There is ultimately two types of chauffeur work available in the UK and this is the first decision to be made – both types have advantages and disadvantages.
The first option is to become a self-employed driver and offering executive/luxury services to corporate and private clients – this normally involves purchasing or leasing your own chauffeur vehicles, and being responsible for maintenance and the general running of your company.
Secondly, if you are looking for a reliable income and be in complete control of the hours you work, then you are probably more suited to becoming an employed chauffeur with one of the thousands of operators currently running in the UK. Although being a chauffeur normally involves long hours, this option gives you a regular income and you could benefit from further perks if you stayed with the company a long period of time.
Let’s concentrate on becoming a self-employed chauffeur to begin with. Many individuals who decide to run their own businesses normally start with a large amount of capital as running a chauffeur business can be an expensive project. However, some may start to build a client base with a slightly older vehicle to make running costs cheaper.
The mains costs would be: Purchasing/leasing one or more vehicles, vehicle and business insurances, local authority licensing, chauffeur salaries and vehicle maintenance.
You should always start by contacting your local taxi licensing office. There are more than 200 of these offices throughout the country – all of which have different rules and conditions. These licensing offices split ‘Hire and Reward’ businesses into two categories. The first would be a Taxi license, and the second being a ‘Private Hire’ license. Although you may be classing yourself as a chauffeur, you will still fall into the second category.
Your local council/ licensing authority will control the age and type of vehicle you will be able to operate. Normally it will have a maximum age limit on the vehicle to ensure safety etc.
As a driver, you will also have to comply with a number of conditions to be registered as a Hire and Reward driver. All applicants will have to undergo a medical examination with their GP to decide if you are fit and well enough to spend a great deal of hours in the driving seat. There is normally a cost involved and will be determined by your doctors surgery.
You will also have to complete a CRB check (Criminal Records Bureau). There is a cost involved and this will take a minimum of six weeks to complete. If you have any criminal records, then this will appear for the licensing authorities to see.
Some say being a chauffeur is a single mans job. Why? Because of the long hours, many of them being unsociable.
If you become a chauffeur, then you must be prepared to work very unsociable hours and at sometimes, very short notice. Most of your work will involve transporting business people between their homes, airports and their place of work, therefore these will take place out of office hours.
There are a number of very large companies throughout the country who specialise in airport travel, so expect to get extremely familiar with your nearest airports and the local fast food restaurants. Although there are many smaller chauffeur businesses who operate a handful of cars and may steer away from early morning airport transfers, and will concentrate on corporate events and business meetings. Working for these companies may be more suitable if you have a family and do not want to work unsociable hours.
This all may sound bad, but working as a full-time chauffeur for a large company can be extremely rewarding as you will get to meet many interesting clients and successful business people. You will also get to know these people very well, and if you are good at your job, they will also treat you with great respect.
What makes a good chauffeur?
Being a chauffeur is not for everyone, but if you are polite, efficient and dedicated to giving top quality service, then it could be the perfect job for you.
A chauffeur always needs to be smart, on time, considerate and prepared to go the extra mile for any client. Many still believe a chauffeur should be hearing a hat and gloves, but that’s not strictly the case unless the client asks you to do so. A well-fitted suit and clean, polished shoes are necessary as well as good personal hygiene.
Every client will have different requirements and you must be prepared to do what you can to make sure these happen. Some may require a certain newspaper, magazine or simply a coffee when they arrive at the airport. These small requests normally mean a great deal to the client and you are sure to be rewarded by them.
It is very important to learn straight away how to deal with clients, as this can mean them coming back to you again and again if you get it right. Once you have both exchanged greetings, always let the client talk to you first during the journey. Never bombard them with stories of the latest traffic jams or anything from your personal life – they are simply not interested, unless they ask you.
A business person will normally want to relax when they are in your vehicle, some may catch up on emails or make phone calls. You must make every effort not to listen to their conversation, or comment on a conversation they just had.
As a professional driver, you have a great responsibility to make sure your client is not late for any appointment or flight. This is all down to preparing your journey and making sure you know exactly where you are going. Completely relying on satellite navigation will not give your client confidence in your work. Do not break any speed limits, even if the client asks you to do so.
Your vehicle must always be clean, inside and out. The client will not want to smell your lunch or see empty crisp packets floating around the car.
As long as you follow most of these simple rules, your life as a chauffeur should be extremely enjoyable.
Here are some links to some websites which may help you.
Advanced driving courses: http://www.rospa.com and http://www.iam.org.uk
Chauffeur news and industry features: http://www.thechauffeur.com
Chauffeur and Private Hire job listings: http://www.hirerewardjobs.co.uk
The latest chauffeur programmes from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar: http://www.chauffeurshowroom.com
London licensing: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/businessandpartners/taxisandprivatehire/2807.aspx
Licensed Private Hire Car Association: http://www.lphca.co.uk