Do You Need a Special License in Pennsylvania to Be a Taxi Driver?

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If you want to drive a taxicab in Pennsylvania, you’ve picked a ripe market: Numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the Keystone State ranked No. 5 in the nation in 2010 for cabbie employment, with 8,580 drivers. Taxicab drivers in Pennsylvania can work as employees of cab companies or as independent contractors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median hourly wage for Pennsylvania cabbies of $10.80, or $22,460 a year in 2010.

Driver's License Regulations

Pennsylvania law requires taxicab drivers to obtain a special license through the Department of Motor Vehicles. To get a license, drivers must own a valid, current driver’s license and present a second form of identification, such as a passport or Social Security card. Drivers must also fill out an application for taxi driver’s certification and have a criminal background check completed through the Pennsylvania State Police within 60 days of applying. The DMV also requires drivers to submit to a driving-history background check through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Public Utility Commission Requirements

If you plan to own your taxi, the car will need to be licensed through the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The commission also governs the fees taxicab drivers can charge and mandates adequate insurance coverage. Keeping a PUC license requires drivers to post their rates inside their vehicle, provide a receipt upon a customer’s request and keep the passenger area and trunk clean. The PUC can strip a license if a driver doesn’t provide service on demand or doesn’t take the shortest trip to the fare’s destination.

Business License Requirements

If you plan to work as an independent contractor or use your own car, you may need to obtain business licenses from Pennsylvania or the city you’re operating in. Pennsylvania lets taxicab drivers and other business owners register for a state business license online. At time of publication, business license fees for the state cost $70 to $250. The state’s Online Business Registration Interview walks applicants through the information. Obtaining the necessary certification could take up to 10 business days. Check with your individual city for details on local business license regulations.

Other Requirements

The Pennsylvania State Code sets several other mandates for taxicab drivers. They must be proficient in English. Driver training is required as well, with 18 hours of instruction in areas including cab regulations, customer service, personal appearance, defensive driving, first aid and map reading. Prospective cabbies will have to pass an examination on the material within 90 days of filing an application for a PUC license, or the application is void. Putting misinformation on a license application is cause for immediate disqualification Taxicab drivers must renew their operating and business licenses annually.

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  • Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images