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Become a Taxi Driver

All you need to know to become a licensed taxi driver

Do you want to become a licensed Taxi Driver in Edinburgh but you don't know where to start? On this page we'll explain the entire procedure, a typical time-scale and the costs involved.

Before you are granted a Taxi Driver's Licence from the City of Edinburgh Council you will need to satisfy certain criteria and go through certain procedures. The process of studying for the Topographical Test and obtaining your licence can typically take around 6 months and we explain the full, up-to date procedures below;

Eligibility & Entitlement to Work in the U.K.

You are eligible to apply for a Taxi Driver's Licence if you have held the appropriate DVLA driver's licence for a minimum period of 12 months prior to your application. Also, since December 2016, all applicants must demonstrate to the City of Edinburgh Council that they have the right to work in the U.K.

In practice, if you are a British citizen or an EU national, your passport will provide that evidence of your right to work in the U.K. However, if you are neither a British citizen nor an EU national then the rules are slightly more complex and the best advice we can give is to follow the link below. This takes you to a section of Edinburgh Council's website where you can download a New Taxi Driver Application form that contains the Council's Guidance Notes which explain which documentation you will have to provide in these circumstances.

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/download/1568/taxi_driver_licence

If you have any doubts about your eligibility or your right to work in the U.K. then you should first contact the staff at the Licensing Section of the City of Edinburgh Council for advice. Their telephone number is 0131 529 4208.

Costs in obtaining a Taxi Driver's Licence

The next thing most prospective taxi drivers want to know is how much it will cost to obtain their Taxi Driver's Licence. Well, as at July 2017, the approximate costs are as follows;-

6 months of study with Learn Edinburgh (6 x £55) = £330
Edinburgh College training course fees (discounted rate) = £284
Licence application fee = £180
2 paper maps and some highlighter pens = £15

TOTAL = £809

Once you have established whether you are eligible and the costs involved the procedure is as follows:-

Step 1 - Study for the Topographical Test

Before you are granted your Taxi Driver's Licence you will have to pass a test of your knowledge of the Edinburgh area, known as the Topographical Test. An example of the older style of test, with questions can be downloaded here, and the most up-to-date style of test, without questions, can be downloaded here.

The test takes the form of a 1 hour long written exam which takes place at the Council's building at 249 High Street, Edinburgh.

There are 2 parts to the Topographical Test and you must pass both.

Part 1 comprises 80 questions testing your knowledge of the location of Hotels; Licensed Premises; Educational Establishments; Housing Areas & High Rise Flats; Miscellaneous Places of Interest; and Streets. The pass rate for part 1 is 90%, so you must answer at least 72 questions correctly.

Part 2 is a further 5 questions on routes. Each question will ask how you would convey a passenger by the shortest practicable route between two points. You will have to name all the streets along the route. The pass rate is 80%, so you must answer at least 4 of these correctly.

There is a lot to learn before you sit the Topographical Test and most prospective taxi drivers find that they will typically study for around 6 months or so before doing so. That depends on your existing knowledge of the city and the time you have available to study but remember that thousands of taxi drivers have already passed the Topographical Test, so you can too.

Our study app is purpose-built to help you learn everything you'll need to know to pass the Topographical Test. Simply register for our free trial and take it from there.

Nowadays you have two ways to apply for the Topographical Test. You can either:-

a) apply to sit the Topographical Test independently of applying for a Taxi Driver's Licence. You simply contact the Licensing Section of the City of Edinburgh Council to book onto an available exam and make a payment of £66 at their offices at 249 High Street. That fee is required to cover the costs of the exam. You then have to make an application for a Taxi Driver's Licence (paying the full Licence application fee of £180!) within 12 months of passing the Topographical Test.

or

b) apply to sit the Topographical Test as part of your application for a Taxi Driver's Licence. This used to be the only way to apply for the Topographical Test and it still has some time and cost advantages over method a). This is because the Council is prohibited from making a decision on your application until a minimum of 28 days has passed from the date a valid application is submitted. During this time any person can object to your application. The full procedure is shown below in Step 3 - Applying for Your Taxi Driver's Licence.

