If you are thinking of becoming a public hire taxi driver, there are several requirements you need including proof of being medically fit, good character without convictions, a clean DBS and taking the knowledge test for your town or city. We look at how you can become a licenced hackney carriage driver from the application to the licences and the public hire taxi insurance you will need.
Despite the COVID pandemic and the rise of taxi disrupters such as Uber, the need for efficient and legal public hire taxis on Britain’s streets remains a constant. According to UK government statistics in 2020, the total number of licensed vehicles in England increased to 298,800, the highest number since comparable records were first collected in 2005.
Becoming a public hire taxi driver is one of the most rewarding, and for most, lucrative professions, offering flexibility and freedom combined with customer service and satisfaction for passenger and driver alike. It’s not a difficult process to embark upon but you should be aware that you need the correct licences and checks as well as the appropriate public hire taxi insurance or hackney carriage insurance to stay protected.
Getting Started as a Black Cab Driver
Once you have decided on becoming a hackney cab driver, your first port of call should be with your local authority, usually your council, where you can apply for a licence to drive a taxi. To apply you must be able to work legally in the UK and have held a full GB or Northern Ireland driving licence - or a full EU driving licence - for at least 12 months.
You must also be a ‘fit and proper person’ - which means your background and character will be checked. Your council might carry out an enhanced criminal records check from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).You may also need to take a medical examination and a ‘knowledge’ test.
For those applying in London you’ll need to apply to Transport for London (TfL) to drive a taxi and obtain a PCO. PCO stands for Public Carriage Office - they are part of TfL. The PCO licence allows you to also work as a private hire vehicle minicab driver or chauffer.
A medical form must be completed by your own doctor or a doctor with access to your full medical records, to fully assure the licensing authority that you are medically fit to drive a licensed vehicle. The medical form contains a statement of fitness that must be completed and certified by the examining doctor and stamped showing the doctor’s practice details. The applicant is responsible for arranging the medical at their own expense and you can’t be licensed until this form is returned.
When applying for a licence to drive a hackney carriage, you must declare all convictions or cautions you may have or previously have had. If you haven’t resided in the UK for the last five years, then a certificate of good conduct must also be provided together with a copy which has been officially transcribed into the English language and certified by an appropriate embassy official. You’ll need to provide one document which shows you are in the UK lawfully and are permitted to work as a hackney carriage driver. You will also have to show competency in English language skills.
Driving Licence Information
You must have held a full driving licence for a motorcar for at least 36 months on application to become a taxi driver. The onus is on applicants to make enquires through the GOV.UK website or DVLA about their right to drive in Great Britain and/or whether they qualify for an exchange of their licence for a GB driving licence.
A check is also made on the driving history at the application stage with the DVLA. Driving offences (past and present) will be taken into account on assessing whether the applicant is considered fit and proper
All new drivers will be required to successfully complete the Taxi Assessment of Driving Ability. This is an advanced driving assessment, during which a professional driving examiner will mark your driving ability and style, as well as your ability to perform various manoeuvres common to taxi driving, including identifying safe stopping points at which to pick up or set down passengers. You will also be asked a number of driving theory questions, including some on the law pertaining to taxis.
All London drivers, also known as ‘Green Badge’ drivers, need a detailed knowledge of London within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. To begin with there are 320 routes or ‘runs’ to learn, along with all the places of interest and important landmarks on and around these runs. It takes between two to four years to learn and pass the ‘All London’ Knowledge and this takes a considerable amount of commitment and dedication.
Once qualified, you will need the appropriate public hire taxi insurance coverage including public liability as well as personal accident, and breakdown and windscreen cover too.