Do you want to start a taxi business with one car and want to know how to obtain a license? If YES, here are 9 easy steps to becoming a private hire taxi driver.
First and foremost, private hire taxi business encompasses a much bigger range of vehicles and follows an entirely different business model. This business model gives you the chance to have anything from a minicab to a monster truck. In this business, you can have fleets of vehicles or just one or two. If you have more than one vehicle in your private hire business, you will need to hire a selection of drivers too.
Regular Taxi Vs Private Hire Taxi
Even though the business model is more complicated, a private hire business is still a very profitable business idea you should consider seriously. The key difference between a taxi and a private hire is that private hire vehicles are pre-booked. If you see a private hire vehicle on the street, it’s very likely that it’s on the way to a booking or returning from one; the probability of stopping it will be very slim indeed.
Generally, a taxi driver is a professional driver who has a clean driver’s license, has passed a background check, and is, if need be, licensed by the state or city he or she works in to drive a taxi cab. A lot of taxi drivers in the United States are self-employed and own their vehicles, while others are assigned one from a company’s fleet. They all transport passengers from one location to another so they must be very conversant with the roads and areas they work in so that they can drive to their destination as quickly as possible.
It is very important to state that you don’t necessarily need any formal education to become a private hire taxi driver, but experts believe that it will be very helpful if you have high school education. You should be able to do simple mathematics, know how to read a map and have good communication skills.
Rudimentary auto repair might also be useful for unexpected malfunctions. You’re generally required to have driving experience and know the rules of the road, and your training should emphasize safety and defensive driving.
As a private hire taxi driver in the United States, your first point of duty everyday will be to prepare your vehicle. You’ll need to clean and inspect it, and also make sure you have adequate fluid and fuel levels. Your company’s dispatcher could assign you fares, informing you of locations to pick up and drop off customers.
You might also have a designated starting point, such as an airport or hotel, where you return to wait for customers who need your service. Note that your job would be to drive customers to their destination and collect your fare and tip.
Do not forget that you might work very long hours, including weekends, nights and holidays, and be needed to load and unload heavy luggage. Have it in mind that you will need a driver’s license with a taxi or chauffeur endorsement or a specific license for driving a private hire taxi. Below are things you should note to become a private hire taxi driver in the United States.
9 Easy Steps to Becoming a Private Hire Taxi Driver
1. Ensure that your qualified
You need to understand that every city in the United States have laid down requirements for anyone hoping to become a taxi driver, and you should check them to be sure you qualify. Typical requirements for drivers include:
- A driver’s license
- Good Health – Drivers are expected to pass a health exam to assure they have no conditions that would endanger passengers.
- No Convictions – Drivers are also expected to have no felony convictions and not be serving parole.
- Minimum Age – most cities taxi drivers must be at least 21, though in some they can be as young as 18.
- No Tickets – Drivers must typically have no unpaid tickets in order to get certified.
2. Clearly define your target market
In most cases, private hire taxi drivers don’t really take their time to research and analyze the industry. This line of business is very competitive especially if you choose to start a private hire taxi in a city like New York. It’s advisable that you try to figure out the location that you’re going to provide the service as well as get to know about the potential customers and their requirements.
It will further give you an idea on how to establish yourself in a crowded market only by implementing specialty services. For instance, you may place yourself in the top taxi service providers to a hospital in your area. Indeed the percentage of people who need and enjoy the services of private hire taxis is significant.
Taxi businesses serve both the able-bodied and the physically challenged; and the private hire taxi industry has no specified age bracket or social status that patronize the business, as all individuals who with a need to be somewhere at a particular time are inclusive.
3. Train to be a Private hire taxi driver
Just like we already stated above, there is no mandatory educational requirement needed to start a private hire taxi business or become a private hire taxi driver, yet a lot of cities in the United States require some brief training. This training does vary from city to city.
Note that this training usually lasts from a day to several weeks, and covers local traffic laws, driver safety, street layout, communication equipment, and taxi meter operation. Some taxi companies in the United States also train new hires for free, or you can seek training at a local community college or specialized taxi school. For the benefit of this article, municipalities that require training by law include:
- New York – Taxi drivers are required to take a 6 hour defensive driving course and complete either a 24 or 80 hour taxi school course.
- Chicago – You must attend a 3 week course at the Public Chauffeur Training Institute.
- San Francisco – You must attend an accredited taxi school and obtain a Taxi Training Certificate and Sensitivity Training Certificate.
4. Complete all necessary paperwork and get your license
Most cities in the United States tend to ask taxi drivers to submit an application, furnish documents and undergo background checks to make sure they have the right to work, a clean driving record and no criminal background. You also need to pay any required fees and receive your certification or license to drive a taxi.