If you need any more information then contact the Licensing Section on 0131 529 4208

Step 2 - Take the training course at Edinburgh College (modules)

As well as having to pass the Topographical Test you will be have to complete a course of training, currently run by Edinburgh College, which takes the form of 5 separate training classes (commonly known as modules) relating to the practical aspects of being a taxi driver.

These are:

1. Wheelchair Access & Disability Awareness
2. Licensing Conditions & Road Safety Issues
3. First Aid Assistance
4. Customer Care; and
5. Handling Conflict & Stress

Modules 1 & 2 must be completed prior to you being granted your Taxi Driver's Licence. Modules 3, 4 & 5 must be completed within 6 months of you being granted a licence.

Edinburgh College is currently the only training body approved by the Council to deliver this course of training to you. You must pay them a fee for the training course and attend classes with them. They last approximately 3 hours each. Modules 2, 3, 4 & 5 are held at Edinburgh College (formerly Telford College) on West Granton Road with Module 1 taking place at Lothian Community Transport Services at Sir Harry Lauder Road.

You can either pay for all five modules together and receive a discounted rate of £284 or pay for each module individually as you go, at a cost of £69 each, making a total of £345. In practice, many students take advantage of the discounted rate and attend all 5 modules before they sit their Topographical Test. This helps prevent any delay your licence being granted.

You apply for the training course directly to Edinburgh College by telephoning their Business Division on 0131 535 4000 and asking for an enrolment form for the Taxi Driver Skills Development Programme. Each of the 5 modules are held once a month but spaces are limited so we recommend applying around 3 months before you plan to sit your Topographical Test to avoid any problems.

Please note that the Council are in the process of developing their own in-house Driver Skills Development Programme for Taxi and Private Hire Car drivers. We'll keep you informed if the procedure for applying for the training modules changes in the future.

Step 3 - Apply for your Taxi Driver's licence

Remember that you are completely in control of when to apply for the Topographical Test and your Taxi Driver's Licence. When to apply will depend entirely upon your own progress with your study plan. We suggest that you do so once you are able to regularly and consistently pass the full mock tests in our study app. If you have any doubts then please feel free to contact us. We're here to help and offer advice.

Assuming you're not applying for the Topographical test independently of the Taxi Driver's Licence then shortly after you lodge your application for a Taxi Driver's Licence with the Council you will be offered a variety of dates to sit the Topographical Test. You must sit the test within 6 months of the date of your application. Edinburgh College currently run the scheme on the Council's behalf and will write to you to confirm the date of your test.

A link to download the application form for a New Taxi Driver's Licence is shown below. Guidance notes are included:

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/download/1568/taxi_driver_licence

You should submit the application form in person at the Council's offices at 249 High Street, not by post.

The procedure is as follows:

1. Complete the application form and pay the appropriate fee to the Council, currently £180.
Payment can be by cheque, postal order or by card. Your new licence will last for 1 year. Thereafter, to renew your licence the cost is £109 for 1 year or £173 for 3 years.

2. Produce your current DVLA driving licence showing your present home address.
Take the photo card ID badge of your driving licence making sure that your address is up to date.

3. State any convictions, etc. against you and undergo Police vetting.
In the application form you must state any convictions etc. against you. The police will then carry out a vetting process. They will have the right to deny you a Licence. If you have any doubts about whether you would pass such a vetting process then it would be wise to make enquiries of the Licensing Section of the Council at the very earliest opportunity. Their telephone number is 0131 529 4208.

4. Provide evidence of your entitlement to work in the U.K.
The licensing staff will check the validity of the required original documentation. A list is shown in the Guidance Notes in the link above.

