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Nature of the Work
* There are taxi driver and chauffeur jobs to accommodate all work schedules, including full-time, part-time, night and evening, and weekend work.
* Opportunities should be good because replacement needs are high.
* The work of taxi drivers is unstructured and free from supervision, but the work of chauffeurs is dictated by the needs of the client or employer.
Anyone who has been in a large city knows the importance of taxi cab and limousine service. Drivers pick up passengers from street corners, airports, bus terminals, and train stations and drive them to their destinations. Their service helps residents, commuters, and visitors get from one place to another in a timely fashion.
Taxi drivers, also known as cab drivers, drive taxicabs, which most frequently are large, conventional automobiles modified for commercial passenger transport. Drivers collect fares from passengers at standardized rates based on zone areas, miles traveled, or time spent to reach the destination. They record the length of each trip and the point of origin and destination on a log, or trip sheet. These logs help check the drivers activity and efficiency.
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 to record their name, work date, and cab identification number. Drivers 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 part not in good working order is 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 location, an approximate pick up time, and their destination. The cab company dispatcher then relays the information to a driver by two-way radio, cellular telephone, or on-board computer. In urban areas, drivers may cruise streets and pick up passengers who hail 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 serve so they can use the most efficient route to destinations. They should also 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 and hospitals.
Upon reaching the destination, drivers determine the fare and announce it to the rider. Fares often consist of many parts. In many taxicabs, a taximeter measures the fare based on the length of the trip and the amount of time the trip took. Drivers turn the taximeter on when passengers enter the cab and turn it off when the they reach the final destination. The fare may also include a surcharge for additional passengers or for handling luggage, or an additional "drop charge" or flat fee added for the use the cab. Along with 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. A driver will issue a receipt upon request from the passenger. Drivers enter onto the trip sheet all information regarding the trip, including the place and time of pick-up and drop-off and the total fee. They 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. Many chauffeurs transport customers in large vans between hotels and airports, bus, or train terminals. Others drive luxury automobiles, such as limousines, to popular entertainment and social events. Still others provide full time personal transportation for wealthy families and private companies.
At the start of the work day, chauffeurs ready 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. The chauffeur will take the vehicle to a professional mechanic if the vehicle requires more complicated repairs.
Chauffeurs cater to their passengers with attentive customer service and a special regard for detail. They help riders into the car by holding open doors, 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. Drivers are also hired to meet clients who arrive 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. They must also take precaution to prevent accidents and 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 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 are common for limousine and taxicab services.
The needs of the client or employer dictate the work schedule for chauffeurs. 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 large amounts 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. Drivers must be on duty 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 common. Drivers work long hours during holidays, weekends, and other special events to support heavier demand for their services. Independent drivers, however, often set their own hours and schedules.
Design improvements in newer cabs have reduced stress and increased the efficiency of drivers. Many are equipped with tracking devices, fare meters, and dispatching equipment. Satellites and tracking systems link many of these state-of-the-art vehicles with company headquarters. Directions, traffic advisories, weather reports, and other important communications can be delivered to the driver anywhere in the transporting area in a matter of seconds. The satellite link-up also allows the dispatcher to track the vehicle's location, fuel consumption, and engine performance. Drivers can easily communicate with the dispatcher to discuss delivery schedules and courses of action should there be mechanical problems. When threatened with crime or violence, drivers may be able to alert authorities of emergency situations and have help arrive quickly.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs meet many different types of people. Dealing with rude customers and waiting for passengers requires patience. Many municipalities and taxicab and chauffeur companies require dress codes. Typically, cities require taxicab drivers to wear clean and neat clothes. Many chauffeurs wear more formal attire, such as a tuxedo, a coat and tie, a dress, or a uniform and cap.
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs held about 106,000 jobs in 1996. About two-thirds were wage and salary workers employed by a company or business. Of these, about 33 percent worked for local and suburban transportation companies and about 20 percent worked for taxicab companies. Others worked for automotive rental dealerships, private households, and funeral homes. About a third were self-employed.
Local governments set license standards and requirements for taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Although requirements vary, most municipalities have minimum qualifications for driving experience and training. Many taxi and limousine companies set higher standards than the ones required by law. It is common for an applicant's medical, credit, criminal, and drivers record to be reviewed. 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 driver's license. They also must acquire a chauffeur or taxi driver's license, commonly called a "hack" license. Local authorities generally require applicants for a hack 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. Training programs usually include a test on English proficiency, usually in the form of listening comprehension; applicants who do not pass the English exam must take an English course along with the formal driving program. Many taxicab or limousine companies sponsor applicants and give them a temporary permit that allows them to drive, even though they may not yet have finished the training program or passed the test.
Some taxi and limousine companies give new drivers on-the-job training. They show drivers how to operate the taximeter and communications equipment, 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 in non-emergency situations. To support these services, new drivers may get special training on how to 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. To be successful, drivers must be responsible and self-motivated because they work with little supervision.
The majority of taxi drivers and chauffeurs are called "lease drivers." Lease drivers pay a monthly or weekly fee to the company allowing them to lease their vehicle and have access to the company dispatch system. The fee may also include a charge 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 dispatcher or manager jobs; others may start their own limousine company. On the other hand, many drivers like the independent, unsupervised work of driving their automobile.
In many small and medium size communities, drivers are able to buy their taxi, limousine, or other type of automobile and go into business for themselves. These independent owner-drivers require an additional permit that allows them to operate their vehicle as a company. Some big cities limit the number of operating permits and one may only become an owner-driver by buying a permit from an owner-driver who is leaving the business. Although many owner-drivers are successful, some fail to cover expenses and eventually lose their permit and automobile. Good business sense and courses in accounting, business, and business arithmetic can help an owner-driver become successful. Knowledge of mechanics can enable owner-driver to perform their routine maintenance and minor repairs to cut expenses.
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 offering regular hours and attractive earnings and working conditions. Opportunities should be best for persons with good driving records who are able to work flexible schedules.
Employment of taxi drivers and chauffeurs is expected to grow slower than the average for all occupations through the year 2006 as local and intercity travel increases with population growth. Opportunities should be best in metropolitan areas that are growing rapidly.
Job opportunities can 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 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 $387 in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $258 and $653 a week. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $192, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $850 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.
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, 900 North Pitt Street, Suite 220, Alexandria, VA 22314, or call 1-800-652-7007.
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