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When the drive to work lasts all day: taxidrivers and chauffeurs.

Taxidrivers and chauffeurs pick up people and get them where they want to go. Taxidrivers, also known as cabdrivers, drive taxicabs, which are custom automobiles modified for transporting passengers. Chauffeurs drive passengers in automobiles, limousines, or vans. Both take their passengers to such places as airports, convention centers, hotels, and places of entertainment.

One difference between the two occupations is the basis on which the workers are paid. Taxidrivers' earnings are based on the fees they collect from each passenger. Chauffeurs more often earn a wage based on the number of hours worked.


At the start of a shift, cabdrivers may report to a cab service or garage, where they are assigned a cab. They are given a log, or "trip sheet," on which they record their name, the date, and cab identification number. The drivers check the cab's fuel and oil levels and make sure the lights, brakes, and windshield wipers are in working order. Any equipment or parts not in good order are reported to the dispatcher or company mechanic. They adjust rear and side mirrors for optimal visibility and the driver's seat for comfort.

Taxidrivers pick up their passengers in one of three ways. The cab company dispatchers may call them by two-way radio to relay a message from a customer who has telephoned. In urban areas, drivers cruise streets and pick up passengers who hail them. Drivers also get passengers by waiting at cab stands or in taxi lines at airports, train stations, hotels, and other places where people frequently seek taxis.

Upon reaching a destination, drivers determine the fare and collect it from the rider. Fares often consist of many parts. One part is called a drop charge, which is a flat fee for using the cab. Another part of the fare is based on the length of the trip or the amount of time it took. In many cabs a taximeter measures this; the meter displays the fare as it adds up. Drivers turn the meter on as soon as passengers get in the cab. They turn it off upon reaching the destination. The fare may also include extra charges for additional passengers or handling luggage. In some cities cabs do not have meters; the cost of the ride depends instead on the number of officially defined city zones crossed in the course of the trip.

Most passengers will give the driver a customary tip in addition to the fare. The amount of the tip depends on the passengers' satisfaction. 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 pickup, length of trip, place and time of dropoff, and total fare. They also fill out accident reports when necessary.


Chauffeurs drive many types of passengers. Many transport travellers and other people 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 companies or wealthy families.

At the start of the workday, chauffeurs make sure their automobiles are ready to go. They inspect them for cleanliness. When needed, they 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 all work properly. Chauffeurs may perform routine maintenance, such as changing tires or adding oil and other fluids when needed. They may also make minor repairs; if more serious repairs are needed, the chauffeur takes the vehicle to a mechanic.

Chauffeurs often pamper their passengers with attentive service. They assist riders into the car, usually holding the door. They also hold umbrellas when it rains and load packages and luggage into the trunk of the car. They may also perform errands for their employers, such as delivering packages or meeting people arriving at airports. Many chauffeurs offer conveniences in their limousines, such as newspapers, music, drinks, televisions, and telephones.

Earnings and Working Conditions

The majority of taxidrivers 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.

The earnings of taxidrivers 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 $313 in 1992. The middle 50 percent earned between $228 and $481 a week. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $187, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $604 a week. Earnings were generally higher in urban than in rural areas.

According to the limited information available, the majority of independent taxi owner-drivers earned from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, including tips. However, professional drivers with a regular clientele often earn more. Many chauffeurs who worked full time earned from $30,000 to $50,000, including tips.

Driving a taxicab or a limousine is not strenuous, although drivers occasionally load and unload heavy luggage and packages. Driving for long periods, however, can be tiring. And driving in bad weather, heavy traffic, or mountainous and hilly areas can rack one's nerves. Sitting for long periods can also be uncomfortable.

Drivers must stay alert to conditions on the road, especially in heavy traffic or bad weather, to prevent accidents. They should also avoid sudden stops or turns that would jar the passenger.

Work hours of taxidrivers 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 may have to report to work on short notice.

The work of taxidrivers is much less structured than that of chauffeurs. Working free from supervision, cabdrivers may break for a meal or a rest whenever their vehicle is unoccupied. However, taxidrivers risk robbery because they work alone and carry cash.

Full-time taxidrivers 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 common. Drivers may also have to work long hours during holidays, weekends, and other special events. Independent drivers, however, can often set their own hours and schedules.

