You are here: Elephant & Castle \ Jobs \ HOW TO BECOME A CABBIE
3 September 2007
Have you ever thought about mini cabbing? Well, there was a time when a lot of people did it to earn a few bob over Christmas - but things have changed and if you want to become a cabbie or, to use the correct term, a private hire driver, then you will have to get started now to be on the road in time for the festive period...
Gone are the days when you could walk into a cab office with your driving licence and get a job (money in the hand no questions asked), to get extra cash to pay for the kids' presents at Christmas or that family holiday.
After years of not being fully licenced, London cabbies in 2003 came under the jurisdiction of Transport for London. Every mini-cab driver in the capital must now have a licence from the Public Carriages Office. This is something that mini-cab drivers and operators actual fought for, to end the bad press that largely came from touts working on their own, stealing fares from the hard working legitimate cab drivers and in some cases blackening their name by carrying out attacks on passengers.
A proper private hire driver can expect to earn a good wage and work flexible hours, but before that must prove that they are safe to go on the road with passengers.
The process can be long, depending on how well you do in passing the tests and regulations. And the initial layout - depending on the route you take - can cost anything from £250 to £800.
The first stop for the prospective cabbie is Penton Street - to the London Public Carriages Office (CPO), to pick up all the paperwork.
Since April last year all applicants have had to undertake a topograhical test (a mini cab knowledge test). This is to ensure that you can first and foremost read and write English. You will be tested on maps, first on the local area that you plan to work in. You will also be tested on how you get to main places and places of interest from your local area i.e. major hospitals and tourists attractions like St Paul's. You will also be expected to know the main arteries out of London like the M1, etc.
After stopping off to do the test - the damage by the way is £25 - if successful, you will then have to make your way back to the paperwork. This is where the meter really starts to run. As well as filling in the application form with photocopies of your driving licence and passport or other documentation showing you have the right to work and reside in the UK, you have to get a medical and criminal check done.
The medical form given to you by the PCO must be signed and stamped by your GP, which you will have to pay for. The cost depends on your GP but also on whether you have to do extra tests to prove you are healthy enough to hold a licence. If for example, you suffer from diabetes, you might have to see a specialist to provide you with the full all clear. Likewise an optician, if you have any sight defects.
The criminal check, because of the nature of the business has to be an enhanced one where all misdemeanours will be looked at, including crimes spent and associations. However, each case is looked at individually. It does not mean that because you might have previous convictions that you will be turned down. All applications can also be appealed.
With all the above done you will receive a licence for three years. And you might now have reached your first destination in becoming a cabbie. Or your route could be that little bit longer. It all depends on whether you want to drive your own vehicle or sign up with a firm that supplies the vehicle for you. Many firms now have their own fleet of cars and with it the insurance and checks needed to allow you on the road as a private hire driver.
Most cabbies who use their own vehicles work self-employed, they pay their own taxes. Paying rent to the operator and ensuring they are aware of the income tax and national insurance, the fares you take are then your own. Note that the rent paid, patrol and equipment used are all expenses, so are reclaimable. If on the other hand the operator on PAYE employs you, then you usually have to give a small percentage of your fares back to the firm.
Operators usually take on both and it is at this stage you should shop around and really look at both options (see the next four pages for operators in the area). More and more cab drivers are also signing up with the GMB union that offers help and advice at this stage and throughout your career as a cabbie.
Driving your own vehicle means that it must undergo the same checks as those operators provide. They must be insured to take passengers (every operator usually has a good deal with an insurance company they use). Then all vehicles must pass an MOT at a garage that is checked by the PCO before being taken to a designated TfL test centre. The MOT for the vehicle must not be more than six weeks old before going to the test centre. Each vehicle must have an MOT every six months and it is down to every operator to check each week the vehicles (their own and the drivers) to ensure they are constantly in line with what PCO wants.
There is no fixed fare when it come to becoming a mini cab driver but according to George Walker, a member of the Private Hire Board and the London representative of the National Private Hire Association, especially if you are going to use your own set of wheels, do not expect much change from £800.
While it might not be a cheap ride, the journey to becoming a cabbie can end up with you reaping the awards. "There is a lot of independence in private hire driving and there is plenty of work out there," George told the 'News'. "It is down to the hours you want to work and the firm that you work for to get you the custom you need. £50,000 a year is not an unreasonable amount, depending on what you do and it must be remembered," he added "that private hire drivers are not just mini cab drivers. Out of the 40,000 registered in London, 12,000 are chauffeurs."
So, while it might not be as easy to become a cabbie as it was years ago, it is now a profession that is being taken seriously. The bad press that was once associated with it is being destroyed by London cabbie's getting their licences.
Just last month the Private Hire Board celebrated after they got TfL and the government to agree to them being able - like the black taxi (Hackney carriages) - to stop and pick-up or drop-off passengers on London's red routes. The new agreement will come into force when new signage has been agreed. The current diamond badge could be replaced with a proposed roundel (like that of London Underground) with a blue circle and banner reading private hire. It is believed these will be easier for the cameras and traffic warden to read and could be on display by the end of the year.
So you want to be a cabbie?
See our long list of vacancies...
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale