What happens when a rideshare driver decides to drive for a taxi company instead? We put senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur to the test and got him started on the path to taxi driving. Here, he outlines the steps necessary to become a taxi driver. In this series, we’ll follow Jay as he becomes a taxi driver (this article), begins driving for a taxi service, how much he earns vs. rideshare earnings and more.
Here at The Rideshare Guy Blog and Podcast, we are doing a little experiment. What would it be like to be an Uber and Lyft driver for three years, and then give taxi driving a shot? Well, we are doing it. Harry asked and I accepted.
I have volunteered to go through the onboarding process and begin driving for Flywheel Taxi in San Francisco and report what I experience and learn. Today we’ll look at what it takes to become a taxi driver. I broke it down into seven steps as that is what it took for me to get the job done. Is it easier than becoming a rideshare driver? Let’s see!
Step #1 – Sign On With A Taxi Company
This step is easier than I thought. It seems that there are many former taxi drivers who are now driving for Lyft and Uber. Taxi companies are actively looking for drivers in much the same way Uber and Lyft are always looking for drivers. I contacted Flywheel Taxi because I had seen their cars in San Francisco and they also have an app to secure rides.
But all you need to do is Google “taxi companies in San Francisco” or where ever it is that you want to drive. Once you click on a company and go to their website, you will see an opportunity to become a driver. Notice the red “Drive For Flywheel Taxi” in the upper right-hand corner. Here is the website for Yellow Taxi in San Francisco.
It took me three days to become a taxi driver, and the only delay was getting the results from the drug test. The employee at the drug exam facility said it would take three days for the results to come back, but your results may vary.
Again, in the upper right corner is an invitation to “Drive for Us!” I suggest doing a little bit of research on the various companies. You can talk to other taxi drivers and see which company they recommend. You can also inquire at a few taxi companies and determine which one will be the best fit for you. Once you select a company, call and ask to speak to someone about driving. I spoke to Greg at Flywheel and he told me to take the following steps.
Step #2 – Submit Your DMV Record To Your Chosen Taxi Company
One thing you will quickly notice is the onboarding process for becoming a taxi driver is more thorough than getting started with Uber and Lyft. There are two ways to get your DMV record, either go in person to a DMV office or secure it online. I opted for the online route and after paying $2 and entering some personal information including my driver license number, I had my DMV record which I emailed to Greg at Flywheel:
Step #3 – Go Through Online Training
In San Francisco, in order to become a taxi driver, you must go through a few online training courses. Your city may or may not have similar requirements. To get started, Google “how to become a taxi driver in San Francisco” or your city of interest.
I found out that the SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) was in charge of the taxi driver onboarding process. I went to their website and landed on this page:
I then clicked on the New Taxi Driver Training and was brought to a mandatory slideshow.
I watched this presentation as well as a few others. I did not know this at the time, but I would later have to pass a test in order to be qualified as a San Francisco taxi driver. The training was very good and I paid attention as I want to be sure to follow all the rules and not get into any trouble.
Step #4 – Download And Complete 3 Forms
There are three forms that you will need, all available on the SFMTA website. The first is the taxi driver application. The second is the drug test paperwork, and the third is the background check paperwork. Print them out and fill them out and move on to the next step.
Step #5 – Get Your Drug Test, Fingerprint Scan / Background Check
It’s time to hit the road and get your body tested for the presence of drugs. The SFMTA provides a list of labs and I picked one that was about 15 minutes away from home. Often leaving a specimen for the lab, I headed off to a UPS store to get my fingerprints (all ten of them) scanned. This information is stored with my background check and used to confirm I do not have any serious offenses in my past. Note: this is all out of pocket costs.
At each stop, the person attending to me needed the completed form (from Step #4) and then returned the form to me with their information included. Hold on to these forms as you will need them in the next step.
Step #6 – Turn In Paperwork, Pass An Exam, Secure Your Driver Credentials
You will need to wait a few days for the drug test to get processed. It took me three business days.
Then I headed down to the SFMTA Taxi Division and turned in all my paperwork. I then had to take a 3 question, true or false, exam. Fortunately, I was able to recall my training. One question was about having to pick up anyone that hails you. Another question was about the proper pickup location at the airport. Pay attention to the training you’re given to make this step easier.
Next, I was handed an A card (not sure why it is called an A card) which gives me the authority to legally drive a taxi cab in San Francisco.
Step #7 – Work Out A Schedule With Your Taxi Company And Begin Driving.
I contacted Greg at Flywheel Taxi and told him I was ready to get started next week. I am interested in driving in shifts rather than in days. I will have the car, a Toyota Prius similar to my personal car, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at which time I will return the car and another driver will take it out for the night shift. I plan to work 5 days next week and see how it goes.
I am rather excited to try it out. I always wondered how much a taxi driver could earn in San Francisco. In a few weeks, I will know for sure. I am also curious about how the experience is different than driving for Uber or Lyft. Are the passengers different? What is it like to have access to the bus and taxi lanes? What is it like to collect money after each ride? I am really curious to see how well I can do with tips. Time will tell. Be safe out there.
Readers, what question would you like to see Jay answer in this taxi series? Have you switched from rideshare to taxi, or from taxi to rideshare?
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-Jay @ RSG