The City of London is world renowned for the Black Cabs, featured in nearly every movie filmed in the UK.
What tourists and not many potential London Cabbies know either is that a London taxi driver has to go through rigorous training, obtaining a near photographic memory of a London roadmap in their brains, to process information faster than any satellite navigation system could ever do.
The mind of a London taxi driver is programmed with map routes that can be recalled at a moment’s notice.
The training cabbies do, especially for driving in Greater London is by far the most difficult test of any, that not many graduate courses can even come close to.
For Greater London taxi drivers, a minimum of 320 basic routes must be memorised. Within those basic routes, you’re looking at 25’000 streets, in addition to around 20’000 landmarks all within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.
Remember the Mastermind quiz show on TV?
This doesn’t come close to that!
Greater London requires a green badge to drive a private hire vehicle. Black Cabs (Hackneys) require a separate licence and there’s a waiting list for those as they are limited. Around the other 9 Boroughs of London, referred to as suburban districts require a yellow badge to work operate in those zones.
People skills will be required, as will the ability to communicate with people from all different cultures.
You never who will step into your cab and where you’ll be asked to go.
Passengers often look to the London taxi drivers as more or less tourist guides. They want to know about the capital, the famous landmarks, and quite often will ask the opinion of where you’d recommend visiting. That could be a famous monument, or a distinct restaurant, or decent priced bed and breakfast. You really need to know as much as you can about the City of London, so a love for all things British will be an essential trait to keep you interested in this line of work.
First off, you should know that the licensing requirements differ from any other region of the UK.
You will be required to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, pass the DSA taxi driver assessment, and pass a medical examination, carried out by your GP, who you must have been registered for a minimum of 12 months.
You will be required to pay fees to your GP for the medical report costs, and there are additional fees to cover the cost of your application. Initial applications are made to the Public Carriage Office (PCO) and costs £50. For your DBS check, an additional £56.85 is required for an online application, with an additional £2 fee for paper checks.
Once you’ve applied and paid the appropriate application fees, you’ll be sent an application pack with an introductory pack containing the all important blue book. You can consider your blue book as the textbook for London Taxi Drivers as you’ll be studying that for a fairly long time.
The blue book is what you need to learn The Knowledge. To get the most out of it, most people will take a scooter and go through the routes they need to remember one at a time, until they can remember it without a map. London taxi drivers usually spend years driving around the thousands of streets, memorising landmarks, police stations, hotels, churches, and places of interest in order to memorise the route before they move onto the next one.
For a green badge, 320 of the basic routes will need to be mastered and sat navs are forbidden so you can forget trying to use technology to fast track your way into this profession. For obtaining a yellow badge, there’s nine suburban areas.
What many people do is focus on one segment of a surrounding district and focus on passing The Knowledge test and then start working within that one area their badge permits them to operate within. If you choose to operate in a different area, you need to pass The Knowledge test for the different area you want to move into. By training to obtain a yellow badge, you’re able to qualify as a London taxi driver, and work in your approved region. That can then be used to earn your living and save for further tests on different districts, until you’ve sufficient knowledge and confidence that you could pass the green badge Knowledge Test for All London, allowing you work within Greater London and the surrounding regions. Not something you can do in a year or two, unless you’ve a photographic memory.
You can expect the toughest of training, and will have to be fully committed to this line of work in order to get through the training requirements. In addition to your Knowledge training and test, you’ve the added Hackney Carriage Driving Test, and a wheelchair access test to pass if you want to become a Black Cab Driver.
If you live or work in London you will be familiar with the sight of the famous black cab, driving around the city and taking customers from A to B all through the day and night. If you are considering whether this job might be for you, it is worth finding out more about whether you would be cut out for it.
No, once you have passed your training you will be able to work as a self employed cab driver. There is no requirement to work a set number of hours and you can choose to work weekends, nights, days, evenings or whatever days and hours fit in with your other commitments.
This is pretty much a given if you are going to enjoy this job! You must be prepared to sit in traffic jams, deal with all different kinds of customers and drive all over the city every day. Could you enjoy this all the time? You would be working alone as well, although some passengers will enjoy chatting en route to their destination.
The Knowledge can take at least two years to attain, and sometimes as many as four. As you can see it can take a while before you ever gain the skills you need to become a taxi driver in London. Are you prepared to work to get the job?
Once you have gone through the training and you have your licence, you will need to get a black cab. These can be purchased second hand but they are still expensive. This needs to be borne in mind, although it is a legitimate business expense and thus can be claimed against tax.
Remember that as a self employed person you will have to keep your own accounts and manage your money. You will also have to ensure your licence is up to date and you pay for the use of your cab if you have bought one with a loan or you have hired one. You can hire an accountant to handle your tax returns for you but you will still need to produce your accounts for them to look at.
As you can see there is a lot involved with London taxi driver jobs other than simply driving round in a cab all day. This is one of those careers where there is a lot more to think about than first meets the eye. If you have read all of the above and you still want to get one of these positions, the next step is to take the training required that will entitle you to your licence.