The work schedules of chauffeurs are usually dictated by the needs of their clients or employers. 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.

Taxidrivers and chauffeurs meet many different types of people. Waiting for passengers and dealing with rude customers takes patience. Many municipalities and taxicab and chauffeur companies require dress codes. In many cities, taxicab drivers must wear neat and clean - even if somewhat casual - clothing. Many chauffeurs wear more formal attire, such as a coat and tie or a dress. Some wear a uniform and cap or a tuxedo.

Qualifications and Advancement

People interested in driving a limousine or taxicab must first have a regular automobile driver's license. They also must acquire a taxidriver's license, commonly called a "hacker's license," or a chauffeur's license.

Local governments regulate taxicabs and set standards and tests required to be licensed as a taxidriver or chauffeur. Although requirements vary, most cities and towns have minimum qualifications for age and driving experience. They usually require applicants for a hacker's license to pass a written exam or complete a training program. To qualify, applicants must know local geography, traffic laws, safe driving practices, and taxicab regulations. They must also show that they can deal courteously with the public. A physical exam may also be required, and applicants are often finger-printed to check for criminal records. Many localities have started to test proficiency in the English language, usually stressing listening comprehension. Applicants who fail the English exam must take a course approved by the municipality.

Applicants sponsored by taxicab or limousine companies may be given a temporary permit without having passed all required tests. This allows them to drive passengers even though they have not yet finished a training program or taken the necessary exams.

Many taxi and limousine companies have higher standards than the ones required by law. Many ask to see a driving record and check credit and criminal records. In addition, many companies prefer that drivers be high school graduates.

Drivers should be familiar with streets in the area they serve so they can use the most efficient routes. They also should know the location 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 firehouses, police stations, and hospitals should also be known in case of emergency.

Taxidrivers and chauffeurs should also be able to get along with all kinds of people. They must stay patient when waiting for passengers or dealing with rude customers. Although not physically strenuous, driving a cab can generate a lot of stress, especially in large cities when driving in heavy and congested traffic. Tolerance and a mild temperament help taxidrivers cope with stress on the job. Drivers should also be dependable because passengers rely on them to be picked up on time. Because drivers work with little supervision, they must be responsible and self-motivated if they are to succeed.

Some taxi and limousine companies give new drivers on-the-job training. They 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 local agencies to transport elderly and disabled citizens. New drivers with these companies may get special training on how to handle wheelchair lifts and other mechanical devices.

Opportunities for advancement are limited for taxidrivers and chauffeurs. Experienced drivers may obtain preferred routes or shifts. Some advance to dispatcher or to managerial jobs. However, many drivers like the independent, unsupervised work of driving their own automobile.

In many small- and medium-size communities, drivers can purchase their own taxi or limousine and go into business for themselves. These independent owner-drivers are usually required to get an additional permit that allows them to operate their own company. However, in some big cities, the number of operating permits is limited. Someone may obtain one of these coveted permits only by buying it 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 do their own routine maintenance and minor repairs.

Employment and Outlook

Taxidrivers and chauffeurs held about 116,000 jobs in 1992. About 6 out of 10 were wage and salary workers employed by a company or business. Of these, about 30 percent worked for local and suburban transportation operations and about 28 percent worked for taxicab companies. Others worked for automotive rental dealerships, private households, and funeral directors. About 4 out of 10 were self-employed.

Employment of taxidrivers and chauffeurs is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2005 as local and intercity travel increases with population growth. In addition, thousands of job openings will occur each year as drivers transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

People seeking jobs as taxidrivers and chauffeurs should encounter good opportunities. The best opportunities should be in rapidly growing areas. However, competition is expected for jobs that offer attractive earnings and working conditions because many people are qualified for these jobs.

Job opportunities 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 have to increase their working hours in order to keep their earnings high. Even so, earnings may decline. Independent owner-operators in particular may be hurt during slowdowns because their expenses are higher.

Related Occupations and Additional


Other workers who drive vehicles on highways and city streets are ambulance drivers, busdrivers, and truckdrivers.

Information on licensing and registration of taxidrivers and chauffeurs is available from each local government office that regulates taxicabs. For information about work opportunities as a taxidriver or chauffeur, contact local taxi or limousine services or State employment service offices.
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Article Details
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Author:Moskowitz, Rachel
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1993
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