Entry Requirements & Training
As you might imagine, one thing you will need is a driving license. This needs to be either a UK or EU license which is valid for at least the next 12 months. Whether or not it needs to be ‘clean’ may depend on your prospective employer or local licensing authority but nine points probably isn’t the best advert for your driving technique. Your local authority or taxi employer is also entitled to ask for an enhanced criminal record check before offering you a job or granting a taxi driver license.
Some authorities and companies currently do this as a matter of course, others don’t. Some local councils also require new entrants to the trade to pass some form of initial test. This could include your awareness of local streets and requirements for a good grasp of English language are becoming more common. You may also be asked to undergo a DVLA level 2 medical check or equivalent.
Your local licensing authority won’t help with driving lessons or language skills (although there may be local courses to help with the latter). However local authorities are increasingly offering training in topics like customer care. Popular tourism areas may offer training in local places of interest, so that cabbies are better equipped to pass information about local attractions on to visitors.
One thing which is becoming widely provided by local authorities is disability awareness training. In many cases this is now becoming mandatory. You’ll probably be asked to go on a one or two day course which explains how best to assess barriers faced by people with different types of disability and how best to address their needs. If you have a wheelchair accessible taxi, this should include instruction on the correct way to load and secure a wheelchair passenger.
Nowadays you can even attend a course leading to a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Road Passenger Vehicle Driving (Taxi and Private Hire). These courses are available through a variety of colleges and private training providers around the country. Even this level of study is, however, likely to be as nothing compared with the famous ‘Knowledge Test’, which all new hackney taxi drivers in London have to pass.
It’s probably fair to say ‘The Knowledge’ is loved by those who’ve successfully completed it and hated by those struggling through it. It’s not just about being able to find your way from anywhere to everywhere across the whole of London – you also have to know alternative routes in case the traffic is bad and be able to recall the names of all the streets and landmarks you would pass on the way. The fabled ‘Blue Book’ sets out more than 300 key routes, 25,000 streets and 20,000 ‘landmarks’ for the would-be London cabbie to get to know like the back of his hand.
Many people get hold of a push bike or scooter and spend hundreds of hours out practising in their spare time, trying to build up their mind-map of the city. Typically The Knowledge takes about three years to complete – but you can make top money in the busy London hackney trade once you’re in. London private hire drivers do not need to ‘do’ The Knowledge and are much more likely to rely on Sat Nav nowadays.
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