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How Does a Taxi Cab Driver Spend a Workday?

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Start of Shift

A taxi cab driver starts his work day in much the same manner that most people do--driving to his employer's place of business in his own vehicle. He will drive a company vehicle during his shift, but this vehicle remains at the company parking lot or is used by other drivers between his shifts.

Since a cab company generally operates 24/7, a driver's shift may start at any hour of the day. Shifts may be longer or shorter than the standard 8 hours, depending on the scheduling needs of the company.

Taxi drivers are often expected to wear a company uniform while working. It's also a good idea for drivers to devote some time in the morning to maintaining a neat personal appearance.

Earning Money

While some taxi drivers are employed by companies at an hourly wage (with the company collecting all cab fares at the end of the day), the industry standard is for drivers to work as independent contractors. Independent cab drivers pay a lease fee to the company for each shift that they work, then keep all cab fares and tips that they receive from passengers. In return, the company will dispatch assignments to drivers based on calls received from customers requesting rides. This dispatching is done through a radio that each driver has in his or her cab.

The lease arrangement can be a blessing or a curse for a driver, depending on how much business there is on a given day. A busy day can yield huge profits, whereas a slow day can be a day where a driver must pay the company to work. For this reason, a cab driver spends his day hoping for many runs and long runs and is authorized to spend time between dispatched runs seeking flag fares--passengers who physically signal to a passing taxi for a pickup rather than calling in for a ride.

Taking Passengers

When a driver is actually taking a passenger, he makes money from a base charge, then by running a meter for the length of the ride. This meter measures the number of miles the car is running and charges a rate per fraction of a mile. If the car is caught in traffic, some cabs have meters that will switch to a timed charge rather than a distance charge. Lease drivers may choose to turn off a meter early for a fare, since the money is being paid to them.

A taxi driver must have a good understanding of local geography and have excellent navigational skills. It is also helpful if he can spend some of the ride time making pleasant conversation with the passengers.

Codes, Regulations and Records

A cab driver must follow a series of codes and regulations during his day, as well as adhere to certain record-keeping practices. Codes include communication codes (numbers) that are spoken to dispatch agents to indicate certain situations, like taking a run, bathroom break, free for a run and completing a shift.

Regulations must be followed involving conduct with passengers, charging passengers and traffic and safety considerations.

At the end of the day, the driver must turn in a record of his day, including information about how many passengers he had, where he drove and what fees were charged. The cab company uses this information to make decisions about how they continue to run their business, such as determining how many cabs should be running in certain areas at certain times and whether or not more drivers should be contracted.


Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.