How to become a black cab driver – what’s involved?
- 11 January 2013
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If you fancy being self-employed, and want to work in one of the most well-known jobs in the world, let alone the country, then look no further than becoming a black cab driver.
The freedom of the road meets the freedom of being your own bus with just a touch of glamour when getting behind the wheel of a famous black cab, or Hackney Carriage as they are official known – you could even join the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, one of the 108 livery companies recognised by the City of London – you don’t get that as a minicab driver.
London is proud of its taxis and the drivers are proud of their reputation, so don’t think becoming a black cab driver is an easy process, there are a few hoops to jump through first. Here’s the lowdown.
The most famous aspect of becoming a black cab driver is doing ‘The Knowledge’, which is tantamount to a photographic memory of 320 major routes, incorporating 25,000 streets, through central London.
You can spot a Londoner abroad by the look of exasperation on their face when a taxi driver asks them where their destination is. ‘The Knowledge’, devised in 1865 and hardly alteres since, has a reputation as the toughest test in the world for prospective drivers.
It takes an average of 34 months’ preparation – many prospective cabbies ride around the city on scooters with clipboards, memorising their routes – and 12 attempts to finally pass muster. And there is a written entrance exam beforehand.
It sounds harsh, but the black cab community is rightly proud of the way drivers can plot a path from Abbey Road to the Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell without the use of maps or sat navs.
Getting a car
While passing ‘The Knowledge’ is a long experience, it doesn’t have to be expensive – much of the work is done off your own bat. Unfortunately getting a car is pricey.
Not surprisingly for such a large, comfortable, iconic car – not to mention one that will clock thousands of miles a month – a Hackney Carriage is expensive, costing around £30,000.
For a new taxi driver, who will essentially be in the early stages of self-employment, that can be too much to bear. In those cases, there are black cab companies that hire out their vehicles to drivers for a fee. Another advantage of going down this route, especially when setting out, is that these companies can arrange insurance of the vehicle through their public hire fleet insurance.
London’s taxi driver need to be of ‘good character’, meaning a criminal record check will be run before you receive your license, though not all convictions will stop your application.
And the checks don’t end there. You must undergo a medical check, where your psychological, musculoskeletal, nervous and cardiovascular health is investigated, along with your vision and history of diabetes.