The fees for licensing typically range from $40 in less competitive markets to upwards of $300 in big cities. Fees are sometimes waived if a city is experiencing a shortage of cab drivers. Requirements for most cities in the United States may include:
- Driving record
- A criminal background check (for which you may need to supply fingerprints)
- A valid driver’s license
- A social security card
- Immigrant documentation if applicable
- A medical examination
- Drug test
5. Consider your business model
You have to decide if you will become an independent driver or contract to work for a taxi company. Note that drivers who own their private hire taxi cab take 100% of the fares received, but also have a host of expenses, from the cost of the cab to insurance to licensing. While employees of taxi companies either receive a percentage of fares (typically about a third) or rent the cab daily or weekly and pay all fuel costs.
When considering your options, do well to also analyze the cost of being an independent driver. Have it in mind that it all depends on the city or state where you are driving. Starting a private hire taxi business with your own cab can cost anywhere from about $5,000 – mostly the cost of the cab – to nearly a million dollars.
Note that big cities where the number of licensed taxis is limited, the cost of obtaining a license is often outrageous – $872,000 on average in New York, $560,000 in Boston, and $300,000 in Chicago, which leaves new drivers with little or no choice but to work for established companies.
6. Choose a suitable Location
One of the major decisions you have to make if you decide to become an independent driver or start your own private hire taxi business will be to choose a suitable location for your business or administrative office. You have to carefully assess your risks and cost before you settle for a particular location.
Your ideal location in this business should be one where costs are minimized. You should be able to look at the benefits which each area have to offer as well as any government help which might be available. Here are some of the things you need to consider when choosing a location for your administrative office:
- Demographics and workforce availability
- Changes to the transportation network
- Synergies with service providers
- Changes in market demands
- Characteristics of land
- Availability of labour
7. Drive safely and protect yourself
No doubt, there are bound to be accidents but avoiding them should be your number one priority as a private hire taxi driver, because accidents endanger you and your passengers and would cost you money. Also note that accidents are not the only danger a cabbie faces. There are also your passengers. Taxi drivers carry cash and operate alone, often late at night, making them vulnerable to assault. To protect yourself’;
- Follow all traffic laws.
- Do not speed.
- Radio the dispatcher whenever picking up a client.
- Do not resist robberies. Instead, memorize the suspect’s description and contact the police as soon as possible.
- Keep your windows rolled up and doors locked between fares.
- Be wary of passengers that give vague instructions.
- Do not let single passengers sit directly behind you. Use an excuse – company policy or car balance – and politely ask them to move
- Do not drive into back alleys.
- Take care when changing lanes. Do not weave through traffic.
- Do not drive when tired or otherwise impaired.
- Immediately report any accidents.
8. Know your routes and provide quality services
In this modern age, navigation systems allow anybody to get from point A to B, but really good taxi drivers know not only how to get where they are going, but the fastest routes for any time of the day. More than that, they are able to offer recommendations on dining, lodgings, and nightlife.
Have it in mind that the difference between getting 5% and 10% on a tip is extra service. The better service you provide, the more money you will make. To give your passengers the best service possible:
- Do not talk on the phone while driving passengers. It makes you a less safe driver, and it leaves you unavailable to answer questions.
- Stay calm. Do not curse at other drivers or traffic.
- Be courteous and thankful. “Good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “good evening” are a must when your passenger enters the car. Always thank your passenger when he or she leaves
- Keep your car clean.
- Always call passengers 30 minutes prior to pick-up. This will keep them from worrying about whether you will show up.
- Have snacks on hand for airport passengers. A bottle of water and a granola bar will be greatly appreciated by hungry passengers.
9. Market your services
You need to understand that creativity gingers you to search for ways to make a difference in this business; it helps you create innovations that can bring the business up. In this sort of taxi business, you should consider creating business cards you can give out so people will have your number handy when they need to hire a private taxi.
You should also create concrete relationships with repeat customers and with people who hire taxis often (like bar owners or hotel managers) and maintain those relationships, you’ll likely find yourself with a steady stream of business. You can also look for ways to make you taxi unique so as to be able to attract the attention of customers.
It’s advisable that you stay creative when thinking about people who might use taxis, like senior citizens who may need special handicapped transportation, and others who are mobile enough to use a regular taxi but just can’t drive anymore for various reasons.
Before you venture into the private hire taxi business, you need to understand a lot about your business model. Most people in this age no longer hail taxis, they prefer to pre-book them, which is why you should be willing to work all the time including holidays and peak hours.
If you want to be successful, you need to understand your customer. Note that one unique thing about this business is that private hire taxi drivers are always needed and there is likely to be an ample supply of work. Even with the huge amount of regulations you need to follow carefully, nothing is too complicated, and as long as you follow the rules, you can set up a business like this easily.