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KNOWLEDGE SOS: Taxi trade must be less like a ‘secret society where earning potential is a mystery’

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

The taxi trade must become less like a ‘secret society where earning potential is a mystery’ if it is to entice more people to become licensed London taxi drivers in the future, says current Knowledge of London (KoL) students. TaxiPoint caught up with Luke and Craig to learn about what made them take on the KoL and what more could be done from a student’s perspective to entice more people on to the KoL.

In November 2019 the number of candidates studying the KoL at the testing stages, otherwise known as ‘Appearances’, dropped below 1,000 for the first time and stood at 943. In addition, there were 714 candidates that had not yet reached the testing stages, but were signed on to the KoL and learning the capital’s road network.

Fast forward nearly two years to August 2021 and the number of KoL candidates at the testing stages tumbles further to just 552, and alarmingly only a further 363 candidates are currently waiting to reach the testing stages.

Knowledge student Luke said it was his father’s influence that prompted him to start the Knowledge. Luke said: “My Dad is a cabbie currently and he has always tried to get me to do it, telling me how much he enjoys it and how it would benefit my life.

“He tried to get me to do it with him when he was studying the Knowledge about 12 years ago after he had got an injury playing cricket for the Metropolitan Police, but I turned it down. How I regret that decision now!

“My decision behind doing it now is that I have two young boys and my current job means I can stay away in hotels all over the country from time to time sometimes for 2 or 3 nights a week. To be honest I am a bit fed up of that and want to be able to spend more time with my family.

“I spoke to my Dad again and asked is it still worth doing and his answer was “absolutely”, and speaking to my dad he can never speak highly enough of the job, so here I am studying it.”

Fellow Knowledge student Craig also wanted greater flexibility for family life. He said: “I want a role where I have flexibility around family life where I can also earn a decent living and do something that will set a good example to my children; that you don’t get anything in this life without having to earn it.

“I have a couple of friends that are Green Badge holders and they both tell me they have the best job in the world and I believe them. I envisage having to put the hours in to get the rewards (which I don’t mind), but I am looking forward to the interaction with the public, being able to drive around the world’s greatest city amongst the best taxi professionals on the planet... and get paid fairly for doing it.”

In terms of increasing the number of people training to become a licensed London taxi driver, the students thought more could be done to educate would-be candidates of the role, especially from a young career perspective.

Luke said: “I do not think many people actually understand what being a cabbie is and what your life can be once you are one. I feel that people only do it because they have been encouraged or know a cabbie and get the idea from that. I feel somehow it needs to be shown to people such as ex-army once they leave as it gives them something to strive towards for example. I also feel it needs to be highlighted to school leavers as an option and maybe a Knowledge School, TfL representative and/or a cabbie could go in and put on a presentation to young people explaining what it is like being a cabbie.”

Craig also highlighted the need for the industry to be more open and less secretive of the job profile and its potential value in terms of earnings. Knowledge student Craig said: “The KoL is something that people only get into by word of mouth in my opinion. Can’t be many jobs like that, right?

“It’s almost like a secret society where earning potential is a mystery and unless you know someone in the trade, general perception is that the KoL is one of the world’s toughest exams, Uber is taking work away, you’ll have to study hard for a minimum of 3 years and the vehicle you need could set you back £70k. Add into this the negativity that comes from the trade sometimes saying it has no future and of course the well-publicised chaos the pandemic has had on taxi drivers.

“Who would do a degree for 3 years not knowing their career potential at the end of it, where people within that industry are telling you it’s at the end of its shelf life? This negativity has to be broken!”

Craig added: “Tom the Taxi Driver on You Tube is a breath of fresh air, his positive attitude and take on the trade is encouraging to people like me. The perception has to change and the mysteries surrounding earning potential have to be removed otherwise you’ll never entice potential students.

“There are lots of people who want to do private hire, so there is clearly a hunger in the public to drive a car and earn. Directing capable drivers towards the KoL rather than this route is key and letting that pool of people know true earning potential would be a key factor, especially at a time now where a lot is being made about how poorly paid private hire has become.

“This would mean positive PR and dare I say it; advertising the financial and other job benefits of the trade via the right avenues to entice fresh blood in.

“Reducing/eliminating the Congestion Charge for KoL students would also be a positive in attracting candidates, but can’t see TfL handing out financial favours to would-be taxi drivers any time soon!”


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