5. Pass a medical examination.
When you lodge your application for a Taxi Driver's Licence with the Council they will take steps to arrange for you to attend for a medical examination. This is to assess your medical fitness to drive a taxi. You will receive a letter to confirm the venue and date of your medical exam. You should bring photographic I.D. and a list of any medication you are taking. A urine sample will be taken and an eye test carried out (with and without your glasses or contact lenses).

Step 4 - Sit the Topographical Test

The test takes the form of a 1 hour long written exam which is held at the Council's building at 249 High Street, Edinburgh. When you appear for the test you will be need to show your Driving Licence as proof of identity. Make sure you get there early.

Remember the advice in our study app and video tutorials. Don't panic. You will have passed many full mock tests already. That practice should pay off if you follow our advice.

Once the staff have had an opportunity to mark your test the Council will write to you, usually within 7-14 days, to inform you whether you have passed or not.

If you have passed and you have fulfilled the other requirements (modules 1 & 2, medical exam etc) then the Council will issue your Taxi Driver's Licence and an identity card. The identity card is a photo badge which must be worn at all times when engaged in the business of taxi driving. You've probably seen taxi drivers wearing this around their neck on a lanyard. You should keep both of these safe. These documents now entitle you to drive a taxi, licensed by the City of Edinburgh Council.

If you have failed the Topographical test you can re-apply to sit it again in the future. There used to be strict time limits upon when you could re-apply, depending upon how you fared in the first test, but these restrictions have now been abolished. You can simply re-apply to sit the test again although you will have to pay a further fee. There is no restriction on the number of times an applicant can sit the Topographical Test.

Getting a job after grant of your licence

So, after you've been granted your Taxi Driver's Licence by the Council how do you actually get a job as a taxi driver and start earning money? Well, there are various ways and these depend upon whether you wish to rent a cab or buy one (of which more below).

The most important thing to know is that, from an employment point of view, all of the licensed Taxi Drivers in Edinburgh are actually self-employed. It is a common misconception among the general public that they are employed by a taxi company but this is not the case. This misunderstanding probably arises from the fact that most Edinburgh taxi drivers are affiliated to, or are members of, one of the three large taxi companies in the city, namely: Central Taxis, City Cabs or ComCab Edinburgh.

These companies provide the taxi drivers with work via their individual central booking systems in return for monthly payments by the owner of the cab. The companies themselves do not employ the taxi driver, though. In fact the taxi drivers have affiliated themselves together and created the taxi companies in order to generate more business for themselves.

Other taxi drivers have no affiliation to these companies and simply ply their trade as "street cars". This means that they will not receive any work from the taxi companies but will simply earn a living by picking up passengers who hail them on the street; at taxi ranks; or increasingly through taxi apps such as Gett Taxi or Hailo.

So your first decision will be whether to rent a cab from an owner or to buy one yourself. We'll deal with buying your own cab below but if you simply wish to start in the trade by renting a cab from an owner then the next decision will be whether to work as a street car or to affiliate yourself to one of these three companies.

Central Taxis, City Cabs and ComCab Edinburgh each have their own central booking offices and the owners of cabs will usually advertise jobs for drivers on notice boards there in the first instance. You can contact them at the following addresses about becoming a driver with them:

Simply contact the relevant company to introduce yourself, explaining that you have recently obtained your Taxi Driver's licence (or "Brief" as it is commonly known in the trade) and that you're interested in working with them. Each company has their own training system and conditions and will meet with you to guide you through the process.

Taxi owners will often advertise for drivers via local job sites such as Gumtree, so this link is worth a look.

https://www.gumtree.com/driving-warehouse-jobs/edinburgh

Self Employment

If you have never been self-employed before then there are various things to consider. The first is that you must register yourself as self-employed and follow the rules for self-employed tax and National Insurance.

