How to become a Taxi Driver in the UK

You’ve chosen to embark upon a career as a taxi driver, but how do you become one? From the initial application to what it takes to be a successful taxi driver, read our simple guide to learn more.

Before you start working as a taxi driver, there are several things you’ll need to consider. Firstly, you need to decide whether to apply for your taxi driver’s licence directly, or to take a college course. By applying directly, you’ll need to meet certain requirements.

Applying directly is is the most common route into taxi driving, but completing a college course could give you an advantage when you start looking for work. For entry onto a college course, you’re likely to need a couple of GCSEs to be eligible for a Certificate in Road Passenger Vehicle Driving NVQ (Taxi and Private Hire) Level 2.

1. What you need to get started

There are a few things you’ll need to have before you can become a taxi driver:

  • Legal documentation — To get started as a taxi driver, you’ll need to be able to work legally in the UK and will need to have held a full GB, NI or EU driving licence for at least 12 months. You will also require a criminal background check, also known as a DBS certificate.
  • Qualifications — You might also need to take a medical examination, a driving test, and a ‘Knowledge’ or ‘Cabology’ test. Depending on your local authority’s specific requirements, you may need to provide proof of any English and maths qualifications.
  • Taxi Insurance — Once you have obtained your taxi driver’s licence, you’ll need to arrange Taxi Insurance before you hit the road, in order to protect you, your vehicle, and your passengers.

 

2. What it takes to be successful

To be a successful taxi driver, you'll need to do the following:

  • Drive safely - Staying safe on the road is imperative to being a successful taxi driver. Any driving mishaps could endanger both you and your passengers, and result in costly repairs. Stick to the speed limit at all times, follow the rules of the road, and don’t drive while impaired in any way.
  • Provide great customer service -  Keep a clean and tidy vehicle, and be polite and helpful. Assist passengers with their bags and luggage, and be sure to thank them when they leave your vehicle. Great customer service is the best way to ensure your passengers feel they’ve got value for money.
  • Do your research - Having a good knowledge of the area you’re driving your taxi in will help you pick up fares. It will also help you know when to get to the busiest places, such as train stations during rush hour, and bars or night clubs around closing time. All of this means more fares and a more reliable stream of income.

3. Restrictions and requirements

Again, one of the main requirements of becoming a taxi driver is that you have a full UK, NI or EU driving licence, and have done so for at least 12 months. In addition to this, background checks, a skill test and a medical check, you’ll need to be aged 18 or over (note this is 21 in some areas), and the correct type of insurance.

4. How long does it take to become a taxi driver?

To become a taxi driver, it usually takes between 12 and 16 weeks if you apply directly to your local authority. If you decide to take a college course before applying for your taxi driver’s licence, you’re usually looking at a couple of days to complete a Level 2 NVQ.

5. How many hours do taxi drivers work?

As a taxi driver, it’s likely you’ll be working long and often unsociable hours. According to government guidelines, you shouldn’t be driving for more than 10 hours per working day, and it’s vital to ensure you’re getting enough rest in between shifts so you’re refreshed and prepared for when you get behind the wheel.

6. Is taxi driving a dangerous job?

Driving a taxi can be a stressful job, in that you’ll often be driving in busy traffic in built-up areas, and you might encounter some disruptive passengers from time to time. Your personal safety and ability to drive safely is paramount as a taxi driver, and it’s important to protect you, your passengers, and your vehicle with the right Taxi Insurance, in case of an accident or incident.

7. Do taxi drivers own their cabs?

Some taxi drivers own their own vehicles, especially if self-employed. While being self-employed can be more attractive to a taxi driver, mostly due to being able to take a bigger percentage of the fares received, it’s worth bearing in mind the additional costs of licensing, fuel, and general upkeep of the vehicle.

8. Becoming a taxi driver in different areas of the UK

Across the UK, there are different requirements in different regions when it comes to becoming a taxi driver. As a general rule, be sure to check the full requirements with your local licensing authority. 

How to become a taxi driver in London

To become a taxi driver in London, you need to apply to Transport for London (TfL). Whether you want to become a public or private hire vehicle driver, check your eligibility with TfL first, as there are a number of differences between driving a taxi in London vs the rest of the UK:

  • You must be 21 to apply for a private hire licence, rather than 18
  • You will have to take a ‘topographical skills assessment’ – or a map-reading test!
  • To get behind the wheel of one of London’s iconic black cabs, you’ll need to take the famous ‘Knowledge’ test – according to TfL, this can take up to four years, however there’s plenty of help available

How to become a taxi driver in Manchester

If you want to be a public or private cab driver in Manchester, you need to get in touch with Manchester City Council. There are five key steps to becoming a licensed taxi driver:

  • Step 1: Submit your application and register for your criminal background check
  • Step 2: Attend appointment to discuss and review application
  • Step 3: Take skills/knowledge tests
  • Step 4: Application reviewed
  • Step 5: If successful, licence is issued

How to become a taxi driver in Edinburgh

The process for becoming a taxi driver in Edinburgh is much the same as it is in Manchester and the rest of the UK, however there has been some recent controversy in the city due to the increasing numbers of private hire licences being issued.

Chairman of the Unite Edinburgh Cab Branch, Scott Blair, said: “By continuing to increase the number of vehicles licensed to be on the road then Edinburgh risks increased congestion in one of the most polluted cities in the UK."

Depending on the outcome of Unite’s campaign, it could be more difficult in the future to obtain a private licence from the council.