithmetic are helpful. Knowledge of mechanics can enable independent owner-operators to cut expenses and perform their own routine maintenance and minor repairs.
Persons seeking jobs as taxi drivers and chauffeurs should encounter good opportunities. Thousands of job openings will occur each year as drivers transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. However, driving jobs vary greatly in terms of earnings, work hours, and working conditions. Because driving does not require education beyond high school, competition is expected for jobs that offer regular hours and attractive earnings and working conditions. Opportunities should be best for persons with good driving records who are able to be flexible in their work schedules.
Employment of taxi drivers and chauffeurs is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005 as local and intercity travel increases with population growth. Opportunities should be best in metropolitan areas that are growing rapidly.
Job opportunities may fluctuate from season to season and from month to month. Extra drivers may be hired during holiday seasons and peak travel and tourist times. During economic slowdowns, drivers are seldom laid off but they may have to increase their working hours and their earnings may decline somewhat. Independent owner-operators are particularly vulnerable to economic slowdowns.
Earnings of taxi drivers and chauffeurs vary greatly, depending on the number of hours worked, customers' tips, and other factors. Those who usually worked full time had median weekly earnings of $375 in 1994. The middle 50 percent earned between $262 and $510 a week. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $204, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $759 a week. Earnings were generally higher in more urban areas.
According to limited information available, the majority of independent taxi owner-drivers earned from about $20,000 to $30,000, including tips. However, professional drivers with a regular clientele often earn more. Many chauffeurs who worked full time earned from about $25,000 to $50,000 including tips.
Other workers who drive vehicles on highways and city streets are ambulance drivers, busdrivers, and truckdrivers.
Information on licensing and registration of taxi drivers and chauffeurs is available from offices of local governments that regulate taxicabs. For information about work opportunities as a taxi driver or chauffeur, contact local taxi or limousine services or State employment service offices.
For general information about the work of taxi drivers, contact:
International Taxicab and Livery Association, 3849 Farragut Ave., Kensington, MD 20895.
For general information about the work of limousine drivers, contact:
National Limousine Association, 1300 L Street NW., Suite 1050, Washington, DC. 20005-4107.
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