The best advice we can give is to look at this Government website which is very helpful - https://www.gov.uk/working-for-yourself/overview

One of the main benefits of becoming a licensed Taxi Driver in Edinburgh is that you will be self-employed. This applies whether you're working full-time, part-time or on a casual basis. Unlike other businesses, if you simply rent a cab from an owner, there are very few initial set-up costs other than the costs you have incurred in obtaining your Taxi Driver's licence.

There are downsides too, though. Remember that if you are sick or take a holiday that you won't be earning. Also, if you choose to rent a cab from an owner you will be limited to working during the hours that you agree with that owner. Typically this may be between 5am-5pm for dayshift drivers or 5pm-5am for nightshift drivers.

The hours and days which you'll end up working will depend upon what is available. The rental which you'll pay to the owner of the cab will depend upon which days and hours you work. Market forces apply here. Busy times such as Friday and Saturday night rentals will cost more than at quiet times.

If you choose to buy your own cab then you'll have more choice on which hours you work and be able to rent the cab out to another driver or drivers during the hours that you don't.

Tax & National Insurance

As a self-employed person you will no longer pay tax under the P.A.Y.E (Pay As You Earn) scheme for employed persons. You will need to take responsibility for paying income tax and National Insurance contributions yourself under the Self-Assessment system.

You can register yourself as self-employed directly with HMRC and create an online account with them with this link:

https://www.gov.uk/new-business-register-for-tax

and find out more about Self-Assessment here:

https://www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns

You can, of course, simply keep your own accounts and submit Self-Assessment tax returns yourself. However, most taxi drivers, particularly those who own their own cab and have more complicated accounts, find this to be too daunting or time-consuming and prefer to employ an accountant to manage their tax affairs and lodge their accounts with HMRC. This is certainly sound advice, at least for the first couple of years of self-employment. I did so when I first started working as a taxi driver and the annual expense (under £300) was well worth it to keep on the right side of HMRC.

There are many accountants who specialise in working with taxi drivers and I'd have no hesitation in recommending the accountants I have used. They even offer a very useful accounts software specifically for taxi drivers which simplifies matters. You can find them at https://www.tallyup.co.uk

However, any accountant will be able to help you in the early stages of your career and I'd recommend making an appointment to discuss your tax affairs with them as soon as you start earning.

Remember that you should set aside a percentage of everything you earn to pay HMRC the tax and National Insurance contributions that you're due to pay. Your accountant can give you advice on how much but it's often a good idea to transfer some money into a separate bank account every week to ensure you have the money there to pay it when it's due.

Buying a Cab

The taxi trade in Edinburgh is generally split between those who own their own cab and those who rent a cab from an owner. The decision to rent a cab or buy one is an important one and is usually governed by your own financial circumstances. There are various companies which specifically deal in selling the vehicles themselves and they often give advice upon obtaining a Taxi Vehicle Licence too. Feel free to contact us for more advice about this.

Summary

Here's a summary of the various steps involved in studying for the Topographical Test and getting your Taxi Driver's Licence. We're taking a typical 6 month study plan here and assuming you're not applying for the Topographical Test independently of your Taxi Driver's Licence.

Months 1

Register with us and start learning "Main Roads" and "Streets" in the study app. Take regular mini-tests to get used to passing written tests.

Month 2

Continue to learn "Streets" in the study app and take regular written mini-tests.

Month 3

Learn "Places" in the study app. Continue to revise "Main Roads" and "Streets" making use of the multi-zones function in the study app to get used to a more random selection of questions. At the end of this month you should consider enrolling for the Edinburgh College training course (modules).

Month 4

Learn "Routes" and continue to revise what you've already learned. Keep taking written mini-tests.

Month 5

Continue to learn more "Routes" and start taking full mock tests in the study app.

Month 6

Final revision and written mock tests. Apply for the Taxi Driver's Licence and the Topographical Test when you're regularly and consistently passing full mock tests.

We hope that the information on this page is useful but if you have any queries then please feel free to contact us. We're here to help.