Becoming a chauffeur in the UK: Working for a chauffeur company

Being a chauffeur is a rewarding career, but make sure whether you work for yourself or a company you are working legally

 

You have retired early on a good pension, but you still want to do something part-time. The chauffeur industry attracts people from all backgrounds and is understandably a very attractive proposition. Frustratingly, there is a misconception that you can walk straight into being a chauffeur if you hold a UK driving licence.

I like to believe no matter which route you take, taxi driver, private hire driver or chauffeur, it is a professional career. I know there are some out-there that like to believe it is a career for the non-educated, which I find offensive, and I can confirm it cannot be further from the truth. Being a driver who transports the general public is a very responsible job and I get very annoyed that the industry is not looked upon more as a professional career.

After all, you are being trusted to look after people, including driving clients safely from A-B, knowing that one lack of concentration could lead to catastrophe. Taking all this into account chauffeuring is a rewarding job, but there are a few basics you need to be aware of. The obvious is the unsocial hours, with the other involving a lot of waiting around.

 

Getting a job with a chauffeur company

The responsibility of ensuring you are legal rests with you, and you alone. You can’t blame someone else down the road if you have failed to do your own homework properly. You are about to set off in a career that common-sense should dictate that you are technically going into passenger transport. All passenger transport has to be licensed by law for obvious reason.

Operators, vehicles and drivers all need to be licensed to ensure that the public is safe at all times. The licensing requirement vary depending on how many passengers seats the vehicle(s) you will be required to drive. Private hire legislation is for eight passenger seats or less and is covered by the Local Government Miscellaneous Act 1976. This act is implemented by local councils whose responsibility it is to licence private hire and taxis.

It is this legislation that is used for chauffeurs in England and Wales. Councils and Local Authorities can provide special dispensation to executive hire and chauffeurs, but this normally only extend to exemption from the display of plates and stickers on vehicles.  Alarm bells should ring loudly if you approach a company and they tell you if they don’t require you to licensed.

If you are planning on entering the industry the first decision to make is which area do you want to work in and then do your homework. The trade associations are a fantastic place to start for information on the law and what licenses you will need.

 

Licensing costs

Some councils will insist on an advance driving test, a basic knowledge test and even an NVQ qualification before you can be granted a private hire drivers licence. The costs vary depending upon which council you apply to.  A medical can cost around £100 from your GP, with the other costs taking the total to approximately £250.

It is important that you choose carefully as it is where you intend to work, not where you live where you need to get licensed. If you licence yourself in a small village with one chauffeur company and it doesn’t work out, you cannot transfer your licence to another town or city outside the councils borders. If you leave and work for a chauffeur company in another town or city you will have to start the licensing process all over again from scratch.

The only exemption to the rule is if you choose to work for a wedding car or funeral company which are exempted from the law. However, if you work for the aforementioned you won’t be able to do any other type of work, restricting you to weddings and funerals only. This shouldn’t be looked upon as a negative, as it is another way into the industry which enables you to find out first if you like chauffeuring before investing your own money.

 

My employers tells me I don’t need to be licensed because they are exempt from the law

If this happens you should be very careful, especially if they don’t work solely in the wedding or funeral industry. As I previously said there are no exemptions in England and Wales that would allow you to circumnavigate the licensing laws. Some may claim they can use another countries laws to evade the laws in England or Wales, but this won’t be true.

There used to be an exemption in England and Wales called the seven day contract exemption. This allowed vehicles and drivers to be exempt from the law as long as the vehicle was exclusively used for one company seven days a week. This even extended to not being allowed to use the vehicle for private use, but the exemption was revoked after being abused on an industrial scale.

Some companies try to use Scotland’s 24 hour exclusive contract hire exemption in England, Wales or Scotland. The Scottish Law commission told me that to be exclusive you cannot advertise the service and you can only work for one person for a minimum of 24 hours. We will be going into this in more details over the coming weeks, but until then if you are picking up various people in one day, accepting cash, or working for multiple companies you run the risk of prosecution.

If you are caught driving an unlicensed vehicle without a private hire drivers licence, not only will you face court action and fines, but you face the real possibility of being prosecuted for driving with no insurance. Some insurers are clear in their terms and conditions: no licence, no insurance. Others don’t clarify it in black or white but the odds on the insurance being worthless is very high.

Finally, if you want to enter the world of chauffeuring working for an established company remember you are responsible for doing the checks. If you were a gas fitter, stacker-truck driver, HGV driver or someone who looked at children and were told you didn’t need a licence because your employer registered his office on the moon you would know this to be untrue and run a mile.

If you enter the chauffeur industry with no checks including medicals, criminal records checks or fail to apply or gain the relevant licenses because the chauffeur company claims to be exempt from the law because they are registered in Scotland or the moon, but the are based in England or Wales the same rules should apply as an unregistered gas-fitter.

Be safe, be licensed and be smart. It is a great industry to enter, but don’t risk everything because of a dodgy employer wants to avoid the law. If in any doubt seek independent advice from a trade association. If a company puts you in touch with their own adviser it is always advisable to seek a second opinion.

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